Swan Mothers

Discovering Ourselves through Parenting

Making Your Own Lucky Day

Irish history is filled with difficult times that make the heart weep:  invasion, colonization, exploitation, starvation. Does this suggest that the Luck of Irish is bad luck?

Or, does the phrase “Luck of the Irish” have its origin in the days of the Wild West (in the United States) when many Irish people struck it rich during the Gold Rush or were prosperous in silver mining? Sadly, this metallically auspicious time has a shadow.  Many non-Irish Americans of those days didn’t think the Irish were capable of success through intelligence or hard work, so they attributed the accomplishments of the Irish to luck.

What do you think?  Are some people just lucky, while others are not?

Dictionary.com Says

luck [luhk]

noun

1.  the force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person’s life, as in shaping circumstances, events, or opportunities: With my luck I’ll probably get pneumonia.
 
2.  good fortune; advantage or success, considered as the result of chance: He had no luck finding work.
 

Creating Reality

Lucky me! I have children who are anything but normal. If they were normal, they would have been subject to living slightly improved replicas of my and my husband’s life.

Because my children are not mini-mes or mini-their-daddys, they get to live their own lives. And, their magnificent uniqueness has made me a better me.

Lucky Mothers of Unusual Kids

Rhonda K. Welling posted the following on my Facebook Page and gave me permission to share.  I read similar stories almost daily:  Mothers who, at first, feel unlucky because their children have autism, or ADHD, or a hearing disability, or extreme crankiness, become grateful for the children and lives they have.

Before my son, I lived a life I wasn’t proud of. I took a lot, and I mean a lot, of things for granted. When Anthony was diagnosed with autism, I honestly didn’t know anything about autism and was one of them people who thought I never had to worry about it cause I would never have to deal with it.

My son taught me to look at the world through the eyes of a child with autism. He taught me not to take the small things for granted, for example, rain, sand, grass, trees, clouds. Not to ever take for granted the words a child speaks to you. He actually stopped talking for 2 years. And 3 years after his diagnosis, he said “Anthony love mama this much” and he stretched out his little arms as far as they would go. Just them few words changed my life forever. I didn’t see autism at that point. I seen what a beautiful boy I was blessed with.

You have no idea how much it annoys me to hear someone tell their child to be quiet or even worse..shut up because what these people don’t think about is sometimes they do. I missed hearing his voice, hearing his laugh, seeing his smile.

He is 8 years old now and he has taught me to see beauty in the small things, including autism. It’s amazing to me that they say parents teach their kids, but I think in a true sense Anthony has taught me more then I could ever learn from some book. He has taught me unconditional love and acceptance of everyone and everything around me.

Becoming the Force

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset,” children learn to chant in kindergarten.

The truth is, we do get upset. We grieve. We rage. We yell at our children. We also heal, change, and evolve. We become the Force in our children’s lives, in our own lives, and in the world.

“The force is an energy field created by all living things, it surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together.” Obi-Wan to Luke

I became the Force in my life by learning about and using homeopathic remediestapping on my meridian points, and embracing ideas that, at one time, would have been unimaginable for me. I evinced my role as the Conscious Creator of my life.

How are you unleashing the Force in Your Life?

I’d love to know.  Leave a comment or send me a note. Or stop by the Swan Mothers’ Group and start a conversation.  You are not alone.

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Love, not fear: Expanding Awareness, Embracing Beauty

This headline appeared in my Facebook feed one day. Landon Bryce, an autistic adult, opened his post with these words: This does not mean that if you hate autism, you do not also love autistic people. But you hate part of them.

On my Blessed by (Autism) Uniquely Magnificent Children Facebook page, I asked parents to comment on the above statement. They replied:

I hate autism and how my son is disabled and with low intelligence. I love my son. (Jo)

I don’t like autism but I love my daughter for who she is. (Annette)

On the surface, it seems that it is possible to hate autism while loving autistic individuals. When we dig deeper, we begin to sense the truth of Landon’s assertion.

I Hate that You Hit Your Sister, But I Love that You’re Impulsive

If my child were not impulsive, she would control her urge to hit. If she did not hit, her gentle parents would not (ahem) lose control and scream as if possessedIf she could be a little more thoughtfulwe could have a more pleasant, more normal life. (Why yes, perceptive reader, impulsivity does reside in our house.)

