To my Daughter on the First Day of Kindergarten

Hannah, hanging out

Dear Hannah,

Today I will walk you up the hill to the neighbourhood public school. I will take you into the gymnasium, where you and all of the other kindergartners will be counted and slotted into classes. Over the next few days we will meet with your teacher and visit your classroom. We will gather your supplies and label everything with your name. And then very soon I will walk you up that hill and leave you there to learn.

Of course, learning is not somehow set aside for a public school classroom. But that, dear child, is another topic for another day.

Today I feel as if I am turning you over to our larger community. These first 5 1/2 years of your life have not been spoken for. No one has had a claim on you except for me, and your father, and our family. You have belonged wholly to us, and we have belonged wholly to you. And we were responsible for finding our way together.

We have found our way together very well. Mostly. Of course there were bumps along the way. This is the sorrow of being the firstborn child – a sorrow your father and I know very well. You are always the one laying the groundwork for those who come after. But you are also the model, the doted-on first grandchild, the trailblazer finding her own way. No one will label you “so-and-so’s little sister”, evaluating you based on an older sibling before they’ve even met you. It’s not all bad, even the parts where your father and I had no idea what we were doing with you, and you had no idea what you were doing with us.

Now we have found our way to the beginning of formal education, and we have to hope that we have equipped you sufficiently for the wider world that you will grow into. This, my daughter, is the world that will be yours one day, for better or worse. You will inherit the amazing beauty, the overpowering wonder, the many ways that we have interfered with and ruined it. You will bear the consequences, good and bad, for our actions. This is how life works. Just as I inherited a world from my own parents and grandparents, you will inherit one from yours.

I hope that you will not descend too deeply into the fallacy that we who have made this world are to blame for all of your problems. We all must work with what we’re given, and laying blame when our share is not what we would hope it to be helps no one. The secret is not what you start with, it’s what you finish with, and how you behave along the way. I hope you will behave well, because I am your mother, after all. Also, always remember to wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident.

When I send you to school, I will do so with the knowledge that you will never be fully mine again. You don’t belong just to your family anymore. We no longer lay claim to all that you are. We will continue to love and guide you, and you will always be our daughter. We will not stop loving you ever, no matter what. But we are handing you over to yourself in a new way. You are learning to steer your own ship, and as you do we relinquish the wheel with hearts that are both heavy and glad. That is what it means to be your parents.

We can’t wait to see where you sail. Please send photos and letters from your journeys, will you?


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  1. Beautifully written Amber.

  2. my tears are running down my cheeks….thank you Amber…I could not say it better myself.

  3. Amber, you are so wise, honest and caring as you make your way through parenthood. I love how you've expressed this very important first step out into the world with your firstborn.

  4. Could I copy and paste? That was so beautifully written…

  5. No problem, just link back to the original to give me credit:

  6. sniff sniff…happy first day of school! We’ll be doing this next year and I’m already worrying!
    Jenn’s last post … September has got me!My Profile

  7. Oh, Amber, now I am having a big old cry here at my computer. I still feel the same way even though today I sent my daughter off to high school and my son off to middle school. Blessings to you and yours,Kristen (Marcy's daughter)

  8. even today (all 30 minutes of it) is the start. i felt this way on the Wee Guy’s first kindergarten day, that someone other than us would start to lay claim on him, his mind and his time. it’s sad but exciting.

    but it’s also free (paid for in our taxes) childcare and thus not to be taken lightly πŸ˜‰

    all the best to Hannah on her first day of school (all the best to you too)
    pomomama’s last post … Can you hear me at the backMy Profile

  9. And it’s always wonderful to see what they come back with. Like when you think it’s going to be all about the kindergarten classroom and instead the biggest thing is ‘there were no seatbelts on the BUS!!!’. πŸ™‚ It’s all such a grand adventure for them.
    allison’s last post … If All Else Fails- We can just watch Camp Rock 2 a Bunch of TimesMy Profile

  10. Lovely post, Amber. There are so many milestones along the way where we let go of our children. I’m now watching this with my grandchildren and have the same hope for them and the belief that they, too, will find the strength within themselves to take those independent steps. “Hold them able”, indeed. And that’s not always easy, is it? That’s why we stand by, ready to give whatever encouragement is needed.

    Your Hannah will be fine, because she has such support and love surrounding her. Good luck to both of you! This is big for you. But by expressing your thoughts and feelings to your online community we can support you. And your little girl with a big spirit will continue to amaze you!

  11. Beautiful post that makes me both fear and anticipate this day for me and my son in two years time.

    However, thanks soo much for making me cry at work πŸ˜‰
    Tara’s last post … TaraCain- @catriona Bowling! We had a great time at the old ally in town!My Profile

  12. Such a beautiful post. With my #1 at pre-school today and #2 waiting to be born any minute…I can already feel the winds of change blowing through the relationship I have with my daughter. Thanks for putting it into words…and for the much needed cry!!

