Big School For A Tiny Girl

 As we pulled into the lot for Tori’s new school yesterday, my heart sank into the ground. It was just so BIG.

Normal people handle their kids going off to kindergarten with grace, don’t they? Not me. I sat through the whole meeting with Tori’s new teacher (who is just a total gem, by the way) with my heart racing, my hands shaking, and the vague sense that a panic attack wasn’t too far off.

I kept my shit together during the meeting, thankfully, only falling mildly apart quietly to Charlie once we got back to the car and Tori was happily listening to music in the back.

I don’t have an explanation; my personal school experience had its trauma but they didn’t come at the start of school, and generally I loved school, even in high school when I skipped a lot and didn’t participate much. I ran into some issues in first grade because I could read (chapter books; yeah, the teacher didn’t quite know what to do with me, so they eventually put me in second grade).

Mostly, I think, I have this (rather foolish) overwhelming sense that I’m pushing Tori into a giant machine, ala the sausage grinder in Another Brick In The Wall by Pink Floyd.

I KNOW. Public education is awesome. I’m an asshole. But I can’t get past the vague sense that I’m making sausage out of my precious, precious snowflake by sending her there.


It doesn’t help that I feel like it’s a lot for her to do at once; start riding a bus to school, wear a uniform, eat in a cafeteria, be in a class of 25 – it’s a lot, right? GAH.

Tori, by the way, claims to be thrilled. Although she has some signs of anxiety, like a nervous belly, she mostly seems thrilled. She loved the teacher, liked the classroom, and is content with her uniforms. So really I’m the nervous one here. So tell me; how much of a freak am I? You all manage to send your kids off with nary a whimper, right? So it’s just me. Damn.

Comments Closed


  1. Shannon O says

    I have a friend that is in the same boat as you. For me it was slightly different. With me losing my job it gives me a chance to be alone for the first time with Annabelle that is now two. I also thought that I would get some things done around the house with only one kid underfoot for a few hours (Lorelei is half day here)- I was very wrong about that idea completely. Annabelle lays in front of the door and cries for about a hour and then goes on playing like nothing has happened. And then as soon as Lorelei is home Annabelle is back to beating on her sister lol! Now I now I can’t wait to ship off both of them lol!

  2. Bh says

    You are not alone! I managed to sniffle/sob all the way up to the room I was teaching in at the same bldg after dropping both boys off! I could check in on them whenever I wanted to and still had a rough time! Prepare youself Cecily……just wait til you have to leave her at college! I sobbed all the way home both times….thank heavens I didn’t repeat that performance for following years! I hope all three of you have a wonderful kindergarten experience!!!

  3. says

    I can honestly say that I don’t know anyone who had at least a twinge upon sending their child off to kindergarten. When I put my son on the bus that first day, I had to sit on my hands to keep myself from following the bus to school….would it be asking too much for someone to call me just to let me know that my precious snowflake had gotten successfully from the bus to the classroom? Or maybe they could call to tell me who he sat with (he sat with people, right? he interacted with people?) at lunch? Or whether the teacher was nice to him even when he was pissy because he didn’t get to play with the blocks he wanted to play with when he wanted to play with them?


    Somehow we survived. I a teacher–vaguely anyway–so I believe in the system but even so, it’s hard. This year in first grade it’s almost harder. The gloves are off: there’s no orientation, no hand holding, nada. I haven’t even met his teacher yet and he’s been there four days. Crazy, right?

    Best wishes to you and T. It’s gonna be great!

  4. says

    The morning my oldest started kindergarten, I dropped the younger ones off at nursery school, went to the grocery and started crying. The morning my youngest started kindergarten, I walked home to my empty house and started crying. This year, my oldest started high school, the middle started middle school and the youngest started 5th grade. Guess what I did. Yep, I went home and sobbed.

    But like my kids, Tori is going to be thrilled with kindergarten, lunches, recess and the works. She’ll like the bus–and you’ll love the uniform (I wish our kids had them).

    Good luck!!

  5. says

    I was horrified by the fact that once the rebel who knew school was a big lie and my teachers had no real authority over me (this was all on the inside, on the outside I was mostly well-behaved), I was now part of the system, adjacent to “the man” who was going to keep my presshuss free spirit down.

    I’m only partially jesting. It took me several months to reconcile the teen/young adult me with the parent me. I’m pretty sure my friends thought I was nuts.

  6. says

    Either your feelings are really common or else pretty much all parent bloggers are united in their weird panic at the idea of their kids starting school, IDK. Because I’m seeing post after post after post lately about 1) kids starting school for the first time 2) parents being upset 3)parents thinking they are totally alone in feeling that way. Which is a big part of why I love the internet/blogging– we aren’t alone.

  7. says

    Nope, definitely not without a whimper! The thing is, all the other sooky parents are keeping their shit together in front of the kids and hence the other parents too. So you are not alone!

