Thursday, July 17, 2014

Autism Answer: Discover Your Personal Parenting Style

There were so many things I didn't know as a young mom. 

There were struggles and hurts that I lived with, most often because I felt confused and lost while searching for the "right" way to be a mom, the way that would "look" smart and loving and strong and compassionate.  

Recently, I was asked what kind of advice I would give to a new mother. 

Well, in truth I would want to talk her ear off!!! Parenting has made me a happier person but only after learning so many important truths, and so I'd want to shove those truths down her throat with passion and well-intentioned ferocity!!

But, of course, I'd be feeding her the nutrition that was needed for me to be a comfortable happy parent. The perfect blend of ingredients in my parenting smoothie would not necessarily gift her with the happiness and parenting passions I now enjoy. 

However, they also might! Heck, it's highly likely that at least one or two of the delicious truths I found on the journey to discover my personal parenting style will taste just right for other young moms (and dads) out there. 

And so, in the interest of creating a concoction of possible nourishment for moms and dads who are lacking in the same parenting vitamins and minerals I once was, I'll offer the basket of goodies that I would give the "me" of many years ago if given the chance!

Discover your own personal parenting style.

Don't worry about how it looks to others. Don't get tangled in feelings or worries about how it looks to other moms, teachers, counselors, or baseball coaches. They will often judge you and have opinions, you're right about that, but they also don't have all of the answers. And they certainly don't have your answers! 

Having said that, please don't be afraid to listen or learn from those you trust and love. You don't have to be the one with all of the good ideas, even if you kinda feel like you do. They're your children, aren't they? Doesn't that mean that you should always know what to do and how to do it? Doesn't that mean that if someone else has a great idea about how to help your child try new foods or practice language or wear clothes, that you are not a good mom? NOPE! A good parent stays true to her beliefs and style, while learning from the millions of others who also have beliefs and style. Show your children that it's beautiful to allow others to pitch in! Show them the art of learning from each other!!

Personal Example: Don't be surprised when your four year old begins to use language--to speak!-- because you accepted an idea that came not from you, but from your mom. While your son is talking, you won't care whose idea it was! (Of course, now he's sixteen and won't stop talking.... tee hee!)

Find the mom you love being, and don't resist the truth that she'll change over time. Embrace your own style, and adore the way your children will encourage you to change it. Parenting is a life long ever evolving journey, and you'll do your best work if you choose to love it and discover the treasure of you along the way!

Bonus Tip: It's not a good idea to view our parenting successes (or failures) through the successes (or failures) of our children. Their successes (and failures) are their own.

Our success is born out of a willingness to make the work fun while never (okay, rarely!) backing down from the challenging choices that must be made. When we choose to back down and justify, that is our failure. So choose to do the work, while offering gratitude freely along the way! (The "me" of years ago had a hard time with this one, wanting to justify and give up when challenging choices had to be made)

Once I learned these things, and chose to consistently live them, I became a happier person. 

Parenting has made me a happier person, and in truth it boils down to one simple reason. 

Parenting gave me the strength to learn exactly who I am, what I believe, and to live my life with kind confidence because that's what I ask of my children. 

As they've grown, so have I. While playing with them and chatting with them I've blossomed and have encouraged them to do the same. 

And because all four of my sons are different people, I've learned to love and appreciate the value of differing--even sometimes clashing!--ideas and beliefs. 

In this way I've become a curious and interested friend, wife, and sibling with a willingness to seek different perspectives without the need to change them. And because I see the world with eyes that value difference, I see beauty. There is no question that being a mom has made me happier, because I want my boys to seek and see happiness. 

It didn't happen in one year, or even two, but eventually I found my personal parenting style

And when I found that, I found my personal style

I found me!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Autism Answer: Acceptance And Tolerance, In My Home

I grew up in a home with a comfortable culture of acceptance and tolerance. Different races, neurologies, sexual orientations, and even histories--many of my family members were adopted and came with stories from genres different than our own--made up my family of many siblings and a (mostly) single and dating mom.

This is good! This was a wonderful thing! But it also invited me to see the world with the assumption that acceptance and tolerance were the norm. And though this is also good--allowing me to engage with the world always expecting myself and my loved ones to be treated as valuable equals--it's also a lie that I would have to do mental gymnastics to prove true in many situations.

