Carefully brushed hair, pulled back into a ponytail with her trademark curls and new pretty clips. Brand new shoes so white that they're blinding, and socks that are too big. Same as her shirt and skirt, and her schoolbag that houses her much-loved dinosaur lunchbox, new pencilcase and her hat.
Outside for photos, "The sun is too bright Mummy!" One more! Then onwards to the big brick building that she has been itching to be a part of since we moved into the neighbourhood last year. When we walk through the gate, it is already a hive of activity with big kids and little kids everywhere. She holds my hand tightly, and stays close beside me while I go to double check the class list that is stuck to the library window. Seeing her name up there, it feels surreal. We stop to chat to friends, and for more photos. She is so, so nervous but her big sister gives her a hug. She's an old hand at this gig.
We wander to the building closest to the office, and mill around with the other mothers. Whenever we make eye contact with someone, we smile and shrug off our own nervousness for our little ones. Most of the kids are chatting and running, laughing and tugging on their mothers' clothes. Mine stays close, refusing to break the invisible rope that has been between us for four years.
Finally, the front door opens and two teachers step out. One young, smiling and chirpy. The other is older, more tired. They introduce themselves, ask us to leave bags outside, and then start handing out name tags as we enter the building. Still holding my hand, we put her new prized possessions into her cubbyhole, then I sit on a miniature chair beside her while she does a Red Riding Hood puzzle. Again, and again. She is too shy to walk through the throng to get a different puzzle. So she keeps doing it, handing pieces to her younger sister, until a bell rings. It is time to say goodbye. She holds onto me, and tears start falling. I start to feel tears building up myself, but am saved from them escaping by her teacher who comes to lead her away. She tells her that Mummy will be here afterwards, that she will make new friends, and that her big sister is only across the playground. I walk out of the classroom, looking back one more time to see her curly ponytail amongst all the other kids sitting down on the rug beside her.
She has been my precious second-born princess for four years and I love her so much. She is affectionate, loves cuddles and kisses, and dancing, and dresses, and pink. Today she experienced her first day of primary school. I missed her so much, but was also so excited to hear about her day and to see her special bird that she made and that she is so proud of. Tonight, I crept into her room to say an extra goodnight but she was already fast asleep.
Such a big day for both my princess, and her Mummy. Our invisible rope hasn't snapped, it's just grown longer.