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 5: The Three “C’s” of Wholeheartedness

Plastic monkeys linked arm in arm with a backdrop of bright sky with cloudsResearcher/writer/storyteller Brene Brown identifies three “C’s”–courage, compassion, and connection– that make it possible to live wholeheartedly despite the broken pieces in our lives.  After finishing her book The Gifts of Imperfection, I thought about how those words reflected my own journey through a crisis.

The Courage to Get Help

For me, it took courage to admit I was burned out from a futile effort to “fix” my son.   David doesn’t lose himself to rage anymore, thank the Lord.  We’re proud that he lives peacefully and independently in the community.  However, it took a long time.  Without good therapeutic help, I would not have survived.  I almost fell apart before I was willing to put my soul back together.  At first, taking care of my mental health felt like yet another item on the giant to-do list.  I once spent a memorable therapy session with David bouncing on the couch next to me because I couldn’t find childcare.  On the plus side, it gave my therapist a direct 360 on the situation.

Time Off is My Kind of Gift

Compassion for myself meant finding the small spaces to breathe free.  For several years, my birthday and Mother’s Day gifts were various forms of time off.  Let other moms post heartwarming pix of their kids serving breakfast in bed. My husband scored eternal brownie points for holding the fort while I went on meditation retreats.

Finding My Own Tribe

Somehow, making space to be alone created more space for growing new connections.  I had friends who cared and tried to help, but they didn’t understand.   That’s why I began to look for other parents who were muddling through.  I got involved with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and became a volunteer instructor in its peer-to-peer programs on mental illness in children.  I remember one night when David was 13, I was teaching a small group of parents in Knoxville.  “I’m so pumped!” I told them excitedly, “David re-learned to tie his shoes!” With any of my “civilian” friends that might have been an awkward moment.  These moms burst into applause.  They were part of my tribe.

Courage, compassion, connection.  Three magic words that can hold the possibility of stability in an uncertain world.  Practical, step-by-step solutions are my stock in trade.  They made our family’s life much easier over time.  Yet the most empowering skill I ever learned was to recognize three other magic words:  I’m good enough.

Be well,


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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  1. […] ← Imperfectly OK Parenting Part 3: My Thelma and Louise MomentImperfectly OK Parenting Part 5: The Three “C’s” of Wholeheartedness → […]

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