And then I moved to a small town in Texas. With my hippy ideas, colorful children, and eventually a black husband twenty-three years older than me, I quickly learned that my family is special and that a culture of acceptance and tolerance was less common than I'd imagined. No amount of mental gymnastics, regardless of how limber I might be (and if I'm being honest, I'm not so limber!), could hide the fact that being gay, mixed race, autistic, tree hugging, natural healing, and so much more was something that might challenge people. Honestly, and here my naiveté will show, I believed that stories of proud prejudice were only in the movies.

Luckily I grew up in a home filled with acceptance and tolerance, and so people with a culture of prejudice are valuable and equal in my heart. Living surrounded by such different (and sometimes dangerous) views hasn't changed my mind or made me less open, acceptance and tolerance are still my go-to, but I am much more vocal about my personal reasons and beliefs.

And being accepting doesn't at all mean not asking for change! I have expected, insisted on, and been surprised by so many of the changes in myself over the years that I can ask for and encourage change in the world around me without judgment! I can keep an open mind and take a long, honest look at the change I'm hoping for when it's challenged by others.

Because the culture I grew up in is so different from the culture I live in now, I'm aware of the feelings and confusion and struggle me and my family are for the many people drastically different from us. Because they were that for me. I had to discover and explore and learn their history and beliefs in order to understand, and it took me years. I changed in ways I'm proud of because of it. 

I am excited and curious to see how this culture of acceptance and tolerance in our home, mixed with a less accepting culture in our town, will affect my sons in the long run. They are amazing young men with brilliant ideas and the desire to be purposeful and important in the world. So I know all four of them will shine some kind of amazing light on issues. I adore watching it all evolve and grow!

Like my mom, I create a culture in my home with intention. Unlike my mom, I choose to live in a culture that clashes with my own. So far, I'm loving how it looks on us, and appreciate the rich soil for organic thought that can be found were ideas and beliefs challenge each other.

And when my two oldest sons chose to leave, looking for a culture that was more comfortable, I was also proud--though curious about my own choices. Yet, even then I chose to stay here. Truly, it's good for me--at the moment.

We are one world with a gazillion cultures. I'm choosing mine with intention, while learning from and appreciating the ones I refuse. 

In my home, however, no matter where or when I live, there will be acceptance and tolerance. In my manner, in my words, and in the way I choose to evolve. 

It's my favorite way to live!!!

Living a life of acceptance and tolerance,
it's the most fun for me!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Autism Answer: Money and Beliefs

We've officially moved! 

It was a lot of work, as moving always is, especially since we were downsizing into a much smaller home. 

We had to pack carefully, choosing to keep only what we truly needed. That sort of thing is always fun and emotionally surprising. A way to practice both letting go and holding on, while getting to know a bit about yourself and your loved ones in the process. 

We did a wonderful job--of packing and sharing insights!--and as we were about to drive away for the last time from the bigger home we'd lived in for nearly sixteen years, my son hopped into our old '89 Ford Pick-Up truck with something in his hands. "You almost forgot to pack the tip jar!" he accused.

"No," I responded, confused by his comment. "I know I packed the tip jar, it was one of the first things I transferred to the smaller house."

My son held up a jar in his hands and I understood.

"Oooohhh.... you mean that tip jar! That one just has coins in it. I made sure to pack the tip jar with the ideas and beliefs and suggestions we wrote in it. That's the one that matters!"

My son looked at me and shook his head with practiced patience. "Mom, they both matter. We need our beliefs, but we need money to buy stuff too. You gotta learn this."

He's right of course, and I love him with all of my heart for reminding me!!!!

Be balanced my friends! Value and explore your beliefs, passions, and ideas. But explore too your expertise and it's monetary value, respect your financial obligations and a few material desires. Money and things are not most important, but they are important! Beliefs and passions are not enough to live on, but they are worth much of your time and respect, and you will be happier and feel more complete because of them!

Be balanced and flexible.  And when you forget, let the world and your loved ones remind you!

My son; unpacking and creating.
Balancing work and fun!!