Enter Wabi Sabi Love

Listening to a New Consciousness Review podcast with Arielle Ford, I heard about Wabi Sabi LoveArielle, self-described Fairy Godmother of Love, introduced the concept this way:

Wabi Sabi is an ancient Japanese aesthetic that honors all things, old, worn, weathered, imperfect, and impermanent.  So if you had a large vase with a crack in it, the Japanese would put it on a pedestal and shine a light on the crack.

Wikipedia says:

[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.[3]

700 years ago, understanding emptiness and imperfection was honored as tantamount to the first step to satori, or enlightenment. In today’s Japan, the meaning of wabi sabi is often condensed to ″wisdom in natural simplicity.″ In art books, it is typically defined as ″flawed beauty.″ [4]

Wabi Sabi for Everybody

Here’s the thing: 

We are all flawed, and we are all stunningly beautiful.  Everything is In Creation, a work in progress. All is perfect, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

Arielle encourages us to tell a new story about the characteristics or traits that we perceive as flaws. A non-implusive Ellana would mean no joyful, exuberant, and very loud outbursts of singing, no wild swinging, no boisterous play with her brothers. A non-impulsive Jonathon would mean no running leaps into my arms, no tumbling on the bed, no shooting sounds during play.

Non-impulsive, my children would be calmer and quieter, but they would not be themselves.  And I like them exactly the way they are.

For Valentine’s Day, Arielle Ford created the Wabi Sabi Amnesty Vow. Check it out and consider writing a Wabi Sabi promise to your children. Consider writing one for your partner. Or for yourself.

Here’s my adaptation of Arielle’s Amnesty Vow:

Love by Pastel Punk on Deviant Art

Dear (Child),

I love you. You have been bringing me joy from the moment you were born. I appreciate every day that we are together. Often, I’m not good at showing it.

As you know, (oh, how you know!), for the past (16) years I have been criticizing you for (being disorganized, loud, and unaware). I have recently learned about a concept called Wabi Sabi Love.  It’s all about learning to find beauty and perfection in people, situations, and things exactly the way they are.

I now make a  Wabi Sabi Vow to you. Starting now, I am telling a new story.  I will do my best to find the beauty and perfection in your unique way of being and doing things, especially those that have bothered me in the past.

Please forgive me for all of the times I yelled at and misunderstood you. Thank you for being you and for all that you do.

Love, Mama

P.S. I will need to practice this Wabi Sabi thing.  When I begin to slip up, I give you permission to put me back on track by saying “Where’s the Wabi Sabi Love?”

Adapted from Arielle Ford at www.wabisabilove.com

Written for 

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The Amazingness of Atypicalness in the Age of Half-Bloods, Wizards and Magical Creatures

All around the world, influenced by brilliant stories from gifted authors, children who thought they were different in a bad way are discovering that they are, in fact, different in a magnificent way.

  • Harry Potter thinks there is something wrong with him because his family forces him to live in the cupboard under the stairs.  Plus, he “makes things happen” and can talk to snakes.
  • Percy Jackson has profound ADHD and dyslexia.  He’s so “bad” that he has never been able to attend the same school two years in a row.
  • Elissa is being raised by an old woman as a servant in a castle and knows only that her mother is dead.  Yet, she is the daughter of a king and deeply connected to the Earth by her magical powers.
  • Aang is the last of his kind.  He is the only person left on the planet with the ability to bend air.

At the heart of every myth and legend lies a grain of truth.

Grain:  The smallest possible amount of anything, a small, hard seed – the essence, crux, heart, significance, or soul of the matter.

How do the stories of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Elissa and Aang reflect what is going on with our real, uniquely magnificent children?

It is neither surprising nor coincidence that there so many hugely popular books and movies about magical children have been produced in the past two decades.  This is the same time span during which magical children began appearing on Earth in large numbers.

Many of today’s children are called indigo, crysal or rainbow, autistic, ADHD, atypical or neurodivergent. They probably arrived via quite-ordinary birth.  But those who are paying attention see clearly that there is something different about our children.  Some want to call the differentness disorder or disability. I call it magic.

