What a Wonderful World: the Song of Sunday’s Win

The beautiful swell of violins envelopes the Italian restaurant, and the raspy, familiar voice croons the words that make the whole world smile:

 

I see trees of green, red roses too

I see them bloom for me and you

And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

 

Across the table, Kristen listens and asks, “Who is that?”

 

My husband, Rick, says, “Louie Armstrong.”

 

Kristen’s eyes widen as she repeats, “Louie Armstrong?”

 

We nod, knowing her incredible memory for singers will catalog this name forever.

 

But this is not what brings sudden tears to my eyes. It’s the song itself.

 

It is, indeed, a wonderful world…now. The world has changed for my little family, just in the last hour or so.

 

Call it redemption, call it a turnaround, call it whatever you want. I just know God gets the credit.

 

You see, before our peaceful lunch at the Italian restaurant, we attempted to eat at a Mexican restaurant elsewhere. Sunday lunch at a restaurant is our tradition, and it’s Kristen’s favorite activity. She had given a thumbs-up to the Mexican restaurant, which catered to our family’s various food allergies. All was right in the Wells’ World.

 

Until it wasn’t.

 

When we got out of the car, Kristen slammed the door, began shrieking, yelling, and amping up for a temper tantrum. Why? I don’t know. The last time we’d eaten out, she’d done this very thing and had continued her shrieking as we stood in line. People around us had been startled, probably frightened, and of course stared at us, trying to figure out why this person was so upset. Now, Kristen was repeating the same behavior, and one peek through the window told us the Mexican restaurant was shoulder-to-shoulder with the after-church crowd. Rick and I concluded we shouldn’t attempt taking a shrieking, yelling girl into an already chaotic place. (You’re welcome, Chiloso)

 

As we all got back in the car, Kristen alternately yelled, screamed, begged, cried, and said hateful things to us all the way home. Not fun.

 

But please don’t misconstrue her behavior for that of a spoiled-rotten person who just wants her way. With autism, it is so much more complex. I don’t have everything figured out, but here’s what I think I know:

  • She has no confidence in herself.
  • She feels like a failure in many areas.
  • When she gets in a rut, she doesn’t know how to get out. She is in a rut in terms of appropriate behavior while eating out (her favorite activity).
  • When we leave the restaurant and opt to eat at home, we are essentially allowing her to stay in her rut, even though we know we can’t take her inside a crowded place in her frame of mind. It’s the proverbial rock and a hard place for us as parents.

 

We came home, terribly discouraged. In the front room, Kristen was sobbing. She had wanted, more than anything, to go out to eat. It was the highlight of her week. Yet, she had done the one thing that would keep her out of the crowded restaurant. It was like the old saying, cutting off your nose to spite your face.

 

At loose ends, my husband, daughter Sarah and I talked through what had just happened. We felt so helpless. But the more we talked, the more we realized the answer. Sarah went in the front room to talk to Kristen. Rick and I listened to her soothing encouragement.

 

Sarah’s words were simple, and Kristen hung on them. Sarah’s words reminded me of Abilene’s encouragement in The Help. Sarah told Kristen how much she believed in her. That she was a good girl. That she was kind. That she loved her.

 

To each affirmation, Kristen responded, “You do?” or “Yes.” She needed to know she was loved no matter what, even if she had screamed how much she hated us. Unconditional love was what her sister was offering, and Kristen gratefully accepted it.

 

That was the moment the day went from horrible to wonderful.

 

At Sarah’s suggestion and Kristen’s insistence, we all prayed, linked together like a football huddle. Then we gave lunch another go.

 

Another restaurant, again with Kristen’s thumbs up approval. Italian food, no line (the after church crowds were long gone). We had a relaxing lunch, praising Kristen’s quiet, appropriate behavior. She confidently overcame her rut. There were lots of hugs, smiles, thumbs up and affirmations.

 

And when Louie Armstrong began crooning, I almost lost it. Because that song says it all. Enjoy the happy, easy moments. The little things, like flowers blooming. Your child smiling at you across the table. Enjoying life together. Breathing easy. These moments are magnificent and simple and fleeting and sometimes, hard won. They make life truly wonderful.

