Family-tested solutions
for Special Needs

Toddler and mother playing together

Family-tested solutions
for Special Needs

Toddler and mother playing together

Imperfectly OK Parenting Part 3: My Thelma and Louise Moment

Winding road that leads up a steep hillI knew I shouldn’t tempt the fates by going out to a nice lunch with friends.  Still, things seemed quiet that week.

The cell phone rang as I lifted the first forkful of pasta to my lips.  The principal gave a terse report:  David attacked an off-duty police officer, who had dropped by to have his own nice lunch with a friend on staff.


I drove to the school in my usual emergency mode, calculating the triggers that might have set David off and forming the apologies that would dribble from my lips.  He was handcuffed in a squad car at the edge of the parking lot, worn out from sobbing. The officer was a good guy, and I suspect he didn’t want to do the booking paperwork on his day off.  The principal vouched for me as a responsible mom who could handle it at home. No charges.  A lucky break.

Thelma and Louise

I walked David to our car, jerking my thumb toward the back seat in a gesture that collected every ounce of anger and frustration I was feeling in that moment. Two blocks later, I pulled the car over to the curb and sat there, shaking in horror at the picture that had formed at the edges of my conscious brain.  It was a picture of me driving past my house with David strapped in the back seat, driving all the way to a cliff nearby, and sailing over it.  I was Thelma to his Louise, cornered beyond saving, headed into final, blessed oblivion. What kind of a mother would even picture such a thing?

It Gets Better

Much later, I discovered that driving over a cliff is a common fantasy among parents of children with extreme special needs.  They whisper about it in support groups, guilty but grateful to share with those who truly understand.  Sometimes, tragically, a parent will lose that battle.  As horrified as I am to hear of such an event, I recognize the place where that emotion lives inside me.  We are not so unalike. Did I just feel a small clutch of shame as I wrote that sentence?  You bet.  What matters is what I do to care for myself when that feeling arises.  (Stick with me, this gets better.)

Go to Imperfectly OK Parenting Part 4:  “Trust Me, I’m Nice”

Wendy Besmann

Wendy Besmann is the Executive Director of Get There Project. Her books include Family Road Map: A Step-By-Step Guide to Navigating Health, Education, and Insurance Systems for Families with Special Needs, Young Adult Road Map: A Step-By-Step Guide to Wellness, Independent Living, and Transition Services for People in Their Teens and Twenties, and Team Up for Your Child, A Step-By-Step Guide to Working Smarter with Doctors, Schools, Insurers, and Agencies. She and her husband Ted have two sons, Elliot and David, who live with special needs. Wendy and Ted split their time between Knoxville, Tennessee and the University of South Carolina campus, where Ted is an engineering professor and Wendy is a "vintage" grad student in Public Health.

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