You’re graduating from high school soon and getting ready to head off to college. I know you hate it when I get mushy, but it’s time for your dad to look back tenderly at a little boy who has become a young man.
Your mom and I always knew that you were an energetic child with an inquisitive mind. When you were in preschool and your teachers told us you steered away from the “reading area,” we weren’t concerned.
We thought, what active 4-year-old boy wants to sit and read? But when grade school came and you were still struggling, we knew there was an issue.
Do you remember when I tried to read aloud The Cat in the Hat with you?
You’d sound out every letter: /c/ /a/ /t/. But you wouldn’t say the word cat because you didn’t know how to connect the sounds. Or maybe you did know, but were rebelling against me. Even at that young age, you had an independent streak and weren’t going to be told what to do.
“Here’s a smart kid who could be in the gifted program,” the assistant principal told us. But you were falling behind and losing confidence. I’m relieved and thankful we never lost faith in you.
Dyslexia. ADHD. Over the years, school evaluators gave us those words, which were both a blow and a relief. A blow because no parent wants to hear their child faces these challenges. A relief because having a name for what was going on gave us hope and the confidence to advocate for what you needed in school. Once you got the right support, your natural potential was released.
It’s been a journey for our family to make sure you’ve had all of the opportunities available to you to reach college. This is the next amazing phase of your life. But as proud and excited as we are for you, we’re also a little scared about the future.
At college, you’ll be managing almost everything yourself. Picking classes. Deciding when and where to study. Doing laundry. Finding new friends. You’ll be your own person in a place that’s 200 miles away from us.
Can I be honest? My biggest fear is that without our loving family and community around you, you may get sidetracked by other things.
Will you start that term paper and get it finished? Will you ask for help if you don’t understand something? What if you fall behind in class?
When my fears get the best of me, I only have to remind myself of all the things others have said about you over the years. It was your first-grade teacher who said, “This child is one of the most out-of-the-box thinkers I’ve ever met.”
You connect with people in a deep and unique way. Neighbors and parents of your friends always tell us how much they enjoy talking with you. You’re a charming guy! And you talk to adults as a peer, in a way other young people can’t or won’t.
We see your many friends come to you when they need help. Whether it’s girlfriend-boyfriend problems, social media drama or any other issue, you’re always the shoulder everyone leans on. You’re always the one who sticks up for others, especially the little guy. Somehow, you always restore the peace.
You’ve certainly done well in high school (at least most of the time!), and I know you’re ready for college. But, as you just love to hear, you will always be our baby, and we will always worry. It’s what we do as parents! One of the hardest things for us is letting you take care of everything yourself in a world that doesn’t always get that some kids learn differently.
In any case, 200 miles isn’t all that far. We can be there in only three-and-a-half hours if you need us!
But maybe the hardest part for us is realizing that you probably won’t need us. Hopefully you’ll let us come and visit once in a while anyway.
I’m so proud of you even when I’m nagging you to get your work done. I know that you’ll make the most of this journey and have an incredible experience.
Watch as college students talk about succeeding in college with learning and thinking differences. Read how self-advocacy helped a student fight for her rights in college. And get tips on how to prepare kids with ADHD for living with college roommates.
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About the author
Ian Grodman an attorney and mediator, has a son with learning and thinking differences.