Learning from the Magical Heroes

Each of the characters mentioned above must find his or her own way for the old ways no longer work.  The premises have changed.  Their perceptions of themselves have been turned upside down.

Harry must shift his perspective from the Muggle to the Magical World.  Percy has to embrace his god-nature.  Elissa, a humble girl who knew her own mind even if she did not always choose to speak it, embraces her mission and taps into powers she had not realized she possessed.  Aang, at only 11 years old, must restore balance in the world.

As our heroes become attuned to their powers, they realize that with great power comes great responsibility.  This can be a heavy burden for a child or teenager to carry.  Our heroes waver, err, and complain, but they stay true to their calling.

In each of the books of the Harry Potter series, the Percy Jackson Series, the Phoenix Rising Trilogy (Elissa’s story) and the Avatar:  The Last Airbender Saga (Aang’s story), it is not only the hero who is magical.  Friends and enemies have magical powers too.  Our heroes do not possess unique gifts.  They possess gifts that are available to many.

As we notice our children’s gifts and talents, it is useful to consider:

  • What are my gifts and talents?
  • What can I do differently than I have always done it until now?
  • Am I working from an obscured premise?

Parenting the Heroes

In many fictional accounts, the heroes’ parents are conveniently missing. Harry’s parents are dead.  Percy’s mother, fully human, is not allowed at Camp Halfblood and his father, a god, does not have time for his half-human children.  Elissa’s mother is dead and her father is missing.  Aang’s parents have been dead for almost a century.

For those of us parenting magical children, there is no hint in these books of what the children might need from us.  We are left with a bit of insight into the children, but with no new information on what is required of us.

You must get used to the fact that there are many things in magic which are not and never will be explained. God decided to do certain things in a certain way and why He did this is a secret known only to Him.”  (Paulo Coelho in Brida.)

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It

“May your path be one of peace in times of peace, and of combat in times of combat.  Never confuse one with the other.”  (Paulo Coelho in Brida.)

Again and again we are presented the lesson that there is nothing to do but carry on, taking one step and one second at a time, learning what we can when we can, being willing to walk in the dark.  Without a roadmap or a manual, we learn to listen and watch our children and our hearts.  We figure out a way to make it through each day.

I love listening to podcasts. Here’s a good one about being your true self.

 

In Autistic Hermione Thoughts, autistic blogger Alyssa of Yes, That Too, writes about reading Hermione as an autistic person.

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A New Kind of Time Out

Most of us are rather enlightened parents these days.  When our children hit or scream or take another child’s toy, we don’t spank them.  We put them in time out.

There they sit, one minute for every year old, contemplating their transgressions and regrouping.  They take a break from out-of-control emotions and behaviors and call on inner resources and external support systems to return to a harmonious state.

As I walk through our modern world, watching adults running like hamsters on treadmills and children getting exercise from wii and x-box games, I wonder:

If children had more time out(side) and time off, would they still need time outs?

We live in an age of over-stimulation and overwhelm.  For all of our time-saving devices, we work more and sleep and relax less than humans of times past.

Children need time off from school and from schedules. They need to have time to do nothing and time to do whatever they want.

There are studies that validate the importance of play in the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills.  But we don’t need studies.  Be observing our children at play, we can see this natural development in action.

IMG_20110808_111243When my children were 13, 11 and 8, they often played in our yard with the neighbors (12 and 10). They figured out how to play kick-ball and other games in a way that was fair. They made adjustments for ages, special needs or extra skills (my middle child is autistic), number of children out playing that day.

“Sarah and I get only two outs and the boys get three,” my daughter informed me one day.  The next day, if three or four of them wanted to play, they found another solution.  No adults mediated or suggested anything.  When they are red-cheeked and sweaty, they reach for water and flop on the grass to rest.

Implementing the New Time Out

Amidst school or homeschool activities, sports, music, and dance schedules, and work obligations of parents, it can be challenging to find a way to, as my children say, chillax.  Here are some ideas to get started:

1.      Take a Mental Health Day away from school.

Let the kids stay home and do nothing once in a while.  This may keep them balanced and healthy so they don’t have to get sick to get a break.

2.      Schedule at least one day per week with no planned activities.

For us, this is Sunday.  We all look forward to it.

