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.