 

And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

 

 

–Teresa

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Alex Jones, Unsplash

Song: What a Wonderful World

Written by George David Weiss, Robert Thiele

Sung by Louis Armstrong

 

 

 

Dear Special Needs Parent: Take Care of Yourself

 

Dear Special Needs Parent,

 

Take care of yourself. The life you live is intense. Your peaks and valleys are extreme. At times, it seems like you’ll never stop living in the valley. Then suddenly, things ease up. You wonder, Will this last? If I celebrate peace, will I jinx things?

 

Friend, how stressful it is to go from one extreme to another. Long term stress, or chronic stress, is not a good thing.

 

Are you managing your stress?

 

That may seem a trite question but the ramifications are far reaching. Recently, chronic stress has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease.

 

As a special need parent, this is sobering on many levels. There aren’t many things within your control, but there is one: how you react to your situation. Friend, it might make a great difference in the long run.

 

How you react to the valleys, peaks, constant changes and all the unknowns in your life as a special needs parent will make a critical difference now, but also 20, 30, 40+ years from now.

 

 

Think of all the thoughts that float through your mind throughout the day.

  • How is my child?
  • Am I hovering?
  • Should I be jotting down my observations for the doctor?
  • Am I doing enough?
  • How will my child do out in their world today?
  • Who can I call to check on my child? Or should I be calling?
  • How will I present my child to the world today via clothes, shoes, cleanliness, etc?
  • Do I worry too much?
  • How are my other children?
  • Do I have too much on my plate?
  • Have I focused too much on my special needs child?
  • How are we as a family?
  • How is my marriage?
  • How are my relationships?
  • How are my finances?
  • How is my child’s medical condition?
  • Am I vigilant enough?
  • How am I communicating with the schools?
  • How can I do more?

 

Those are just the random thoughts. Then there are the critical decisions, like

  • When do I set up guardianship?
  • What does my child do after high school?
  • What happens to my child after I am gone?

 

This just scratches the surface. No wonder you’re stressed.

 

Yet it is in how you cope with these thoughts and decisions and all the many changes in your life, that ultimately makes the difference. Here are some suggestions.

 

Exercise

You don’t need a gym membership. You don’t need special equipment. You don’t need a lot of time. But you DO need to start something, now.

  • Go for a walk. Take your child with you.
  • Jump around in your den.
  • Put on a yoga dvd.
  • Anything, but do it.

 

Rest

Whatever is keeping you up at night, change it.

  • Go to bed earlier. Eight hours is a good goal, and less is undesirable. Remember, your life is intense.
  • Make your sleeping environment dark and comfortable.
  • Cut out sweets, caffeine, and electronic devices a couple hours before you sleep.
  • Eat your last meal several hours before you go to bed.
  • Get in a routine to help your body wind down and know it’s time for sleep.

 

Relax

Different from rest, but equally important.

  • Enjoy a hobby.
  • Put yourself in another world for at least ten minutes.
  • Get outside your own world and bless someone else. Your life is a challenge, but others have different challenges. Write a note. Bake a cake. Have coffee with someone who needs to get out. You’ll bring them joy, but the joy you will experience will be soul-deep.
  • A good belly laugh is good for your spirit, and good for you physically. Laugh with people, laugh with books, or find a good television show that consistently makes you laugh.
  • Gather with friends and family. Challenging sometimes, but the people we love, love our special ones and all their idiosyncrasies. You need these people. You need this time. Don’t avoid fellowship.

 

Above all, pray.

  • God loves you. Explore the Bible and find out how deep His love is.
  • Spend time praying. Prayer is a two-way conversation between you and God. Remember to just be still and listen after you’ve poured out your heart to Him.
  • If it seems that you don’t have time to sit with God, you are wrong. This is the one thing that will get you through the stress of everyday life, the intensity of special needs parenting, and the crucial decisions you must make for your child. Take heart: God will lead you. Even better, God will love you unconditionally as you make mistakes, as you succeed, as you fumble your way along. No matter what you do, if you put your faith in Jesus, He will never leave you.

 

Dear friends, embracing stress is not a good way to live. Let’s embrace a better way to live within the boundaries of special needs parenting. Let’s be happy, loving people who happen to walk a difficult path. We can do this—with God.

 

 

Blessings — Teresa

This beautiful photo: Nathan Anderson, Unsplash.com

 

Lead photo credit: Andre Hunter, Unsplash.com