3.      Encourage free play.

Let the children fill their own time.  Save your boxes and paper towel rolls and see what happens, even if your children are in middle school or high school.

4.      Spend time outdoors that is not in organized sports.

Children love to make up their own games or explore.  You don’t have to do anything (beyond ensuring safety).  They will create worlds, climb trees, and make their own fun.

2805_70655739737_5197931_n5.      Be Silly.

I’m not good at silly, but the children love it.  So Daddy takes over and they giggle and scare each other and tell jokes.  If you need help, share your children with an adult who knows how to have fun.

6.      Go All the Way:  Take a Year Off

Consider how you can take a Really Big Time Out.  Take a vacation.  Homeschool.  Travel.  Enjoy.

Check out these families who did it.

One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children by David Elliot Cohen

The Family Sabbatical Handbook: The Budget Guide To Living Abroad With Your Family by Elisa Bernick

Benefits of the New Time Out

There is a Sufi tale that tells of a scholar being ferried by Nasrudin across a body of water.

“Have you learned mathematics?” he asks the ferry-man.

“No,” Nasrudin replies.

“Do you understand the sciences?” he continued.

“No,” Nasrudin answered.

Next, the scholar chided Nasrudin for his ungrammatical language, and, hearing that the boat-man never went to school exclaimed, “Half of your life has been wasted!”

Shortly afterwards, Nasrudin asked him: “Did you learn to swim?”

“No, I did not,” replied the scholar.

“Well, in this case it seems all your life has been wasted.  We are sinking,” said Nasrudin.

Reading, writing, and arithmetic are useful skills.  Proficiency in sports, music, and arts can bring much enjoyment.  But over-planning and over-scheduling may produce an ignorance of how to live.

After I post this, I will go and enjoy my own time out(side).  I hope that after your read, you will too.

Want to believe this is possible but don’t?  Join me starting January 2014 and shift to joyful thinking and easier living. More information coming soon.

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Doing It My Way: I’m No Mother Warrior

How do you label a child who, before kindergarten, has the vocabulary of a seventh grader but can’t cut with scissors? Where do you put her? How do you teach her? Public school “averaged” gifts and deficits and put Ellana a regular classroom, where she was alternately bored by the basic reading and writing instruction, and frustrated by cut and paste time. By first grade, we realized that even the schools that claimed to work with all of a child’s abilities – including Montessori and Waldorf schools – were doing more harm than good.

At this point, the Warrior Mother would have started scheduling meetings at the public school and engaging advocates and lawyers to ensure that her child gets what she needs. She would have created a gifted program for first graders in her school system, brought in a cut and paste advisor for her child. I was no mother warrior.yoga-2176668__340.jpg

“I won’t put my energy into fighting,” I told my husband.

We took our child out of school and I began homeschooling.A few years later, our second child “graduated” from the amazing autism program where he’d been thriving for three years. He no longer belonged in the specialized autism classroom. He spent his kindergarten year putting in a full day, half of it in a regular classroom (no aide) and half in a room for cognitively impaired kids. That was the best the school would offer, though he is not cognitively impaired. I knew that what worked in kindergarten would not work in first grade. There would be more verbal instructions and more demands for independent work. If I wanted an aide in the classroom for first grade, I’d have to fight for it. I had not developed any warrior skills in those years. I started homeschooling two children.

Our choices worked for me and for my children. Another family, another child might need a Mother Warrior. My children got a different kind of mother, one that works for them.Though I am not nor do I desire to be a Mother Warrior, I have great respect for Mother Warriors. They do what they need to do for their children. I do what I need to do for mine. There is a place for warriors — and a place for peacemakers.

