Monday, June 29, 2009


Courage is not always easily quantified or identifed. It doesn't always wear an obvious and easily reocgnizable face. Courage comes in many forms and one of them is a tall, lanky, deceptively laid back boy with a mohawk and a quiet sense of humour that has endeared him to an incredibly wide variety of people.

Our boy Declan graduated last week. I loved the fact that out of the sea of boys he stood out with his nose ring and his mohawk, his casual dress and quiet confidence. That despite the rainbow of shades of skin and the plenitude of personality, his quiet confidence and comfort in his skin made him a standout.

Identified at a very early age as severely learning disabled, Declan and I struggled mightly through grade school as with tears suppressed and only released in the privacy of my bedroom, I pushed him to excel - through raw determination and belief in him, we spent 10 years convincing him that learning differently does not make him stupid .. that not grasping basic skills as quickly as everyone else not make him slow.

Some thought us harsh as we rejected a majority of the concessions offered to learning disabled kids in favour of forcing strategies that would work around them. Many thought us cruel as we refused suggestions to drop him from academic level to general and pushed him to work harder.

But we reasoned, if he thinks he needs all that help, if he feels that he can only achieve by adopting lower standards, if he internalizes that he needs concessions made to succeed, then where does that leave his belief in his own intelligence? Where does that lend itself to him knowing he CAN and WILL achieve whatever dreams he chooses to pursue?

Early on we got him involved in sports - an arena where how his brain worked so uniquely didn't matter and where his natural determination, dogged determination and natural athleticism lead him to excel (Brown belt judo - silver provincial and high ranking provincail wrestling).

And the past two years of high school he has made it through the academic level without even informing his teachers of his IEP (Individual Education Plan) status; and while his marks were not remarkable, he made it through high school without failing ONE subject, without us receiving ONE phone call, without ONE suspensions or citation for issues. He made it through high school admired as an incredible athlete, a boy welll liked and comfortable in every stratum from the "gangstas" to the geeks.

At all the interviews we attended, all we heard was prasie from teachers and indeed, covering up when I felt he might have done better or worked harder.

Brave Declan - to me, your face is courage. Declan will be attending college in the Fall as an Intervenor - a translator for the blind, deaf and dumb ... another surprise as we weren't sure what new direction our boy would take.


cutesy pah said...

His story is AMAZING! As is yours, for sticking with him, and helping him find areas where he excelled. Good Job, Mom!!

Anonymous said...

You all both must be so proud.

kannakat said...

Oh, well done, well done all of you! Great work Declan and a proud day for you...Take a bow!
with warm congratulation from kannakat

swan said...

Congratulations to all of you. I've seen so many parents use "learning differences" to excuse their children. I always believe that it is far better to give the message that where there are challenges there is the need to work both smarter and harder. It sounds like that is exactly the strategy that your family has used with fabulous success. All the very best to Declan as he moves forward. It sounds as if the foundation laid to this point is strong and sure.


Sara said...

Selkie, that brought tears to my eyes. Yes, Declan has courage, but so do his parents! Contratulations!

Greenwoman said...

What a wonderful name! *smiles* And you're right, he does carry himself with great confidence and comfort inside himself.

You all deserve to be proud of yourselves for reaching deep inside for your courage to keep pushing forward toward your goals and what you think is right for yourselves.

I'll just bet that for Declan, the face of 'I can do this' is yours. *smiles*

Gillette said...

Yeehaa to all of you, especially Declan!

Isn't being a parent the most difficult yet rewarding relationship on the planet? He is Blessed to have you as parents. I so agree with parenting styles that give them the message that they are competent, able, strong and to be trusted. They do internalize it.

Here's a glass raised in tribute to all.

Amber said...

Selkie, great story, great kid, great job you guys did!

Our son had a lot of challenges in school too, it was really rough, especially since my now-ex was just useless as being a "dad" to the kids when they got older. I felt very much on my own about the situation and I'm sorry to say I did not do a stellar job; eventually I gave up as far as his academics went. It was that hard.

Subsequently, Ray dropped out his senior year; he just wasn't going to have enough credits to graduate, even if he did summer school. I will always regret that.

He got his GED immediately and has gone on to be a successful man and loving husband know. I'll always feel bad about giving up the way I did.

So I KNOW how hard you guys worked on this. Kudos to you for persevering! Very inspirational story; thank you for sharing!

(Pssst! Great hair, too! :))

Buffalo said...

Good on him. Good on you and D.

littleone said...

selkie... you must be SO damn proud !!

proud of him and your determination to accept nothing less than his best.. and for pushing the school to accept that too..

i know from where i sit.. that most parents do NOT want to invest that kind of time and energy into their children.. they want quick fixes that won't disturb their life style too much......

so yeah .. good on you - on all of you !!

morningstar (owned by Warren)

Anonymous said...

awesome for you and him and all those teachers and students he will have inspired

selkie said...

I just want to say thanks for all your kind words! But truly, I can't take the credit. Yes I worked with him but so did his dad, endless trips to numerous judo matches, lacrosse, hockey and wrestling, nights just spent debating and talking and exploring, and most of all, it is DEclan's indomintable will to succeed.

Truly our kids deserve the best out of life and it is up to us to give them the confidence to fly.

PK said...

lucky kid. awesome parents.

adopt me? :)

aphron said...

Stories like that are great examples of what can be accomplished with strength and determination. Too many times, people just throw their hands up and surrender.

Anonymous said...

I too have a son with shall we say complications.... hair, learning, too tender of a heart for this world. He had a mohawk - now he has dreads! And piercings and tattoos... I know both our guy will do well. Mine just graduated as well.

selkie said...

Welcome FunKayLynn! I learned a long time ago not to "sweat the small stuff"- i.e. hair, piercings, tats - they are all just ways of staking an independent persona - and they too shall pass.

Having grown up with a sister who was a punk rocker before it hit North America, I learned a long time ago not to judge on appearance.

Plus, my parents were pretty cool. They accepted our crazy hair, skirts so short a whisper would bring disaster and jeans so low the material was almost nonexistent and never judged either -

Congratulations to your son also!

Gillette said... middle daughter had her tongue pierce twice, multiples in her ears, purple hair, white makeup and chains..and joined the Girl Scouts of America for the first time in her junior year of high school. They adored her as did her teachers. I can't tell you the number of teachers who would call me to tell me what an amazing person she is. Looks mean diddly squat. In fact, I think they point to a sensitive, creative, alive personality.

Just had to share that after rereading and then also the comments.

Hugs and another glass!!!

Liras said...

What a beautiful story. I a not only glad he succeeded but that he did it on his terms. Bravo!

(and Brava to you!)

Vesta said...


My sincere congratulations. Sir J alerted me to this post and now I see why. Having had a similar issue in my family, and used a similar strategy, I feel a kindred spirit and a great sense of victory for you from afar.

In just the past few days, since you wrote this post, I have been reading of non-judgmental acceptance; not thinking about oneself as what one achieves, but who one is. My son is a divine boy. He may not get marks that will be awesome, but he does fine and has taken over full responsibility for his studies. I am very proud of him as you are of your son. Bravo!