08/29/2012 05:49 pm ET Updated Oct 29, 2012

Her First Day

Last night, I packed her Hello Kitty lunchbox carefully -- cucumbers, cherries, yogurt, and a peanut butter sandwich, cut into bite-sized hearts and flowers, hoping the hearts would remind her that she is loved. Somehow, it didn't seem enough.

This morning I woke up with my alarm and tip-toed into her room to gently kiss her awake. To my disappointment, she was already up, excited to start the day. Watching her clamber out of her spacious twin bed only reminded me how little she still was. It wasn't that long ago when she would hold her chubby toddler arms up to me and whisper "Uppy!" while I lifted her out of her crib. I wasn't quite ready.

After a hearty breakfast she changed into her new dress, and surprisingly allowed me to brush her hair without the usual fuss. We filled her backpack with her lunchbox, her water bottle, and a spare change of clothes, all clearly labeled in permanent marker. And, then I threw in a huge chunk of my heart, careful to not let her see.

My husband and I loaded her, and all her gear, into the backseat of our car and drove to her new school, Sunnyside Elementary -- a name worthy of Sesame Street. Kids from kindergarten through fifth were gathered on the courtyard. On the far side of the yard an energized ball of chatter dominated the group as the older children reacquainted with friends. On the near side, the five-year-olds held tightly to their parents' hands trying to remember to be brave.

After not nearly enough time the bell rang and her class walked in a single line to their new room, and she gripped my hand with a little more determination. When we reached her classroom door, we hugged her, whispering reminders to listen to the teacher, and our eternal declarations of love and pride.

And then she grabbed her friend's hand and skipped into kindergarten. She's ready, and maybe I will be tomorrow.