My son's starting kindergarten last week has been a big adjustment for all of us. For me, there's the requisite letting go, facing the bittersweet reality that my baby is growing up too fast, and the oh-holy-hell terror that is dragging my ass out of bed at 6:30 a.m. every morning to make sure both he and I are ready to leave the house by 7:30 a.m. For him, the situation is even more dire. His world has just changed, irrevocably.

It isn't that Eliot dislikes school; in fact, I suspect that he often has a great time there. Most mornings, however, he gets slow and shy and clingy, and protests that he does not like school, does not want to go today, cannot go today, is not going today. He really has to stay home and help James crush cans in the basement. He really has to stay home and put together a Lego ship. He needs to stay home and play video games. He needs to stay home and finish watching that episode of Bob the Builder that we didn't finish last night. School is too easy. School is too hard. School is too _______. Fill in the blank. He can come up with reason after reason, ad infinitum, why he simply, regrettably, cannot go to school today.

"Because you're picking me up, but I want Dad to pick me up."

"Because Dad's picking me up, but I want you to pick me up."

"Because everyone else gets to ride the school bus, and I don't get to ride the school bus."

(Eliot, like Makayla, is not impressed.)

I'm familiar with these arguments, this argument process, because I do the same thing nearly every day in my head. "I can't get out of bed. I'm too tired. I'm exhausted. I can't face this day. I can't do this. Things aren't perfect. I'm not strong enough. I'm not good enough. I'm not enough." I've been bullied relentlessly by my own interior dialogue since adolescence. I'm 33 now. I don't expect that voice to go away anytime soon. I HAVE learned to conjure up other voices. They provide a counter-diatribe. They tell the bully to shut up, go away, you're wrong, and no one invited you anyway. Even so, some days I need all the outside encouragement I can get. I'm lucky that my boys provide it:

This is the chalkboard where I often find motivational messages from James and Eliot.

So this morning, on our way to school, when Eliot looked at me with tears brimming and said, "I CAN'T do this," I gave him my talk about bravery. It's the same talk I give myself every day. I told him that being brave means doing something that scares you, even though it scares you. Being brave doesn't mean you AREN'T scared. It means you go through with that thing, whatever it is, in spite of your fear. I reminded him that lots of kids, most kids, even, are scared to go to school at first. Evidence: remember that little boy on Monday who was crying tears and not wanting his dad to leave? It's okay to be scared. It's natural to be scared. What's important is that you be brave and do it anyway.

I shared with him that today I am nervous. I have to do some things today that scare me. My job requires that I get up in front of a classroom full of people, people who are all LOOKING AT ME, and I have to talk, and sometimes that scares me. And then I told him how I manage to do it anyway. Because every time you do something that scares you, that thing scares you a little less. Every time you are brave, it gets a little bit easier to be brave the next time.

I told Eliot that thinking about him being brave at his school helps me to be brave at my school. I told him that maybe, if we both think about each other being brave today, that will help.

We walked into the gymnasium, found the area where his class waits for their teacher, and we gave each other a high-five. He sat down with his backpack, bravely waiting for his day to begin, and I walked out of the kindergarten building with my head up, bravely venturing into mine.

We don't have to pretend we aren't scared. We just have to do it anyway.