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Sometimes she takes my breath away, this beautiful daughter of mine. She has one foot in her childhood, the other poised to jump and fly into this world.

While the past 12 years went by in a flash, she’s filled my memories with so much joy and expanded my heart more than I ever knew possible.

She has burst through my front door a million times, shouting “Mommy!” at the top of her lungs and searching for a hug after a long day at school. She’s crept into my bed before dawn for snuggles and stolen my heels to prance around her bedroom more times than I can count. She’s entertained us with her unique dance moves and taught us that compassion when least deserved can change hearts and minds.

And although I’ve enjoyed nearly every second, it’s all gone by so fast—and it seems like I’m losing my grasp.

Because for my sweet daughter and me, we are now standing on the cusp of turning teen.

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I can’t lie. I’ve seen the subtle shift occurring. She grabs my hand less and spends time with her friends more. Her bedroom door shuts the moment she walks through it, and grunts and exasperated sighs come frequently at my requests to clean her room or walk the dog or finish her math homework. She can no longer steal my shoes as her feet are now bigger than mine and she rolls her eyes when I try to dance with her in the kitchen—although, with enough prodding and the right music, she’ll still join me.

But it’s not all bad, as we approach 13. She is kind and gentle when she babysits our neighbors’ children, kissing boo-boos like an expert and chasing barefoot toddlers across the lawn, and I see the mother she may be one day. She works hard in school and sports and friendships, and I recognize her unlimited potential. She uses her Starbucks gift cards to buy me a latte and will help to fix my hair, and I see our future filled with shopping trips and catch-up conversations in coffee houses. And I’m taken aback when I see her passion for solving the injustices in this world and her desire to help others and her admonishment for the plastic straws I use to drink my iced tea because don’t I remember watching that documentary about the sea turtles? And I know she will change this world for the better.

Sometimes I don’t recognize this woman-child standing before me at almost 13, with gangly arms and perfectly styled hair and legs that go down to there. Sometimes I only see a chubby baby swaddled in a pink blanket, a 3-year-old in pigtails with a feathered boa wrapped around her neck carrying her lovey everywhere she goes, an eight-year-old in overalls saving spiders from their demise, a young girl emerging into a woman right before my eyes.

It is a confusing time for both of us.

She is both a hurricane and the calm in our house, simultaneously wreaking joy and havoc wherever she goes. She is moody in one moment and the voice of reason the next. She craves some independence and control, yet still needs my attention and touch. She sheds tears, so many tears, in frustration and anger and contempt and sadness. And in the darkest moments, she lashes out at me—her safe haven—for all that’s wrong in her world.

RELATED: God Gave Me Teenagers

And when I feel like my heart will break from the thought of what never will be again, I hear her belly laugh echoing through the halls, and I look deep into the same gray-blue eyes I stared at for hours on end in a small, stark hospital room nearly thirteen years ago.

In that moment, when I didn’t think it was possible, when I’m stunned at how this is the same creature who once slept cradled in my arms, my heart inflates back up as I look at my daughter standing before me.

Because she’s on the cusp of turning teen. And I can’t wait to see what comes next.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a freelance writer, and co-partner of the site parentingteensandtweens.com You can find her on Facebook at WhitneyFlemingWrites.

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