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

Friday, June 27, 2014

Autism Answer: This Moment

I'm sitting here with multiple tabs open on my computer, trying to organize my thoughts and get some work done that's been piling up. My mind is swirling with "things-to-do" while I'm attempting to catch and corral them into an organized list that'll help me be efficient, effective and--hopefully!--creative and true.

Behind me my youngest son is singing to himself, improvising and creating lyrics. He's mixing the sounds of R&B with rap and adding a dash of rock. He's singing all about himself and his hopes and his feelings. His song is full of questions, confidence, love, and social challenges.

A little farther behind me and two rooms over my other son sleeps. He was up all night thinking about his future and looking into the possibility of making more and different friends. He was also thinking about his brothers--the ones that live far away--and wondering how to accept the consistent nature of their physical far away-ness without always feeling so lonely for them.

I'm writing, my son is singing, my other son is dreaming. 

This moment we are all creating, and while we do it together we also do it separately, with a deep personal nature. One that compliments each other but comes from deep within ourselves. From a place where we can only be alone.

This moment is beautiful. This moment is real.

This moment is my life.

All of life exists in moments. Go ahead and describe them to yourself and your loved ones with honesty and intention. 

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Autism Answer: It's worth it.

My son couldn't sleep last night because of a powerful pain in his ear, possibly another ear infection-- which is quite common with autism. Both the ear infections and the not sleeping!

So, I ran to the grocery store for a few items and cooked up a batch of garlic, olive oil, and coconut oil. I poured a little in his ears while he finally slept. I also rubbed some on his skin and behind his ears throughout the day. Now he feels waaaayyyyy better. Not completely better, but way better. 

But first he told me that if I loved him as much as I say I do, I'd have rushed him to the doctor for emergency care and "real medicine". 

As I explained to him that it's because I love him so much that I insist on cooking up a batch of nature's offerings, foods and medicine given to us by Mother Nature, or God, or The Universe-- whatever you feel comfortable with--I was remembering a time from my own childhood when my mom stayed up all night with me as I vomited and cried in pain. I remembered how she wiped my brow and sang me songs and pulled my hair back every time I wretched and groaned. I relived how she listened to me scream and yell at her, insisting that she didn't love me or she'd rush me to the emergency room. Her patience came back to me as I recalled how she explained lovingly her reasons for staying home, while the younger me was too inexperienced to believe her and insisted I was dying and she didn't care.

I thought about how much I love my son and for a moment I was a little girl again, only this time I brought my experience with me and allowed myself to feel my mom's love. Along with her uncertainty and the hope-I'm-making-the-right-choice nervousness that comes hand in hand with parenting.

These moments, these beautiful and important moments, remind me to trust my love and instincts when parenting my sometimes unbelieving and ungrateful children.

Because always, and after very little time, they become believing and grateful.

Only ten minutes ago my son gave me an unsolicited hug and thanked me for understanding his pain and helping him through it.

I let him in on the truth. I did it for me, because of my love for him.

And it was worth it.

It's always worth it!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)


PS: If you're interested in making the garlic oil I referred to, here's a great post I found at Creative Christian Mama with ear health tips and an even better recipe than the one I use. I've never used mullein but, according to my sister, it'll help ease the pain. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Autism Answer: Your Personal "News Feed"

I was startled this morning when I looked at my Facebook news feed. It seemed that overnight my friends had all become adolescent boys! 

Posts and jokes rife with immature attempts at shocking folks for a laugh lunged at me from my computer screen. Celebrity pics and gossip strutted proudly, while young attempts to make a point with in your face imagery and language stood begging for attention and comments. There was a noticeable lack of my usual news feed celebrations, photos of nature, and love-the-earth type links.

Quite quickly I realized I had found myself in a world of my son's making, that I was accidentally immersed in his news feed and friends, his Facebook family. 

I was mostly relieved--both to know that my friends hadn't drastically changed, and to know with certainty that I'm glad to no longer be adolescent!

It was a nice reminder too. We tend to create our own personal news feeds wherever we go. We choose how we focus and where we focus, we surround ourselves (mostly) with people and places of our choosing. Heck, our search engines are even kind enough to suggest links that they've "learned" we will be most interested in! It's convenient and kind, but also a small sort of lie.