  8. says

    You’re not alone. I held it together pretty well, but fell. apart. in the car when I left her. My 5yo has the same type of circumstances, except her school isn’t quite as massive, she’s only half day and instead of riding a bus, she’s in 100% french immersion. We don’t speak french at home. 100%!!! ZERO english!!!! Last week, I was like – WHAT am I DOING to my kid? That’s a shit ton of pressure!!! She’s managing perfectly so far… and she looks so darn cute in her uniform. Sigh. Hope I relax by Christmas.

  9. Dorothy says

    At my son’s school they put out boxes of tissues at the kinder parent welcome breakfast on the first day of school. Tears are very common. It’s a big transition and it certainly freaked me out last year.

    • Amy says

      I LOVE that! How great to have the support and understanding of others. Not to mention good opportunity to get to know the other parents..

  10. says

    I have three boys – seven years between each of them. I didn’t do so well when the oldest started school. Or when he went to first grade. It got easier with the second one. The baby is only four so he’s doing Pre-K at his daycare, we’ll see how it goes next year. If only they could stay babies forever!

  11. Amy says

    Each and every time one of my kids started kindergarten I was a mess :) My lil baby was going to SCHOOL and how could that be?!

  12. says

    Girrrrl, Anna Sofia is my third and I felt like death sending her off (to the school we’ve been at for 10 years. It’s not just you, trust me.

  13. says

    I have 5 kids, the oldest is 13 and started pre-school when she was 3. If I ever get through a first day with any of them without freaking out that the school is too big, they are too little, they aren’t ready, or (more accurately) that I’m not ready; I’ll let you know.

  14. Kathleen999 says

    We have a little school (only K-2) and I still cried. It was hard for me. I worried about them all day. Now I worry about how hard they are making life for the teachers! But I do still worry about them…Nicky because I worry his inability to focus makes him feel like a failure at the age of 6 (he has already told me that his brain doesn’t work right), and Zacky because he stresses and worries about EVERYTHING. It hurts his feelings not to be the special teacher assistant every day. It hurts his feelings not to be chosen first for everything.

    I think this is just what we do as mothers. My husband just felt proud as we walked away. I felt worried and lonely and a hundred other emotions I couldn’t name.

    Hang in there. For most people it does get better every year.

  15. says

    This time around it wasn’t bad but, with my oldest, after I loaded him onto the bus, I climbed into my van, followed the bus to school, and sniffled the whole way.

    It’s all good Cecily. What you are feeling is pretty normal.

  16. says

    Yes, this is exactly how I felt! Sausage, OMG! (I also had a mostly OK school life, even in high school when I skipped — I think maybe we had the same childhood, even down to the reading thing…? — and yet, I’m afraid of the machine, the maw that is the public school system.) My logical brain says “chyah, duh, you’re an idiot,” but still I am weirded out. Each day that the Beaner comes home with happy stories about school will make it better, though, I’m sure.

  17. Therese Anderson says

    I love you so.

    My husband is a public school teacher — has been for 25 years. (But may not be after this year, thanks to our WI governor — but that is a different topic).

    My point: all my kids went to the largest public school in our city, and I felt exactly how you do — class size, how big the fucking school was (is — we have a nine year-old in third grade) and I was overwhelmed. I STILL AM, EVEN AFTER DOING THIS FOR FUCKING EVER. Because it’s your girl. Your baby. The most important person in your life. You want her to be okay, to never feel anything sad or painful. But the truth is — whether the school is large or small, private or public, good teachers (and most of them are good) or bad, there will be ups and downs. That’s just a fact. You will face them as they arise, and you will question everything because it’s your daughter and you’ll fret and question but you’ll SURVIVE and so will Tori, and it will feel crappy sometimes and good other times but it will be your life and you will do what you need to do and know that it it the path you — as a family — were meant to take, grief and joy and pain and all.

    (I only say this because I’m on kid number five. I still fret, second-guess, worry about the school thing, knowing he will have his struggles, his triumphs. It never gets easy. But it is — hopefully — reassuring that you aren’t alone in feeling like this).

    My email is new but we’ve talked before. Just wanted to let you know. : )

  18. Kerri says

    Oh noooo, you’re not alone. I sent my baby off to kindergarten a few weeks ago, and it was AWFUL! First of all, she was nervous…it was a bigger school, the longer days, (she went to preschool, but only for a few hours a few times a week), and basically leaving the safe cocoon she’s known her life. It was a lot. So I steeled myself, walked in all oohing and aahing, “this is going to be great”, “you’re going to have to much fun”, “you’re going to make so many new friends”. All was well until I put her in her seat, hugged her good-bye, and felt those tears (that I PROMISED myself I would not shed until I was out of her sight) start to well up in my eyes. Then my self-assured, independent, smart girl, started wailing and clinging to me, and after 15 minutes of her dad and I trying to calm her down, the teacher held her in a bear hug so we could leave. IT WAS AWFUL!!! So kudos to you for keeping it together until she couldn’t see you, and no, I think it’s painful for most every parent when their kids start kindergarten…it’s the end of their babyhood, and almost literally the beginning of their “working” lives. Never again do they get years to sit around and worry about nothing but what to play right now again (hopefully).

