My daughter starts middle school tomorrow. I know this because we’ve bought the uniforms, the gym outfits, the school supplies, the teacher’s supplies, the new lunch bag, backpack and, right, we had orientation.

We’ve had the weekly mailings from the school welcoming us. We’ve been invited to the “meet and greet” picnics. We’ve got the class schedule, map of the school campus and the PTA sign up sheet.

We’re going to middle school. It’s happening. It’s here. It’s scary.

Say goodbye to walking your kid to class and chatting with the teacher. Farewell to the mom’s gathering on the yard drinking coffee and gossiping. Adios to giving kisses to your child in front of ANYONE.

Toto, we are not in elementary school anymore.

My daughter and I have talked about middle school all summer (or what’s left of what used to be summer — seriously, people, back to school in August??). We’ve discussed drugs, sex, peer pressure, bullies and just about anything else that can pop up in this next year.

Mostly we’ve talked about the excitement. The new challenges, the friends she has going with her, the books she’s already started reading and the curiosity of what her teachers might be like.

She’s ready. But am I? I think of her first day of pre-school and although it certainly doesn’t feel like yesterday, the desire to want to spy on her to make sure she’s okay is just as strong.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — childhood is so brief. It’s here and then it’s not. And for some of us… well, we don’t have a childhood at all.

In the case of my daughter childhood has been such a celebration. A delicious period of time. A series of milestones and events. Seasons of imagination, innocence, discovery and wonder.

Being present for it has been the one thing I feel I’ve truly done right in my life.

So, as she slowly exits these final years of childhood and enters the beginning years of young adulthood I can only hope to continue to be an active, supportive, positive, loving participant in all of it.

That is if she’ll let me.

For today, she still needs me to braid her hair at night and snuggle her in bed. She still wants me to go on bike rides with her and answer all her questions. She still wants me to keep her company while she’s in the bath and listen to her poetry.

For today, she still lets me hold her hand in public and call her “my bunny girl.”

I know these things will change at some point. They have to. And if I’m a good mom I’ll accept those changes and respect them. But I hope, truly hope, that this childhood she’s having stays with her forever. That the love and safety and joy she feels travels with her whatever age she is. And that she always knows being her mommy is the greatest gift of my life.

The other night, after a long day of shopping for her list of school supplies, my daughter called out for me from downstairs.

Mama, come here!

I ran downstairs not sure what was wrong. And then I stopped in my tracks. There was my girl sitting on the floor with all her new school supplies spread out around her like pieces to a giant puzzle. She looked up at me and with the sweetest, most innocent face ever simply said,

Now what?

Now, we dance. And so we did.