This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

“Don’t blink!” They say…“before you know it, he’ll be graduating high school!” Well…he may not quite be there yet, but tomorrow my son heads off to “Kinder Camp” for a week to learn a little bit about his new school before he goes for real in about a month. We’re definitely feeling a mix of emotions in our house, but the feeling I feel the most right now is pride.

This isn’t a pride that is selfish or a pride that is trying to inspire jealousy. I’m proud of my son for the boy he is becoming and for the journey it took for him to get to the place he is in now. I’m proud of him for trying new things, for trusting his mother and I when we took him to new places, for overcoming the fears and anxieties in his brain that had been paralyzing him for so long. I’m proud of him for feeling all of that, acknowledging it, and moving forward anyway…one step at a time. I’m proud of him for becoming a boy at his preschool that other kids wanted to be around. I’m proud of him for becoming such a good friend that other kids who felt really shy would wait until he arrived to go out to the playground and play. I’m proud of him for going from a kid who said “You’re tricking me, I’m never going to school!” to “I want to go to Kindergarten Mom, I want to go to school.”

Now as I’ve talked about before my wife and I (mostly her) had a big hand in helping this transition he’s made. We encouraged him, we gently pushed him when he needed it and backed off when we felt we needed to. We found him a great preschool that nurtured him, we checked in with him often and looked for every possible opportunity to give him the chance to grow socially. But ultimately, he was the one who was brave. He was the one who matured and blossomed. He found the courage to go from standing at the edge of the classroom watching everyone else do projects at the beginning of the year to jumping in and routinely making sweet crafts to bring home to his sister. He did it…and he’s ready…even if we’re not sure that we are yet.

This is only Part 1. Our journey is just beginning and I will continue to share the road my kindergarten boy is on as we go throughout the year. And I hope that if your little one has anxiety about school and social situations that you’ll take heart from our story and know that children are so capable of tremendous growth at any age. Just keep believing, keep pushing, keep listening, loving and nurturing them. Seeing that effort bloom in them is always so worth it.

This is fatherhood…