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Courage under fire

April 13, 2015
Maria Smaldino Spencer , MOV Parent

An actor in the movie "Ladder 49" said, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the realization that there is something more important than fear." Obviously, he was referring to the courage firefighters have when risking their lives for others. When I heard this statement, it instantly resounded in my soul that the courage he was speaking of lives inside me, and in youas special parents.

No matter how long you've been on your journey of special parenting, I'm sure someone has said to you, "I don't know how you do it, I could never have the energy or courage to do what you do every day." And I used to be one of those people, until my daughter came into my world.

I know I say it often but I strongly feel we were chosen by God to parent our kids. He gave us the skills we were going to need as parents the day we were bornthink about that! The thoughts overwhelm me sometimesWhen all of a sudden, usually without warning, you have to go into a mode of yourself that you never knew existed, you can do nothing but have courage. You gather the strength from somewhere deep inside that was waiting, lying dormant, for your child to enter your life. He planned it that way.

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Then, this little precious person becomes the thing that precedes everything in your life up until that moment, which is so much more important than any kind of fear that would like to take over.

What can be more important than your child? Whether you planned this life to be part of your family naturally, or traveled to another city or country to make him your own, the love you have for this child is without measure. Fear is not an option.

Fear creates chaos and distance. It breeds worry and uncertainty. We don't have time for such thoughts or actions.

We usually have too many appointments, meetings, and unexpected challenges that come up to allow any of those words into our vocabulary.

Think about how natural these things come to you- You have become better at multi-tasking that you ever thought possible. You have become your very own crisis intervention specialist. You took (or maybe still are taking) a crash course on your child's diagnosis or disability; you quickly became the therapist, physician, specialist and parent.all at the same time. We don't have time to live by fear. Fear is the opposite of faith.

I choose to live by faith. Faith breeds answers, peace and hope. Hope for our children's future and ours. Faith creates the environment for healing, progress and accomplishments for our kids on a day-to-day basis.

Can you imagine what our world would be like if firefighters lived by fear? We have their courage- Courage to go where not many would choose to go, with faith, hope and expectancy-for the life of another. So, my prayer this month is that you realize how so very valuable your journey as a special parent has become. So valuable, that your life parallels that of a firefighter. Regardless of limitation, different abilities or challenges, our children have taught us how to fight the fires of their disability, and face the heat with faith and courage.

Maria Smaldino Spencer is a special mom, special needs consultant and a center supervisor administrator at CDI Head Start of Mahoning County in Youngstown. She can be reached at



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