Dropping her off for her first day of kindergarten was a shock. It was sweet, but like a punch in the stomach too.

I can’t believe our 5-year-old is in kindergarten!

She generally puts on a very brave face for the public, so she thoughtfully had her meltdown last night, crying because she missed her preschool teacher. Of course who she really misses is her mother, and I have to give her credit for making that connection herself. She is working out the whole story in her own way and time, and while her grief-stricken outbursts are sad to witness and stay with, they feel like a great sign too. The more she lets it out, the brighter she seems in her happy moments. She is really arriving here, in an emotional sense, and I’m so glad to have her!

My own kindergarten drama—which I’ve done my best to keep private and not color her experience—is how poorly the school district has handled her debut. Our local schools are overenrolled. We didn’t sign her up until she was placed with us, which is very late by school signup standards. While there will almost certainly be openings in these schools, they can’t or won’t place her there until it’s confirmed, so she started K in an “overflow” class of maybe 5 kids, in an undecorated room of a (well regarded) school pretty far from our house. We went to the “kindergarten check in” table and they weren’t even sure where this classroom was! We found it, and the teacher seems lovely, but it’s not the start of her classroom life–that will happen when she gets moved to her real school.

My upset and disappointment that she’s not in a class of 20 kids, with bulletin boards and rules for school posted on the wall, is not shared by her at all. She was thrilled to be entering big girl school, excited to meet her classmates and do some drawing. She’ll be fine in this class, and fine transitioning in a few days (or two weeks max, they promise us) into her real classroom. She’s brave, smart, makes friends. She’ll love the teacher, she’ll do fine.

But I can tell it’s going to take awhile for it to sink in that our little girl is going further out into the world. I just can’t believe it.

And a piece of me is so sad she’s not having a first day I’d want to remember. Of course I don’t actually remember my first day of kindergarten!