Friday, July 3, 2015

Autism Answer: Parenting Propaganda

The four similar looking cars driving on the highway this morning made me smile. I was traveling behind them, windows open, hair down, music playing, and imagining the cars as my four sons. I imaged myself encouraging and cheering and loving them from my position behind them. I even felt obnoxious enough to imagine myself as the wind guiding them forward; together yet separate. 

But suddenly the car second from the front put on his turn signal. As he applied the brakes, slowing down to make his turn, my stomach lurched and I fought a sudden urge to cry. I'm fighting it now. 

The car at the front was now far ahead of us, the car that was leaving didn't change his mind--he left. The cars behind him skirted carefully but without concern around him on the shoulder. 

I wanted to cry out! "Come back! Stay with us! You can be your own car but don't go your own way!! We miss you!" but then I saw that the first car was almost out of my view and I felt my hope and fear pulled in his direction. "Wait! You're going too fast, too far! You have to wait for your brothers! We have to go get the one that got away! We miss you! I miss you!"

Honestly, friends, I held back a tear.
Honestly, friends, I had to get a grip.

Many of you know how I best get a grip. I tell myself a new story. 

So, I sat all four of my beautiful, strong, struggling, different, lovely sons down at a coffee shop in my mind. They were gabbing amongst themselves, laughing and teasing and living in the energy that grows when they are together and completely comfortable. Before they had time to remember the small cracks and jealousies in their relationships, the me in my imagination spoke up. "Okay boys," I told them, surprising myself with the conviction in my voice and surprising myself even more with the authenticity of it, "I have to say something. Please, don't interrupt."

I sipped my organic imagination coffee and looked for a moment at each one of my boys. Then, with a breath and a tiny quiver, I told the the truth. "Ever since there was more than one of you I have wanted, more than anything, for you to have strong brother bonds. Because my relationship with my sister has been such a blessing for me, and because my selfishness as a mom has me wanting you to stay together, my desire for your brother bond has tinted everything I do." 

Even in my imagination I wanted to stop. I wanted to leave it there--a truth shared can be enough. I could tell myself that I told them, that I didn't need to take the extra step and let them go. 

But I love my boys too much. I love my life too much to start hiding and justifying again. So, I continued speaking. Softly so that they would lean in and really listen. I knew I might not be able to say this again. "Everything, boys, has been tinted. And in some way, tainted. Because my want, my desire, is exactly that: Mine. It's not right or wrong, but it isn't fair either. Because as your mom I have so much power. So even though it was always with love that I colored your lessons and games and conversations with brother bond propaganda, it's still true that it was propaganda."

My boys sighed and smiled. In my mind, my boys looked lighter and--interestingly--closer to each other. It helped me gather the strength to reiterate, "You are lucky to have each other, and you are lucky to have the bond you have. But you are not required to have that bond. You are not 'less than' or 'making bad choices' if your lives take you in new directions. If you're world becomes full of new relationships that leave less room for each other. I want you to know that, though I'll probably always tint my conversation with the beauty of brother bonding, I am forever willing to see and celebrate other beautiful bonds you boys choose to highlight. I love all of you so much. The turn signal and brake pedal and steering wheel is with you. And I want you to use them your way."

I felt a smile grow and knew I meant it. Coming back into myself--away from the coffee shop of my mind into the car on the highway--I looked at the son who sat beside me in the passenger seat. I reached over and tousled his hair, pulling him out of his own imagination and enjoying the smile he offered me before turning back to the window, staring out and imagining his own stories. 

It's so important to let our loved ones know that we love them and that we will be there for them. That we'll tousle their hair and let them wander the contents of their minds while we drive. 

But also, that we'll let them go. That we love them so much we want to see who and what they'll discover on their own. 

I had no idea when I drove to the grocery store today that I'd be swallowed up by this imagining and lesson. I had no idea that I'd discover something about the truth of parenting propaganda; how it can come from a place of absolute love and even encourage beautiful things while also having the power to taint absolutely. 

But that's the gift of freedom. Unexpected imaginings and lessons that can safely be shared and celebrated. 

My sons deserve that gift. 

And, I admit, I really, really, really hope they'll often want to celebrate it together. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

*Author's Note: Take a moment to enjoy this amazing song my son wrote! You'll see that the parenting propaganda works. My sons do have a really fabulous and beautiful and strong brother bond. Parents are powerful! And the brother bond is a nice thing that my sons are lucky to have. However, because my desire was so all consuming, it's also true that they feel slightly trapped by it sometimes. Encouraging brother bonding is something I will always say yes to, but that's different from what I've done. I've always painted our days and lessons and games with the belief that brother bonding was necessary and right and an absolute must. That was my mistake. That's what I'll try to do different.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Autism Answer: Labels and Love #LoveWins

I'd like to share two short stories with you, friends!

Two short stories about my seventeen year old son. Two memories where we discuss labels and love. Two moments where it was clearly demonstrated that as we grow up and discover who and what we are, labels can be fun, but Love Wins.

Story One: 

My son took a deep breath and nervously told his friends he was gay. When he told me about it I was proud of him but also confused about something.

