Posts for Go Girl! Category

I’m a Mom Who Takes Center Stage in My Own Life

Forever Family, Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - October 3, 2017

photo by Jennifer Graham

I became a mom after directing Go Girls! Camp for a decade. I was a rockstar auntie to seven nieces and two nephews. I’d lead parenting workshops for years. Of course, I was prepared to become a parent!

I had no idea.

I had no idea the level of terror that would take over as I welcomed my courageous and fierce six-year-old daughter into her new home. A good friend imagined my process of becoming a mother as being pregnant, in labor and parenting a six-year-old all at the exact same moment. Indeed, this is what adopting an older child from foster care was like for me.

I bent over backward trying to meet my new daughter’s needs. With all my heart, I wanted her to feel safe and loved. So I hustled. I took her to occupational therapy, to gymnastics, to the eye doctor, to every specialist I could find. I read books. I played on the floor. I volunteered at her school.

What was under all that hustle?

My fear that she wouldn’t attach to us. My fear that she’d be hurt or scared or lonely or feel unwanted. I had so much fear that it started to affect my health. Soon, I knew, it would begin to undermine my relationship with my daughter. It was time to remember all those incredible skills I’d taught parents for years. I needed to claim my confidence and trust the process.

READ MORE on Ruby the Mag

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What does it mean to be raising a go girl? This.

Forever Family, Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - August 31, 2017

Welcome. I’m Allison Kenny and I am Raising a Go Girl! How do I know this about my daughter? Because she said yes to coming to live with my wife and me when she was six years old after early life in foster care. She said yes to being adopted by us, she said yes to giving herself a safe and happy life. I know she’s a Go Girl! because she says no when she doesn’t want a hug from a neighbor, she says no to excluding kids, she says no when she is afraid.

I know my daughter is a Go Girl! because she gives more generously than anyone I know. She makes fairies and slugs well-decorated homes. She gives her artwork and she gives her time to be helpful. She takes in the good, too. After 2 years, she lets us hug her heart to heart. She shares her gratitudes at the dinner table. They are almost always about food.

She’s a Go Girl! because she learns from her mistakes. Even though she’s quick to be hard on herself for messing up, she remembers that no one is perfect. She tells herself, “Mistakes are part of learning” and she’s mastered the art of apology.

My daughter feels ALL THE FEELS. She has big feelings and is slowly, slowly learning they are all okay. It took a long time for her to feel safe enough to talk about feelings. Now, when she says things like “I’m confused, Mommy” or “I feel sad,” we scoop her up and give her a ton of love. She noticing what she feels and what she needs. She knows this makes her human. She knows she is not alone. 

My daughter is a Go Girl because she takes center stage. She grew into her leadership after a long stretch of struggling to be flexible, share or take turns. She wanted to control absolutely everything and everyone. I know the feeling. She’s learning, though, that being a leader means listening. I see her write down all her friends’ ideas in the club she started and ask them what job they want to have. I know she’s come a long way. 

My girl is a Go Girl! because she’s being raised by them. My wife and I do everything we can to be the women we want our daughter to see. Mostly, this means allowing her to watch us fail, fall, fight and get up again. She watches us repair and keep going. She sees that we’ll never give up on each other and never give up on her. 

My daughter is a Go Girl. 

Photo credit: Marcus Salinas

 

Wanna know more about being a Go Girl? Check out the Spotlight: Girls Culture Code HERE.

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Being 8

Forever Family, Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - June 15, 2017

 

Being 8 is sitting in the car

Without a booster seat

It’s being able to scooter in front of the house

From here to there

With a friend

While Mamas stay inside

And peek through the window

Being 8

Is no longer needing

Morning snuggles

Most days

Cause you are too busy in your own bed

Memorizing Hamilton lyrics

Or finishing up that Chapter Book

On Your Own

Being 8 is understanding

Cause & Effect

Finally

So chores and morning jobs and “Yes, Mamas”

Are no big deal

They lead to fun and Yes and more of what you love

Being 8 is all about

Playdates

Where you design cookbooks

With recipes like, “Allison’s Amazing Applesauce”

And “Lynn’s Lovely Lemonade”

