Illustration, moonlit night reaching for a star

If you were to ask me what I most want for my children, my response would be similar to that of the majority of parents: I want my children to be good people—honest, hard working, and courageous. I want them to care about others, rely on their communities for support and encouragement, but also be prepared to stand alone when their principles demand it. They should believe fully that they can accomplish all of their goals. Most of all, I want my children to fulfill their potential.

Several years ago, I took part in a workshop that required me to write my “vision” for my life. I was shocked to discover that I could not articulate a detailed vision, and any thoughts conjured were, at best, hazy.

Before I had children, my vision was much clearer. I had confidence in my ability to pursue my dreams.

When my daughter was born, I fell in love with her potential. This powerful aspect of parenting is both a strength and an obstacle. As author Kahlil Gibran said about children in his book, The Prophet,

“They live in the house of tomorrow that we cannot visit, not even in our dreams.”

When my youngest child was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, my world came to a sudden stop. I felt as though I’d been kicked in the stomach. As I listened to doctors at a world-renowned hospital calmly outline the limitations that this two-year-old would have to endure, a rebel spirit rose up, and I thought, “You don’t know what you are dealing with here.”

After several days of intermittent crying, I got out of bed and focused on my son’s recovery.

As an educator, I had devoted my life to helping kids reach their potential. I used to say to parents, “Why are you so hung up on normal? You are so much more than that!” I now understood why they wanted normal—I wanted normal, too.

Someone advised me to play the hand I was dealt. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but I knew that I needed to accept that advice, and the first step in doing so was to set the bar high. That meant believing in my soul that my son had the potential to recover from these obstacles and move toward his “house of tomorrow.”

As we started an intensive intervention program, one of my biggest fears was that I might be asking him to do something of which he was not capable. I took a walk one night and said a prayer about the need to believe in my son’s potential to recover. I knew that with this faith would come the light we needed to find our way.

As he continues to make his way in the world, his journey has provided perhaps the deepest learning opportunities for the rest of our family. Each time he conquers another obstacle, he teaches us about the power of potential and the inspiration that comes when the dream takes precedence over the disability.

All of our children have a unique potential that defines their destiny. If they develop their character, they will have the opportunity to discover a deeper purpose and connect to their “house of tomorrow.” We, as adults, also have a potential. The degree to which we struggle to connect to our purpose and potential will be our ultimate legacy to our children.