  13. simply love it!
    Wendy Irene (Give Love Create Happiness)’s last post … Happy Labor-Labour Day!My Profile

  14. This is lovely, and I do hope you’ll actually share it with her someday. πŸ™‚
    kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Summer Flowering PerennialsMy Profile

  15. This is a beautiful letter, Amber. So eloquent. I love the bit about not blaming the world for your problems. It’s up to our children to change the world for the better.
    Old School/New School Mom’s last post … F You Hormones!My Profile

  16. I love your letter to Hannah. It is somethat that she will treasure one day.

    When I graduated & move out on my own, my mom gave me a scrapbook with all my “special” papers and milestones through the years. Clipped in the front was this poem and it is something I treasure.


    If there could be only one thing
    in life for me to teach you,
    I would teach you to love…

    To respect others so that you may
    find respect in yourself
    To learn the value of giving,
    so that if ever there comes a time
    in your life that someone really
    needs, you will give
    To act in a manner that you would
    wish to be treated
    To be proud of yourself
    To laugh and smile as much as you
    can, in order to help bring joy
    back into this world
    To have faith in others;
    to be understanding…
    To stand tall in this world and
    to learn to depend on yourself
    To only take from this earth those
    things which you really need,
    so there will be enough for others
    To not depend on money or material
    things for your happiness, but
    To learn to appreciate the people who
    love you, the simple beauty
    that God gave you and to find
    peace and security within yourself

    To you, my child, I hope I have
    taught all of these things,
    for they are love.
    (written by Donna Dargis)

  17. Onward! Go Hannah! Ok – I admit, I welled-up.
    harriet Fancott’s last post … What I learned on my summer vacationMy Profile

  18. Everything you write here is completely true, and completely pride-inducing and completely heartbreaking. She will change this year, and it will astound you, but so will she. That’s the way it goes, mama, even if our hearts aren’t ready for it πŸ™‚
    karengreeners’s last post … Eyes Pried OpenMy Profile

  19. Hope your big day is going smoothly. Great words of wisdom, the part about the accident made me chuckle:)
    Francesca’s last post … My oversize piece of luggageMy Profile

  20. Oh wow! Beautiful Amber and thanks for sharing the moment with us. Hope you both had a great day!

  21. I’ve already cried a bunch today and this line :”When I send you to school, I will do so with the knowledge that you will never be fully mine again.” just set me off again. How bittersweet kindergarten is.
    Marilyn (A Lot of Loves)’s last post … LemonsMy Profile

  22. Becoming a citizen of the bigger community is both exciting and sobering. I love how Q-ster comes home and gravely explains what one must do if there’s an earthquake, if there’s a fire, etc., because everyone has responsibilities.
    Lady M’s last post … Smiles on WheelsMy Profile

  23. This is a little heartbreaking. Hope she loves it!
    AmberDusick’s last post … Backpack makeover &amp laundryMy Profile

  24. Tomorrow is the day in my house…and so this made me cry. The truth of it hurts so much, particularly this:

    When I send you to school, I will do so with the knowledge that you will never be fully mine again. You donÒ€ℒt belong just to your family anymore. We no longer lay claim to all that you are.

    Though I know it’s the healthy way for it to be, it doesn’t make it any easier.

    Good luck to your little girl (and you!)
    Christine LaRocque’s last post … The motherhood deficitMy Profile

  25. Beautiful letter!

    P.S. My DD has that same shirt. πŸ™‚
    Annie @ PhD in Parenting’s last post … Reflections of MotherhoodMy Profile

  26. I love how you are approaching this new journey. It’s exactly how I hope to be with my son.

    Excuse me while I grab another tissue… *sniff*
    Sara’s last post … Feeling nakedMy Profile

  27. So very sweet and sad and true and joyful. It’s always that push and pull in motherhood. When we were running around that morning, they were talking on the radio about back to school and I immediately thought of you and how it was going!

  28. Beautiful Amber. I got shivers.

  29. Beautiful. Our little one has been in very part-time day care for about a year, and though I know better, I am still amazed that he is his own little person who has his own little world of little friends and little cars and trucks (not the real ones, of course) and teachers and new ideas….
    Rachael’s last post … We Are Not Chimps or- In Favor of Day CareMy Profile

  30. I hope she loves it. I bet she will.
    Capital Mom’s last post … Tomato soupMy Profile

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  1. […] daughter Hannah is a little more than half-way through kindergarten, which is the first year of formal school where I live. She attends our local public school, and […]

  2. […] than 9 1/2 months ago, I wrote a letter to my daughter, Hannah, on her first day of kindergarten. Time flies when you have kids, and here we are on her last day. It seems fitting to once again […]

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