Being 8 is safe

Being 8 is free

Being 8 is choice

Being 8 is just the tiniest bit sad for Mama A

Because it means you will never again be 7

You will never be again 6

6 is the age that you were born to us

Our baby years with you only lasted a very little while

And you are already

8

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25 Things I Learned as a Special Needs Mom

Forever Family, Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - April 12, 2017

  1. Every milestone is worth celebrating. It doesn’t matter how small.
  2. Perfect is not real.
  3. Sometimes, my self-care is THE most important thing.
  4. Take the long view. Big picture is everything.
  5. This, too, shall pass. It always does.
  6. Humor goes a long way.
  7. Be responsible for the energy I bring into a room.
  8. Be gentle.
  9. Notice what my face is doing.
  10. I get to be human. I get to be human. I get to be human.
  11. Forgive myself.
  12. Forgive my kid.
  13. Other kids and families might do things differently not better, not “normal” just different.
  14. Advocate for my kid with persistence, patience, and love.
  15. Saying no is really important.
  16. Saying yes is really important.
  17. Get on the floor and play.
  18. I’m not in control of, well…barely anything.
  19. People act out when they are afraid.
  20. I act out when I am afraid.
  21. People stare. Smile back.
  22. I am a superhero.
  23. My kid is working as hard as I am.
  24. Hold onto joy every time it shows up.
  25. Get help.
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Having the Confidence I Want My Daughter to See

Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - March 31, 2017

Recently, I hit a rough patch with my confidence. First, it was facing Imposter Syndrome in my new career path as a freelance writer. Then, it was being the new mom of a deeply hurt child. Then, it was facing health challenges that kept me in bed for nearly 6 weeks. Throw the Presidential election of 2016 into the mix, and I was a goner. Confidence shot. There was nothing I wanted to write and nowhere I wanted to go.

Luckily, my wise self and life coach reminded me that there is no need to suffer in silence. I reached out to my biggest fans. I texted them the horrible things my inner critic was saying and admitted how much fear was taking over. Of course, they responded with a ton of love, humor, and solidarity. I may have felt pitiful but I was not alone in my self-pity. That mattered. Slowly, as allergens fill the air and cherry blossoms start to bloom, I am emerging. I’m ready to get my confidence back this spring.

I can take baby steps to rebuilding my confidence and model these same tools for my daughter, while I’m at it! Wanna follow along? Check out my (usually, probably, almost always) daily Facebook Live videos each morning in April and I’ll share the winding path to believing in myself again.

Let’s see what a mama who actively works on confidence can do for the little girl who’s watching.

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My Daughter Called Me Fat. Here is What I Said…

Go Girl!, Self-care - Allison Kenny - March 15, 2017

Photo credit: Mary Cressler, Vindulge

 

Fat. It’s the word I dreaded most of my life. The word I spent the most time thinking about, worrying about, planning around, crying over and nearly destroying my relationship to myself about. Like so many of us, I spent my time, my money and endless hours of energy on a decade worth of diets. Now that I’ve given up dieting, I can spend that same time, energy and money on things that matter to me more than what size my body is.

I’ve learned to eat intuitively. I’ve learned that sometimes my trauma takes over and it’s nearly impossible for me to notice if I’m hungry or full. I’ve learned to forgive myself for emotionally overeating. I’ve learned there are no bad foods. I’ve learned to enjoy eating as a source of pleasure. I’ve learned about lots of other things I get hungry for- play, intimacy, creativity, adventure and most often…solitutde. I’ve learned to appreciate and respect my body at every size. And since I have been sizes 8-16, I have a lot of practice with this.

For me, the fat is no longer a problem. I honestly believe I am gorgeous at any size. My doctor tells me I am in good health and I notice that if I’m managing my stress well, I feel good. I feel happy. I am grateful for what I have and what my body can do.

So when my daughter sweetly said to me one day, “Mommy, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but do you think you’re fat?” I took a deep breath. I smiled. After 8 years of disordered eating, chronic dieting, shame and feeling like a failure because I couldn’t control my body, I was prepared for this moment.

When I started the transition out of dieting and into claiming my life as a well-fed woman, I committed to self-love above everything else. I knew how to reflect that back to my daughter. My response came naturally, powerfully, easily. I scooped her into my arms and answered with confidence.

