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How My Son's Differences Define What Courage Is to Me

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Such a powerful word.

So difficult to truly describe.

Tomorrow I have to go to my daughter’s class and discuss what courage is. We have different examples and have been instructed as parents to provide the accepted examples: firemen, policemen, superheroes.

And yet, as I sit here on my plane ride home from a business trip, I think about what “courage” really means. What kind of courage have I witnessed in my life?

Immediately I think of my son. He has always been “different.” Not enough to warrant a different school or any special aids, but enough so that his classmates started noticing from the time he was in first grade.

His view of the world is unencumbered by preconceptions or judgements, and he is slow to understand social cues, which make it difficult for him to judge people socially. He is uninterested in trends or “coolness,” which also makes his circle of friends severely limited. He has an open and warm heart and is quick to think the best of everyone, because as he has told me, “it is easier that way, Mom.”

He got teased and isolated from second grade on, some years more aggressively than others. Since his communication skills are not fluid, his father and I suggested physical defensive moves as a response to the shoves and physical abuse he was experiencing. His response was always, “That is not the way. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Being his mother is the most amazing privilege and the most challenging and heartbreaking experience I’ve ever had to face. I have gone through every one of those years and experiences with him, and what he has endured, honestly I don’t know if I would have ever had his resilience.


Courage is facing your peers every day who don’t understand your differences and tease you and isolate you, yet you still feel they deserve your respect.

Courage is knowing who you are is valuable, even though you are not like everybody else.

Courage is getting up every day to face a world that isn’t necessarily made for people like you, and not being bitter about it.

Courage is being born different, and turning it into a strength.

Courage is being teased and bullied for your differences yet feeling compassion for your aggressors because they don’t understand what they are doing.

Courage is expressing your ideals even though you know not many people do.

Courage is fighting for what you believe is right, and working for those who are less fortunate than you are.

Courage is doing all of this at age 13 and telling your mom, “Don’t worry mom, its OK. The boys at school….some day they will understand.”

I hope so son. For their sake.

If that is not courage, then I don’t know what is.

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Thinkstock image by XiXinXing

Originally published: October 27, 2017
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