"Why didn't you tell us first?" I wondered.

"Oh, mom," he laughed, "I don't have to come out to you guys! You love me no matter what. It's not something I felt like I'd have to sit you down and tell you. I knew my friends would have to process it, and that some of them wouldn't be okay with it. I never worry about that with my family!"

Well. Huh. That's a pretty awesome reason!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!


Story Two:

My seventeen year old son asked me yesterday, "Hey, mom. What are we in this family? Democrats or Republicans?"

I answered with ease, "Well, you're a man so who you are is up to you. You don't have to choose based on our family. Anyway, in this family we don't pick a label. We talk about issues and decide what our beliefs are without checking in to see what "Democrats" or "Republicans" or "Libertarians" or "Independents" would tell us it should be. Does that make sense?"

My son poked my cheek and responded, "You're adorable. I just want to know if we agree with Jon Stewart most of the time."

I laughed and gave him a hug. "Again," I said between giggles, "It's completely up to you to decide if you agree with him. But I definitely think he's funny!"

We chatted a little more about labels, and (of course) ventured a bit into the myths and beliefs on autism. We talked about the spectrum of sexuality, pointing out labels and examining assumptions. 

We didn't agree on everything. 
But because love is more important than labels, we sure had fun!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Labels can be fun but, always, Love Wins!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Autism Answer: Revealing Our Prejudice So We Can Reject It

When our own prejudice is revealed it often surprises us. And in that surprise we are given an opportunity to take a good look at who we are. And an even more important opportunity to make a change. 

Allow me to share such a moment: 

My hubby and I were chatting about the church shooting that happened in South Carolina when our seventeen year old son walked through the room, headed to the kitchen for a snack. He could feel our mood and knew we were talking about something serious so he asked us what it was. 

"Do you know about the church shooting?" I asked.

"No," he responded, adding,"but it sounds like justice."

For a second I didn't know what to say! A shooting as justice?? 

Then I remembered that my son is seventeen and the reality of the world is still partly in "not real" form. Then I also remembered that my son is gay and all of the people who have bullied him about it have used strong religious beliefs to back up their cruelty. 

Then I remembered that sometimes we say things automatically that can teach us something important about ourselves

I waited a moment and when he just stood there I said, "People died." 

"Well, killing people isn't really justice." he grudgingly admitted. "But still, most of those church and religion freaks are constantly hurting us gay people in a lot of other ways."

Then I said, "It was a racial crime, kiddo. The young man was white and he shot several black people specifically because he wanted to start a race war. Specifically because he believes black people do not belong here and are less than human."

My son looked at me, a little stricken. Then he looked at his black dad, who had a few tears in his eyes, and gave him a huge hug. 

While still hugging his dad he said, "I just did the same thing, sort of, didn't I?" our son asked. "I just had my own belief about people who go to church and felt hateful enough to think shooting them was justice."

I piled my own hug onto this emotional realization and added,"But, my love, you didn't do the same thing. You did exactly the opposite! You were willing to see your prejudice and recognize it as cruel. You know, we all have some prejudices in us. Not because we're horrible but because we're human. It's an unwillingness to look at them and re-think them and learn from them that makes us horrible. It's the willingness to hurt and even kill others because of our prejudices that makes us horrible."

We all stepped back from the hug and my son looked relieved. I think this was one of those times when he really heard me! 

Goodness knows I've been saying this sort of thing to him his whole life, but I think this time he really heard me. 

Never stop believing in yourself or your kids, friends! We are always and forever growing up and learning new things about ourselves and our world. 

And let's do our best not to back away from ourselves or our loved ones when prejudices are revealed. Let's talk about them and admit that they are what they are. 

And then, let's reject them. Let's tell them "No. Not in my house!"

And when another one has slipped in with the wind through the crack under the back door, or more likely through the whispers and words and attitudes of a society that still struggles with prejudice, be willing to see it. 

And, again, be willing to reject it!

It's a never ending thing for our generation I'm guessing. But imagine what we can teach to the next generation!


Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

One of my stepdaughters and two of my sons. A colorful bunch!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Autism Answer: Me And Malaea In The Waiting Room--What Happiness Looks Like!

This is what happiness looks like!

My youngest niece, Malaea, and me!

This is what happiness looks like. Sitting with my youngest niece in the dentist's waiting room. Talking about the strange uncomfortable feeling of the freezing in her mouth. Doing the work of distracting her from hurt while my sister is with her sister, because it's her turn. Behind the white wooden doors my other niece is holding her mom's hand in the dentist chair. 

Keeping our moods light and happy while her face feels weird and kind of scary. Taking a selfie with her to show her that she looks great and is going to be okay. 

Being there. Being there and loving it. Doing the work and loving it. Getting on the floor and following her lead while keeping my grown up eye on the goal and somehow encouraging her in that direction. Aiming for fun and lessons as distractions from the strange feeling of numbing and the missing of her mommy. 

This is what happiness looks like. Being there. In the moment. In the moment with a goal that shapes the moment but is less important than the moment itself. 