“Oh, baby, I’m so glad you asked. Yes, it’s true that my body has some extra fat. I like to call it my curves and I don’t mind it one bit. You know why? Because I believe all bodies are okay. I know I look beautiful just how I am. And I take good care of myself to stay healthy and strong. I love my arms that can pick you up and swing you around. My lap is strong enough to hold you. My soft belly is good for snuggling. I celebrate everything my body can do.” 

She accepted that. Sometimes she even tells me, “I love your big belly, Mama.” There are plenty of days I don’t love my big belly and self-doubt creeps back in. I hold onto this conversation as a reminder of what I know for sure to be true. I am just right as I am. Big belly and all.

More: Why My Daughter Eats Kale and Candy, Amaranth and Cheetos

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How I Told My Daughter That She Has Special Needs

Forever Family, Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - January 25, 2017

We are sitting at the dining room table for yet another teary session of math homework. She has used up all her focusing tools- chewing gum, lighting a peppermint candle, choosing which problem to start with…nothing is helping. Then I see the light in her eyes change. They grow dark and serious in that intense way I know so well. She is fighting for truth.

“Mom, why can the kids around me do math but I can’t? I learn it but I can’t remember it. The other kids remember. Why, mom? It doesn’t make any sense.” There is shame in these words. And desperation.

I’m not planning to have this conversation today. I didn’t wake up knowing that I would be called on to deliver this news in a way she can digest it. My wife and I are still digesting it ourselves.

We go through periods of intense grief and even anger about her special needs. Spending time with other people’s kids can trigger it. After a morning babysitting my dear friend’s toddler, I spend the afternoon sobbing. This three-year-old has social skills that are more advanced than my eight-year-old. We travel to Texas to visit cousins and breathe through frustration as my daughter’s anxiety and hypervigilance exhaust everyone in the house. We go to IEP meeting after meeting and are overwhelmed by how many professionals are engaged each week in supporting my kiddo’s learning. After weeks of her violent PTSD fits, we refocus on caring for ourselves so that my daughter’s needs don’t take over our entire lives.

More like this: Even though My Wife & I Get Away, Our Daughter Makes Us Pay

But here she is, asking for the truth. So, I share with her what gets me through my moments of fear and grief and doubt and anger. I share with her the truth about her resilience.

“I’m telling you the truth. Are you listening? Do you remember how you were born very tiny and that you came out early? One thing that happens when babies are born early is that their brains don’t get enough time to develop. This is not the baby’s fault! This is nobody’s fault. It happens to many babies who are born early. It means your brain has worked extra hard to develop and grow ever since you were born. And guess what? Your brain is doing very well. Very very well. That’s because you have a powerful quality in you. You are FIERCE. That means you are somebody who doesn’t give up. Even as a teeny little baby, you were so fierce that you fought to live. You fought to grow. And now, you are fighting to learn math. It is harder for you. You are right about that. But working hard and not giving up are wonderful qualities to have. You also have mama’s who love you and teachers to help when things feel hard. You are not alone.”

I hadn’t researched what to say. I hadn’t prepared for this question. I just opened my heart up and felt around for what she needed to hear. Of course what really happened is that I said the words I needed to hear.

I think healing the dissonance between our fantasy of parenting and the truth of it will be a long road for my wife and I. But moments to ignite our empathy and focus on our daughter’s amazing gifts help. They help a lot.

More Like This: Dear Kids At School

I’m different and that’s awesome

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I can’t take my kid with special needs to the Women’s March. Here’s what I Can Do…

Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - January 20, 2017

A month ago, my best friend called me and we sobbed. We both felt despair that the man running for President of our country admitted to groping women without their consent.

Today, he moved into the White House and 600 groups of women all over the world are marching in protest. My friend and I were determined to take action in some way. But marching with our young daughters (mine with special needs), felt like more than we could take on. My daughter is highly sensitive to crowds, to yelling, to cold, to other people’s emotions. Participating in the Women’s March would likely trigger a trauma response and days of violent fits. But this is a moment in history we don’t want to miss. I want to look back on this time and know for sure that I was intentional and conscious. I want to model a balance between self-care and activism for my little girl.

My friend and I knew that if we got our families together, we could come up with something meaningful to do even if we had to stay home. So, my BFF packed up her little girl and is making her trek to my house in Oakland right this minute. I think we came up with a pretty great plan for our Go Girls!