  19. Jessica says

    If it makes you feel any better, I am up at 4am because I can’t sleep due to stress about sending my middle one to K tomorrow. He is a nervous wreck, but I am having a very difficult time holding it together and I am pretty sure that I would feel that way even if he was confident/excited about going to school.

  20. says

    Hey Dear,
    I can understand you very well, because school is not simply playing and fun any more. Public education is not necessarily awesome, because you do not have much influence and have to leave your child alone to cope with bullying of other children and mistakes of teachers. And it is all about adaption and not so much about creativity. You have to be lucky somehow.
    Our precious little boy stopped laughing in his charming way altogether after the first day in school! It broke my heart. And he was even almost 7 at that time (kindergarten in Germany is from 3-6, the pre-school is sometimes in school for 1 year and 1st grade with six or seven). But your daughter is tough, girls are mostly further in evolution. I think she will make it.

    I am sure you will have an eye on her and help her the best way you can. Most important is the first teacher because of her influence on the children ‘s way to learn.

  21. laura says

    I havent sleep the past week, one off to fulltime preschool and one off to kinder and im a freakin wreck! after the first im coming around they both loved it but boy i was stressed. it is alot on them, school so is not what it used to be.

  22. Holly says

    Because preschool where I live is every day, all day, starting at age 3, kindergarten probably wasn’t as big of an adjustment for us, but both of mine did move to a new, much bigger school for it. I can’t remember now if I cried, which, it wasn’t that long ago, what the hell is wrong with me? But I do remember with the first one asking the teacher how he was adjusting after a few days, and she said, “Adjusting? He owns the place!” I feel much more worried and clingy now that he’s headed off to 8th grade, where it seems like the dangers are bigger and I can protect him less. But your feelings are completely normal. Every step towards independence is a good one, but it’s a step away from us. It crushes my heart, a little.

  23. says

    I cried too, for both kids, on their first days of kindergarten (3 years apart) but I don’t remember being nervous about their new responsibilities it was just that I didn’t have a little one anymore.

    And they both (even G) adjusted remarkably well – didn’t miss a step. Also? That school is really neat looking – I’d love to walk up to that each day!

    It’ll get better momma!

  24. wookie says

    I did okay with it but I was working out of the home so both times I had a very high-needs workplace to fall back into and avoid thinking about it too much.

    You’re definately not alone, and from what I can gather, your kids public school experience will benefit from you continuing to be involved with her education (and to some extend the school itself, although I have a feeling you’ll not enjoy those politics).

  25. says

    Well quite honestly, school – whether public or private, is indeed an institution and in this country it’s the way we deal with our children from 5 to 18 years of age. I had a lot of the feelings you are having about 15 years ago with my first son – so we ended up homeschooling. Six kids later and still homeschooling and have never looked back or regretted it.

  26. kheatherg says

    My First born: Cried like a baby! She was growing so fast! My precious little pig-tailed girl is gonna get eatin’ by public school!! I hope her teacher likes her, i hope she like me too! When can i volunteer? When can i volunteer? ~ My God, she’s a junior now! Good god where has the time gone! My baby is 17!!

    Second child: I’m going to miss you! Be careful, make sure your polite, let your teacher know she can call me anytime! ~ I was kinda sad but was grateful for some peace during the day. She’s 15 and a freshman now! Wow, my kids are growing up so quick!

    Third kiddo: Haul ass son. Have a good day. Stay outta the road when waitin’ for the bus! Imma miss ya, but thank god your goin’ ! Tell your teacher HEY! for me! Oh SHIT, here’s 5 bucks, have some lunch….i hear the ice cream buffet has chocolate this year!!

  27. Crysi says

    My 4yo started preschool yesterday at a new school. She’s so excited to be in school, but was definitely dealing with a nervous tummy too. It was a weird experience for me too. Last year was a different preschool in a different city. 8 kids, 2 teachers. It was tiny, laid back & more play than anything else. I was expecting this to be similar. Boy was I wrong. 16 kids, 2 teachers. They have actual rules about lining up, what they do when they first enter the clasroom, etc. What shocked me the most was security. You have to have a unique code to get in the children’s wing of the building & unless you’ve passed a background check & gone to training, you can’t be in the classroom for more than 15 min. So different than the last place.

  28. says

    I love my “kids” (who are all grown now… the youngest turned 21 this past weekend), but do not recall experiencing any of the tears that everyone else seems to. Perhaps there’s something wrong with me?

