“Look, Mommy! Look!”

Her beady brown eyes peer up at me, she flashes a toothy grin and points toward the distance.

Her little legs have only been walking on solid ground for two years, but she’s eager to explore the world around her.

The soles of her hot pink light-up shoes flash while she skips across the playground.

Wide-eyed, she stands at the base of 15 steep, metal steps. Her little brown hands clench the old, narrow metal railings beside her.

Right foot. Left foot.

Slow and steady, she carefully makes her way up the tall, twisty tunnel slide.

My heart pounds.

The gaps between the railings and those cute little light-up shoes are wide. One misstep will send her petite 30-pound body plummeting onto the rocks below.

THUD. Thud-thud.

My heart beats faster.

“Mommy, I’m scared!” she yells.

“You can do it, sweetie!”

My breathing gets deeper.

Before I know it she swings her legs underneath her, sits on the top of the swirly plastic slide and looks down at me with a wide, toothy grin.

“You did it!” I’m proud but also strangely a bit sad. It’s hard to put my finger on this weird juxtaposition of feelings.

She did it. For the first time, my baby literally reached new heights without me.

Without me.

Her squeals and giggles echo loudly through the swirly, red plastic tunnel as she twists downward.

I watch her hot pink light-up shoes peek out from the base of the slide, and that smile – oh, that beautiful, proud smile – shines far and bright as she scooches herself back onto the ground and takes off running with confidence.

It is this seemingly simple moment in motherhood that I learn a valuable lesson of letting go: While it’s hard and scary, nothing can compare to the bubbling pride I’ll feel as I watch my daughter conquer the path in front of her – however big or swirly or nerve-wracking it may be. For I will know she learned to believe in herself because I let her go and allowed her to do so.

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