Sunday, July 27, 2014

Autism Answer: A Movie with Uncle Milton

"My husband has never ever in all of his sixty two years been outside of Texas. He's also never spent more than one night away from home. 
Tomorrow we are taking a drive to California, staying there for five days, and then driving home. He's nervous, then excited, then nervous again. But he's going to do it.
It's never too late to try new things, or to believe in a person's ability to handle--and hopefully enjoy!--them.
My hubby is going to feel so fabulous about himself when we get home!!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!"
That was the post on my Facebook Page, about a week ago. 

My husband and my nieces, hanging out and watching a movie,
in California!

When we first got to California one of my four year old nieces couldn't stop looking at my husband. She'd only met him once before as an infant and his very dark skin, different look, and unfamiliar ways were interesting to her. Though she was playing happily with me her eyes were consistently looking toward her Uncle Milton. 

Finally, she just said it. "I can't stop looking!"

We all had a laugh and chatted a bit about how different he is from the rest of us. Then, we played some more--and she was much less distracted. Sometimes, you just have to talk about it. Comfortably and with no judgement.

My other four year old niece didn't seem to find her Uncle Milton overly interesting, though she too saw his differences. She played with me distraction free. She then tolerated the conversation we were having with her sister while waiting patiently to show off her impressive throwing and catching skills some more.

It's okay that some of us stand out as odd or different in certain situations. It's okay to want to talk about it. And it's a wonderful way to take advantage of honest curiosity while cultivating a joy and interest in difference, rather than fear or judgements.

It's also okay if we don't find it distracting or overly interesting. Don't stop everything to explain a difference or strangeness if it isn't needing attention. We can accidentally turn a comfortable visit into a confusing one that way! While also running the risk of teaching our children to focus on difference as an issue needing to be explained.

Acceptance doesn't mean not seeing difference, it means knowing that everyone is equally valuable while seeing it! 

By the end of our visit, once my hubby and my nieces had gotten to know each other and explored common interests, they enjoyed sitting around watching The Avengers while chatting about The Hulk and his green skin!

Without question, my husband had a fantastic first trip outside of Texas and enjoyed a few much deserved days surrounded by adorableness and fun!!!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

My hubby and I with three of our four boys.
Random Complaint: I was so busy having fun I forgot
to take a picture of everyone.
Guess we'll have to go back!!

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)