This week, Scott and I have been focused on hiking more and getting our kids more active.  We love to go hiking in Griffith Park.  Not only is the scenery incredible, but the trails are challenging.

When we first started going hiking, we knew that Zachary would have some difficulties with hiking.  We took it slow because we always wanted to include him and make him feel part of the group.  After seeing him struggle, my dearest friend Paula (my kids refer to her as Aunt Paula), found him a stick and spent countless hours sanding and staining it for Zachary.  Zachary loves his hiking stick and uses it to help pull him up the mountain.

Thursday we went hiking.  We set on our course and our group had decided we would hike up to what is known as Bee Rock.  This is a 3.5 mile hike and it was the first time the kids had done a hike like this.  About 3/4 of the way up the mountain, I noticed Zachary was starting to struggle.  He was upset.  After not being able to go out on the edge of the rock because I was afraid he would slip and hurt himself, I pulled him back from the rest of the group to ask what was wrong.

His response was immediate. “I’m different than everybody else.  I’ll never be able to do what you do.  I hate hiking.”  I stopped for a moment to collect my thoughts. The first thing that came to mind was that our disabilities don’t define us.  I told Zachary that he wasn’t defined as a kid with birth defects or disabilities; he is Zachary.  He could be Zachary who decided to stop hiking because it was tough or because it got hard. He could stop walking, give up and be unhappy, or he could choose to be Zachary who was tough, who fought against all the odds the world gave him, and who would come out a strong warrior because of everything he had been through.  Zachary had a decision to make.

As Zachary was thinking about what we talked about, I went and took a rock from the trail.  I explained to Zachary that the rock by itself is small and insignificant.  We can drive over it, kick it, and throw it back to the mountain, but if you put rocks together, you form mountains.  Mountains are strong, immovable, and withstand numerous storms.  While Zachary may be the rock, together with his dad and I, his doctors, his sisters, his friends – we are the mountain.

Putting the rock in his pocket, he looked up at me with tears in his eyes.  Scott explained to Zachary about being a warrior.  While Scott has had to endure many hardships in life, he has grown stronger because of those trials.  We have gone stronger because of our experiences with Zachary.  Not saying much, we headed back down the hill to finish our hike.

This morning as we were headed to school, Zachary looked at his rock and said, “Mom, I’m a mountain.”

I have learned so much through this entire experience with Zachary but the greatest lesson I’ve learned recently has been that we can not allow our disabilities to define us.  Zachary will continue to hike, no matter how hard, because he is a warrior.  Zachary will continue to endure countless surgeries because he is a warrior.  That is how Zachary wants to be defined, not as disabled.  He is a warrior.