Waiting rooms and car rides and walks to the park and dinner time. Those are the moments.

And this is what happiness looks like!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

My mom, The Brain Broad, is playing with my other niece in this picture!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Autism Answers: Manipulating Moments that Make Us Happy!

Many of us are enjoying the summer holiday right now. Kids are out of school and life is less structured and we're doing our summer thing. 

In my family the "summer thing" is always figuring out how to get as many of us together in one place for as long as possible without spending money we don't have. Quite a trick!

But being the magicians we are (aka people who know we must do this, that there is no alternative) we always figure something out! 

I drove from our town in Texas (near Waco) to my mom's town in California (near Los Angeles) the other day. We're here!!! My sister and her girls are coming over in a few hours!! There will be so many of us under one roof sipping oceans of coffee and surfing waves of laughter!!!!!! 

I love all the moments we contrive every summer. All the moments! 

But I'll tell you a secret. 

My favorite moments are always the ones that happen when my sons manipulate a way to get all four of them, and me, doing something "just us". It's such a feeling of joy and connectedness and "everything's right in this world" that I can barely stay in my skin! Not only the part where I'm surrounded by my four beautiful boys but also the part where they manipulated it to happen. 

The part where they want it too! 

I don't care how old you are, how happy you are, how healthy you are, what color you are, what size you are, what religion you are, what political party you're a fan of, we ALL like to be wanted and loved. 

It's powerful to remember that.

When you're at a loss. When you're wondering what to do for or with a loved one, maybe during the long summer months of vacation, fill that void by actively contriving a scene where they know they are wanted and loved. Make it obvious! Don't be shy! Tell them, "I want it to be just you and me for a while, can we go to the park? Or go for a drive and listen to your favorite song? Or walk to the coffee shop and sip our favorite drinks? Or see a movie at the discount theater?" 

It doesn't have to cost money and it doesn't have to take long, but it does have to be sincere. Take a moment to sincerely want nothing more than a little time with the folks close to you. 

The memories and moments and connections and honesty and love that happens in these small purposefully contrived and manipulated moments, especially when made consistent, are enough to create a lifetime of fondness and good habits. 

(Now I've gotta figure out how to create a lifetime of wanting to work hard. My boys and I still kinda struggle with that one!!!! tee hee!)

Happy summer friends!!!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

This is a picture of my sons I took yesterday at the discount theater after we manipulated a moment that had us going there alone. Just me and my boys. 
It was, as always, a moment that will last many more moments!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Autism Answer: Boop!

Shay likes to put my face in his hands and randomly tell me, "Mom, I'm so proud of you for finally getting your first book published." and also "If lots of people in the world read your book and read Dramma's books (Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad) then they will learn important ways to be kind to people with autism." and even "Your book has a lot of smart things in it but it's still fun to read."

So I thought it would be neat to share this photo of Shay holding my book. The book he's so proud of me for publishing. The book that he and his brothers, and my mom and my brothers, trusted me enough to write, where I share intimate details of our lives. 


I asked Shay what kind of caption he wanted me to put with it. I figured he'd give me something  about the importance of my book, or the honest and comfortable way I talk about autism, or a caption celebrating being proud of people who follow their dreams. I wasn't sure which one, so I waited. 

"Boop." is what he said.

And if you know Shay, or you have a loved one who uses creativity in communication, you'll understand when I say that's the caption that captures it all!!!!

Hugs, smiles, and love... and Boop!!!!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)


If you haven't gotten yourself a copy of my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up, head on over to Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or Archway Publishing and grab a copy (paperback or ebook) today! Then decide for yourself what Boop! might mean!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Autism Answer: What our Love Creates

My entire family is filled with story addicts and movie freaks. We write, act, sing, direct, edit, discuss, and decipher story ideas, song lyrics, and movies with passion. We share big dreams for the kind of fortune that grows when you know you're making your mark on the world. When you know you are nourishing your ideas by crafting them into stories you can share with the universe. 
A film written and directed by my mom, The Brain Broad, and starring my family. 
 (I play Sherry, the neighbor with the pink beehive hairdo!) 


I was hugging my sons so, so, so, so tight the other day as we watched San Andreas in the theater, celebrating Declyn's birthday. 

We gasped and laughed and tapped each other on the leg and nodded enthusiastically at things we knew each of us was thinking. It was, without question, a fantastic experience!

As the credits rolled I aimed my smile toward my two youngest sons. I was about to say something about how awesome it was to be with them, or ask if they liked the movie, or let out some other form of verbal celebration for the intensely delicious swirl of emotions I get anytime we do something together, when Declyn interrupted my random comment. 

Pointing up at the screen he said, "Soon that'll be your name up there, mom, when producers finally make the movie you wrote. Can you imagine how proud we'll all feel that day?"

I hugged him and kissed his cheek and nodded. There was no verbal celebration big enough for how proud and humbled and touched and grateful I was feeling. 

I love my sons.

I love how they love me.

And I love what our love creates. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Me singing a song I created. This is how I tell the story of my life. It's true, and it's intentional!