You have a baby. You spend days holding her on your lap, smiling down at her, nights, both of you crying, hoping she'll sleep more than two hours. On her first birthday, she takes her first steps.
You have a kindergartner. On the first day, you walk her up the block to her new school, and she loses her name tag along the way. You comfort her and then you leave her with a strange teacher and twenty five other five year olds.
You have a middle schooler. You stand on the driveway as she walks herself to the bus stop. You go back into the house before the bus passes by, with her on it, so you won't embarrass her, but you still peek through the curtains to see if you can make out her silhouette.
You have a high schooler. Times get challenging. You wonder, out loud and to yourself, when things will get better. And then they do. You see your child grow into a beautiful, confident young woman. You help her learn to drive, and then you wave as she pulls out of the driveway by herself, in her own car, just a year later. You go on college tours with her, and you read her college application essay. You jump up and down -- by yourself and with her -- when she gets acceptances.
You have a high school graduate. Your eyes fill with tears as she and 750 other kids proudly walk into a stadium, Pomp and Circumstance playing (again and again, until every last one of the kids is standing at a seat), and you wonder, "How did we get here?"
And then you remind yourself, repeatedly, that hot, long, (and short) summer, that she is leaving. You want her to leave. You want her to be free and independent. It is your job as a parent, you tell yourself, to raise a child who will leave. You've had plenty of practice at this, practice you gave yourself for just this moment; you've left her at summer camp, at the airport to fly off to a semester in Israel, to work as a counselor at sleep away camp for nine weeks, surely you can leave her at her college dorm to begin her adult life.
And you can, and you will. But you still wonder, how did we get here?