Curbies on Autism

I learned the term “curbie” reading Kim Stagliano’s memoir All I Can Handle:  I’m No Mother Teresa. Kim is the mother of three girls with autism and “a curebie. That’s an autism parent who believes that, in our lifetime, we will be able to bring these kids to point where they blend in with their peers and can live full, independent lives – through a combination of medical treatment, therapy, schooling, and a rosary that stretches from Connecticut to California.” Stagliano adds, “Call it recovery. Call it cure. Call it remission. Call it pasta e fagioli. I don’t give a crap what it’s called… I just want Mia to be able to live a garden-variety, normal live without needing an adult to keep her safe… I want a cure for her, damn right. What kind of parent would I be if I didn’t?”  (p. 19)

The Neurodivergent Camp

I am not a curebie. I excelled at blending in and doing garden-variety my whole life.  When I heard the terms neuroatypical – and later, neurodivergent – I fell in love and embraced the concept with my mind, heart, and soul. The idea that it was okay for my children to be themselves was freeing and exhilarating. (Could this liberating idea mean it was okay for me to be myself too?)

I also strive to keep my children as healthy as possible. I have long-studied nutrition and the natural health sciences. I continue to learn. I continue to provide the best food and living environment that I know for my family. I believe that everything matters.

Many Flavors of Autism, Many Flavors of Mothers

carefree-2280933__340.jpgMy experience of autism is not the same as Kim’s. In one of my favorite passages, she says that autism is like Bertie’s Every Flavor Beans from the Harry Potter books. She points out that some autistics got raspberry cream or root beer flavor. “They can speak eloquently, write blogs, move out on their own…”  “Others with autism, like my three girls, got the ear wax/vomit/dog poop flavor. They need help 24/7 to navigate the world. When I talk about autism, I mean the version that my three girls have.” Obviously, that is simplified, but it makes the point that if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.

I hear and understand what Kim wants. Though we use different words, and I do not want my children to be indistinguishable from normal (whatever that is), Kim and I mostly want the same things for our children. We want our children to live comfortably in the world, to enjoy life. Kim wants that through recovering her children. I want it through transforming the world into a place where we all live in harmony.

Getting to this place of acceptance has been a journey. I wrote about it in my book, Swan Mothers: Discovering Our True Selves by Parenting Uniquely Magnificent Children.

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Ordinary Autism

I revel in the amazingness of human beings. I love the video clips and drawings and music that show that autism is really awesomism.

  • I cry each time I watch the YouTube video of Carly Fleischmann, typing “hurt” and “help” at age 11 when, until that moment, she had been presumed to be cognitively impaired and unaware of her surroundings. I love that, after refusing to type on demand for the television crew during an interview, she types “Is he cute?” when the reporter mentions that he has a son.
  • I love watching Clay Marzo surf and hearing his mother talk about how he is at home in the water, but struggles for air on land. Many of us could learn volumes from Clay’s authenticity and honesty.
  • I am blown away watching 13 year old Jake Barnett, a college sophomore and a math and science prodigy, who says autism is the key to his success. Knowing that a child that stopped speaking just before his second birthday is now an articulate, innovative researcher is amazing and inspirational. That Jake is writing a book to help the rest of us overcome our fear of math is another indicator of how cool he is.
  • I am in awe of Lyrica Mia, a non-verbal, autistic adult, who, together with her mother, Gayle Barley Lee, wrote , Awetizm:  A Hidden Key to Our Spiritual Magnificence. Lyrica has discovered/revealed that autistic beings have unique gifts and wisdom beyond this world and is leading the world is seeing these gifts.

The Spectrum

It is wonderful that the world is recognizing that autism is a spectrum. It is leading to the awareness that humanity is a spectrum: a distribution of energies, gifts, challenges, abilities, and goodness. Since I’ve noticed my children’s uniquely wonderful ways of being, I’ve realized that there is no such thing as normal or average. We are all Uniquely Magnificent.

My children don’t have skills or abilities that are television-worthy. Their needs are not particularly demanding. They simply, extraordinarily, amazingly, are the way they are.

There was a time when I would have asked: When will my child start typing or talking in full sentences? When will his gifts be revealed? When will he surf, play piano, write poetry, or solve complex equations? Why doesn’t he communicate with me telepathically(When will he say a few words? When will he learn to tie his shoes? When will he be able to eat comfortably?) I was envious of the Magnificent Autistic Beings that awe, inspire, and delight us.

The thing I finally understood is that there is no contest. There is no competition. In watching the video clips linked at the beginning of the post, I notice Magnificent Individuals fully and authentically being themselves. They do what they love. They are who they are. They derive their magnificence by tapping into and being themselves. And that, is available to me, and to us all.

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