    The thing is, by the time they entered kindergarten (which was only half a day), school was “old hat.” They’d gone to daycare and preschools, They were already used to that kind of thing, and thriving. So this was really no different than going to a different daycare, except this time they were going to the same place that all their neighborhood friends did.

    I didn’t grieve when my oldest went to kindergarten, because I had a 3 year old and a newborn at home. He was not my “baby.”

    Typically their daycare provided before and after school care, so the bus they rode — at least during kindergarten — was a small daycare van with a driver they already knew.

    I was also an involved parent, even though I worked full time. I had the flexibility to volunteer occasionally during the school day. I participated in PTO. I got to know the teachers and was excited for my kids.

    But obviously I’m not “normal.” Everyone else seems to feel the way you do, and that’s OK. :)

  29. says

    My husband and I don’t have any precious little snowflakes yet (probably because we’re dying to have one and all of our friends and siblings do, and that’s how it works right?) but I can already tell you I’m dreading the day. I’m already trying to convince Hubby to let me homeschool our future children. I mean I leave work on my lunch breaks to go home and check on my pets, so imagine when I take my kid(s) to school! Lol

  30. says

    Woo boy, it is not just you. This year I have one in second grade, at a school we love, and one in preschool, at a school we love. I cried for a day or two and felt very anxious/nervous/upset for the better part of two weeks.

  31. says

    Holy Shit! That school is freaking huge, at 5-6 yo I would’ve freaked the fuck out. I think my mom would have too 25 years ago dropping me off to a school that would swallow me up! I can remember her walking me to school my first day of kindergarden and 1/2 way there she was crying her eyes out because her “baby” was going off to school. She done the same thing a few years later when my sister started school.

    My elementary school was tiny compared that. Shit, I think my high school may have been smaller than that. That would have been so intimidating on my first day. Although, I was used to school however because I went to pre-school first. But pre-school was in a church that seemed pretty small even to a 5-6 yo.

    You are not the only one who gets teary eyed when their child goes off to school. Hopefully, they won’t be assholes like her other school and that she will do wonderful and her teacher will be “magical”. Good luck to you all!

  32. jessica says

    my three year old daughter just started pre-school and I felt the same way, I know it’s because I was painfully shy in school…my husband and I are still quiet people and somewhat antisocial. we don’t have a lot of friends. I just want my child to fit in and to like being around people so she doesn’t ever have to struggle with the feelings of loneliness that I have. I felt myself tearing up as I was leaving on the first day, and I was looking anxiously through the window to see how things were going when it was time to pick her up. it’s not just you. by the way? she was sitting in the circle, participating, with all of the other kids. so, yeah. we’ll be fine. as long as I can relax.

  33. says

    I did send the Small Boy off to the first grade with nary a whimper, but that’s because the school system in Switzerland is so different. It moves a lot more slowly and the kids in the first grade still have a great deal of time out of school to be their old silly selves. Often you’ll catch me griping passionately about this – because seriously, how am I supposed to get anything done if my first grader is only in school five mornings and one afternoon a week? But when I step back – which I don’t do often enough, and which your post just made me do so thank you – I can see all the ways in which it is good for the kids. They ease into school; they still get to be kids; there is a lot of time for playdates; Small Boy has whole afternoons to pursue (or discover) his own passions and interests; whatever bad influences (or should I say questionable?) might be in the classroom are mitigated a bit by the shorter days.

    So I didn’t worry too much about sending my boy off to school (I totally cried the first morning, but in a my little boy is growing up sort of a way) but that’s largely because it doesn’t feel like a sausage-making machine to me.

  34. ClareB says

    Thank you so much for this post!!! I really needed to hear that I wasn’t alone. Son number three just started preschool yesterday and I couldn’t shake the feeling all day that there was a little part of me that was dying inside at the thought of sharing him with the world. Did I do my job as a Mom? Is he ready for an adventure, can he stand up for himself, will he be able to express himself to his teachers?? Did I mention he’s only 3? And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was projecting my entire school experience onto this little guy – not fair at all. So then I took a few deep breaths and waited for my sister (who is my babysitter, yeah I’m spoiled) to call me at work the minute preschool was over for the day. The first words I heard were “I had a great day at school, Mom!!” Whew. It’ll be OK (I think), I’ve got another month or two before I don’t automatically want to snatch him back when dropping him at school. Sigh.

  35. Libby says

    Oh man, you’re not alone. I sent my just turned 14 year old off to HIGH SCHOOL, for fuck’s sake. And I was wigging out way more than she was. She went from a K-8 school with 600 kids total to a 9-12 high school with 1600 kids. Daunting to say the least, but she’s loving it so far.

  36. justdawn says

    I pretty much panic (on the inside) any time my kids aren’t with me…which is more and more as they get older.