As a parent, I've embarked on a journey that is as challenging as it is rewarding. In my home, two worlds coexist — one where I navigate the complex, evolving path of raising a college student, and another where I learn, every day, the unique and beautiful language of parenting a kindergartener on the autism spectrum. These experiences, while distinct, share a common thread: they are lessons in love, patience, and grace.
In what seems like the blink of an eye, my 19-year-old daughter’s college journey has seemingly turned into a mosaic of independence, emerging adulthood, and self discovery. The transition from high school to college was a significant milestone, filled with mixed emotions, challenges, and some self-doubt. Freshman year was rough for her— managing a demanding academic schedule, making new friends, and exploring career options. But it was more than that. It was about learning to let go and trust the foundation we built together during her earlier years. As a parent who has always been very hands on with my kids, I had to learn that parenting a college student is a delicate balance of providing support without overstepping, of being a sounding board while encouraging autonomy and remaining calm… even when I would check her location on my phone at 3:00am and she wasn’t in her dorm room.
In contrast, my son’s world is vastly different. Autism has painted his early years with a spectrum of colors I never knew existed. The journey isn’t just about understanding his needs but also about appreciating his unique view of the world. Each day brings new challenges — from navigating sensory sensitivities to fostering social interactions. Yet, there are moments of profound joy and breakthroughs that make every effort worthwhile. It's a path that requires constant learning and adaptation, not just for him, but for our entire family. As he entered Kindergarten I had to be sure that my position as his biggest advocate was solidified and he knew that he was not on this journey alone.
These parallel parenting paths often feel like a juggling act. One moment, I'm discussing apartment life and career aspirations; the next, I'm engrossed in meltdowns and individualized education plans. This duality has taught me the importance of flexibility and the power of unconditional love. Each child, in their unique way, has reshaped my understanding of what it means to be a parent.
This journey has been enlightening in many ways. From my college student, I've learned the art of letting go and the beauty of watching a child blossom into an adult. She has taught me that sometimes, the best support is a listening ear or a gentle nudge in the right direction. My kindergartener has shown me the world through a different lens — where small victories are monumental, and routine is paramount. He's taught me patience, the importance of celebrating individuality, and that communication extends beyond words.
Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all journey. It's a tailored experience, stitched together with moments of uncertainty, triumphs, and unconditional love. As I navigate these diverse parenting roles, I am continually learning, growing, and finding joy in the unexpected. It's a balancing act, indeed, but one that I embrace wholeheartedly.