I don't mind this at all, but I find it fantastically important to remember it! It's easy to feel certain that the world is what you see, and to forget the beautiful truth that the world is so much more than that.

There is power in this knowledge. If you find that the world is combative, perhaps step away and look at your habits and choices. If the world seems hyper focused on material things or physical appearance, once again... have a look at your own personal news feed. And know that if you are unhappy with what you see, you can change it!!!

Of course, there is the potential to fool yourself about the world as well. This barely concerns me, because I have a belief system that grows truth and manifests our world directly from thought... however, even without this I would easily understand that knowing the personal nature and choosing of my news feed--and surrounding myself with folks who are vastly different from me--will keep me from becoming a complacent citizen. In all honesty, I became far more of an advocate for the things I love once I purposefully chose to insist on being surrounded by only them.

At home I've been able to create a personal news feed for my family, by highlighting and sharing and "liking" with purpose. I'm not fooled into thinking every home is like ours, I know well that what we think is common, funny, or right is personal to us and possibly the opposite to our neighbor's and the news feed they would create.

But that doesn't mean I shouldn't create with intention! Just that I should remember it's a world born of my creating and to be open to the reality of other different and popular worlds! 

When I remember this truth, that what's taken for granted and assumed in my personal news feed is likely very different from a new friend's, I'm forever patient and happy to explain and share what I know--about autism, organic farming, mixed race relationships, parenting, teenagers, sex abuse, and so much more!! I'm also more than happy to learn what it is that they know and believe about the world that they are immersed in.

Being startled by my son's news feed this morning was a lovely reminder. 

Now, I'm off to peer pressure him into finding friends who post more links about loving trees and less pics about smoking pot.

Tee hee!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Autism Answer: What I Learned First, And What Came Later

Hello there, stranger. 


I see you staring at my son as he towers over me and squishes my cheeks over and over while I browse the organic produce. I see you wondering why I allow him to kiss me on the lips in public and feel your judgement when I don't reprimand him for wearing the attitude that the two of you are equals, rather than him a sixteen year old boy and you an adult. When I don't teach that the labels "boy" and "adult" deserve different treatment. 

I see it and I feel it, and I respond in my own way. 

If it feels appropriate, I'll explain my reasons. If you ask outright about us I'm more than happy to tell you. I love to share and discover reasons! And if my son begins to squirm from the weight of your misinformation or misunderstanding or difference of opinion I'll explain to him. Maybe loud enough for you to hear if I feel that will help.

You see, I learned early that allowing my loved ones to be themselves is more important than teaching them to be who you expect. My brothers were all on the autism spectrum, and if my mom taught me or them to act only as expected then we would have all died of depression and self loathing by now. Instead she taught us to explore our interests and passions, and to do so with such comfort that we are able to share who we are to those who may be curious. 

She taught us to be so comfortable with any strangeness that is truly us that we can't help but want you to be comfortable too! Rather than feel compelled to shove our difference in your face with anger or "I dare you to say something" attitude, we live and love and be ourselves comfortably. Because I learned early and first the importance of that.

I'll admit that I learned the value of fitting in and learning to care about the expectations of others a little bit later--and it's true that there is value! With a willingness to hear the views of the many and to consider the comfort of the masses I have been able to teach my loved ones to keep an open mind and a flexible nature. Also, we've discovered tips and tricks for sharing our own passions more clearly and to a bigger audience. That is a lovely thing!

So, I learned caring about discovering my unique self, and encouraging those I love to discover their unique selves, first. Later I learned to care also about your unique needs and ideas. 

The two go well together, most of the time. And when I struggle to see how the pieces fit--our unique selves and your unique needs and ideas--I'll always choose accepting myself and my loved ones first, over worrying about you. Not only because myself and my loved ones are more my responsibility, but because I am unable to guess correctly the expectations of you, a kindly stranger staring as my son purses his lips and makes animal sounds in the produce section.

I see you staring as my son towers over me and squishes my cheeks, and I respond in my own way. I hope you're open to my style of communication, and are truly curious rather than assumptive. Communication--every kind of communication--is understood best that way. 

I learned exploring unique and personal passions first, and finding how they fit with society later.

Want to know a secret?

I think, honestly, that's the best order!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)