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A few days ago, my baby, Nora, strapped on her backpack, laced up her shoes and headed off to kindergarten. She was so ready – that made one of us. I’m not sure if I’m finally relieved to have some time to myself, or if I’m just terribly sad.

When she was a newborn and her older sister was a toddler, I remember merely trying to survive each day. Both were so little and helpless. They needed me for everything: changing diapers, cutting up food, ensuring they didn’t swallow spare change. It’s wonderful to be needed, but it’s also exhausting (can I get an “Amen”?).

Right before Nora turned one, she would hold onto my fingers in an attempt to walk. When she let go, her knees would buckle and she’d fall down like an uncoordinated sumo wrestler. I would pick up her chubby little self and we would try again.

Then one day, just like that, my baby started to walk on her own. She didn’t need to hold my hands anymore. It was a metaphorical and literal step toward independence, and my heart simultaneously swelled with pride and broke a little.

Now, when Nora reaches for my hand it’s not because she needs to, it’s because she wants to. That simple act is beautiful and profound.

Isn’t that what parenting is? Holding our children’s hands until they learn they’re strong enough to steady themselves, preparing a solid runway so they can eventually take off and fly on their own. The hardest part for us is letting go.

To all the moms who are sending kids off to kindergarten, college, honeymoons or other grand adventures, thank you for paving the runway by being a steady set of hands, a permanent cheerleader and snack-provider. Even though you might not feel as needed as you once were, rest assured that you will always be a safe place for your children to land.

JJ Heller is a singer/songwriter with a heart to remind her audiences that they are deeply loved and fully known by the Creator of the universe. For the past 14 years, she’s traveled the country sharing music full-time with her husband, Dave Heller, who also co-writes and plays guitar. Even though her songs have been featured on national television, international advertising campaigns, and radio stations across the world, Heller’s concerts are charming, personal and a memorable experience you won’t want to miss.