Read more about it on the Spotlight: Girls blog….

 

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Here’s to Making it Happen: How I Began My Career As an 8th Grade Go Girl

Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - January 9, 2017



I’ve started groups and communities all my life. In 8th grade, I started a drama club at my little Catholic school because it didn’t have one. I really wanted to be in a school play and there was no opportunity. So I went to the English teacher and pitched her the idea. I was in my first play that spring.

In high school, I organized the drama club to go back to my elementary school and teach acting workshops to the little kids. I still have video (on VHS!) of my BFF’s helping 4th graders to project and make bold acting choices.

In college, I started a group for my peers to come together and create rituals for connection and women’s empowerment. Each of us got to lead our own circle, taking charge of the agenda and activities. I remember one month we made journals to take with us on post-college adventures. I wrote in mine the whole time I backpacked through Europe the summer after graduation.

I didn’t start earning money for my start-up skills until my early 20’s when my wife and I started our own business.  I’d strung together some gigs as a teaching artist and one of them lead me to The Marsh Youth Theater in San Francisco. The education director at the time wanted me to put together a summer of camps serving younger children than she felt able to serve on her own. And we were off! In the 12 years since, my wife and I have grown that summer camp to serve 500 kids a summer and feature a girls empowerment curriculum. I’ve written and published books, bridged our classes to after school programs, lead professional development workshops for educators and now, write freelance articles for parenting websites. My family business, Spotlight: Girls has just raised over 300K in investments to franchise our camp nationally.

The point is, I have always done what I wanted in terms of my career. I didn’t always know where the money would come from but I did always honor my gifts. As I set new goals this year toward courageous earning, taking center stage and practicing radical self-care, it helps to remember where my path began. I have always manifested the thing I wanted to see in the world and called upon all my creativity to make it happen.

What did you want to do as a kid? How much of that did you hold onto? Here’s to making it happen.


Let’s chat more…

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25 Ways I’ve Been Healing Since November 8th

Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - December 20, 2016

So many of us were traumatized by the election. For me, it started during the debates and culminated on election night. That’s when I noticed that I left my body completely. It’s taken me weeks to come on back. Remember that my body is home. And that if I’m not present, I can’t show up in the world the way I want to. So, for what feels like the millionth time, I’m pressing the re-set button. I’m taking good care and putting my own healing at the forefront so I can be the kind of mother I want to be. So I can show up as an artist, a writer, a participant in my life. For me, the slow and sometimes painful path back to myself looks like this…

1. Noticing my impulse to check out and numb with food and tv. “Wow, I must be really scared. It’s feeling super hard to stay in the moment.”
2. Allowing myself to check out a little bit with food and tv.
3. Setting up weekly hikes with a friend to feel my feet on the ground and remember how big the Universe is.
4. Scheduling regular bodywork to help me stay in my body.
5. Buying new sneakers to “train for the Revolution.” I’m quoting my friend Ed here.
6. Setting my alarm 45 minutes earlier so I can have quiet space to myself before my daughter wakes up. Doing whatever the hell I want in those 45 minutes.
7. Holding my dogs. A lot. And putting sweaters on them. ‘Cause cute heals.
8. Singing Christmas Carols at the top of my lungs.
9. Dancing with my daughter. In the kitchen. In our pajamas.
10. Letting myself cry. Or feel rage. Hopelessness. Confusion. Fear.
11. Limiting my media intake. Remembering I can “stay safe in my imagination” and manage triggers.
12. Making art. Like scribbly, messy, kid art.
13. Putting my hand on my heart in the shower. Being gentle with myself.
14. Interrupting my critical voice and talking sweetly instead. Calling myself “love.”
15. Using sweet orange essential oil.
16. Watching 13th – 15 minutes at a time.
17. Reading spiritual, feminist literature that inspires me.
18. Deep cleaning my house.
19. Praying. Meditating. Breathing.
20. Kissing my daughter more.
21. Kissing my wife more.
22. Making sure the people in my life know how grateful I am for them.
23. Making food that feels good.
24. Staying present for my wife and listen to her story, her grief, her rage as a woman of color without trying to fix.
25. Channeling my anger and fear about the state of the world into being a girl advocate.

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