Posts for attachment

When My Daughter Sees Gay Marriage

Love Wins - Allison Kenny - June 14, 2017

When my daughter sees gay marriage

She sees two parents

Kiss every morning

Every night

And really anytime we see each other

Then begs for kisses herself


She sees us pay our bills together

Make dinner together

Run our business together

Sing made-up song and laugh about nothing

She sees us go on dates, every week or month


She sees us talk it out

When I get triggered

By Lynn’s sarcasm

or she gets frustrated

By how controlling I can be


She sees us ask one another for what we need

Set boundaries

Choose self-care

Most of all, she sees how in love two people can be

After 15 years


How we put our marriage


Before even her needs

Because first, we had each other

Because we want to show her what

Healthy relationships look like


When my daughter sees gay marriage,

She sees our marriage

She sees

Love, stability, respect

She sees happy


She sees everything

She deserves





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My Family Celebrates Adoption Day Topless

Forever Family - Allison Kenny - October 17, 2016

We were told in foster parent training that the kids we are placed with may have been sexually abused. So, it’s important to have privacy when anyone in the family is changing clothes or using the bathroom. This protects everybody and strong boundaries should be in place until your child is legally adopted.

“What if we’re at a street fair and I have to use a port-a-potty? I won’t leave my child outside,” I protested.

“Bring them inside and have them turn around,” I was told.

And we did. All year, a closed-door has meant “knock please.” Morning routines have included “please wait” as we cover ourselves out of the shower and have Squirrel turn around when we pee. Cumbersome. Weird. Especially as someone who believes in raising a body positive girl. But I also believe in safety no matter what. And until trust was fully built and we learned more about her history, I did not want to risk triggering our new daughter or breaking the rules of being a foster parent.

I knew we’d reached a higher level of trust when Squirrel began begging to see us naked.

“Please, Mama! Just let me see your boobs!” she’d whine in the mornings. We didn’t get to breastfeed her or hold her on our chests in the moments after delivery. I took her boob obsession as a great sign. We explained the limitation and how once we were all officially a legal family, it would be fine to change clothes in front of one another if we all wanted to.

After a fairly intense 2 weeks leading up to Adoption Day, I knew we could all use a good laugh.
So when Squirrel stumbled into our bedroom groggy-eyed on the morning of October 16th, I pulled off my tank top and stood there topless in front of her.

“Happy Adoption Day, Lovebug!” I cheered, striking a triumphant pose. She screamed with joy. Danced in circle. And fell to the floor.

“Mommy, look at your CUTE BOOBS!” She was thrilled. She ran to find Mama Lynn.

“Now YOU!” she demanded. Lynn complied with a little grumbling. Squirrel was delighted to be in a room getting dressed with her Mommies. What a perfectly normal thing for a family to do. But for us, it was our first time and it was special. It turned our Adoption Day into Mardi Gras…a tradition I’m sure we’ll keep up each year.

Once dressed herself in the special dress we’d been saving, Squirrel spun in a circle on our bedroom floor.

“Look at my Adoption dress, Mommies!” Then she pulled the dress up over her head. “And look at my little Adoption BOOBS!”


I have maybe never laughed so hard.

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When Your Adopted Daughter Wants Your Haircut

Adoption Poems, Forever Family - Allison Kenny - July 25, 2016

When your adopted daughter wants your haircut
You might worry that saying yes means
Your own identity is too wrapped up in

You might wonder if
You’re being narcissistic
Or creepy
Or controlling

You might not think
Anything of it
Just a coincidence
That doesn’t matter at all

But when your adopted daughter says,
“Mommy, I want my hair to look just like yours”
You might hear
The thread of attachment
Growing taut

You might recognize the longing
To look like
The one who didn’t birth you
But who clearly
Loves you

You might understand the impulse to merge
As sweetness coming from
Love that’s built one goodnight kiss
One skinned knee
One shared belly laugh
At a time

A simple haircut
Might be the way
To make the invisible

To dress up the concept of
Into something tangible
The way people who get to share

When your Mothers
Than you

You claim them
And when your
Wants your haircut

You say yes

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Have Squirrel, Will Travel

Forever Family - Allison Kenny - November 23, 2015

wreathHere we go! Holiday travel time.

We cannot wait to see our family in Texas. Squirrel is dying to play with her cousins and we’re all looking forward to time off and a change of scenery. The only trouble is, travel can be really hard on little Squirrels and the Mamas who love them.

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“I Love You”: A Parenting Milestone

Forever Family, Tales from the Maxi Pad - Lynn Johnson - April 20, 2015

I was away all weekend leading workshops at the NCAOSA Mini-Conference in Carmel Valley, CA when the most incredible thing happened…

The Squirrel told me that she loved me.

In the beginning, I was afraid that she wasn’t going to attach to me at all.  And now, just 6 months later, here she is…loving me.  She told me over the phone as I was finishing my dinner and she was getting ready for bed.

“You’re coming home tomorrow, right Momma Lynn?”
“Right, Baby.  I’m very excited to come home so I can see you.”
“I’m happy to see you too, Mommy!”
“Okay, you go to bed now, Boo Boo.  I love you.”
“Good night.  I love you.”

And there it is.

And when she and Allison picked me up from the rental car place in Oakland, the first thing she did was hand me this…


Yes, it is a heart.  No, I did not upload the image backwards.  “I LOVE MOMMY” is, in fact, what it says.  Reinforcing that she meant what she had said the night before.

Today, I am exhausted from traveling, meeting 100 new people, and leading multiple theater workshops.  I have spent the whole day in my pajamas.  But I am completely nourished by this miraculous milestone.  My daughter of 6 months loves me.

Perhaps I should go away more often.

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Claiming Motherhood

Forever Family - Allison Kenny - April 15, 2015

claiming motherhoodSo, I’d been to many hours of attachment trainings.  I’d read the articles.  I’d done the research on off-age parenting.  I knew that helping an older child from foster care attach to her new parents would take an incredible amount of compassion, care and work. I was willing to do everything from rock my 6 year old like a baby everyday to making a nest of blankets so I could feed her like a mama bird. I carried her on my hip, practiced eye gazing, sang to her and let her touch my face like she was a much tinier child. I knew all this would help her attach to me. And it worked. Relatively quickly.

What I did not know, was that all those attachment practices would not necessarily help me attach to her. For months, this amazing little child who I spent 8 years manifesting into my life, felt like an imposter. Who let her in our house? Why wouldn’t she stop crying? How could she expect me to hold her every second of the day? I knew that newborn babies sometimes feel like aliens to their new parents- Crosby made that clear in the final season of Parenthood.

But no one in our attachment trainings talked about how WEIRD it would be to parent a big kid who acted like a little one. Or how long it might take to connect with the child you bring home  and try to make your own. I had no idea I might feel ambivalent for a long time…about parenting and about the kid herself. So, when all these feelings came up, I felt like a truly awful person. Was I just pretending to love this kid? Would I ever really love her? Like, really, really? I expressed these feelings to only a few dear friends who I knew wouldn’t judge or give advice. I needed a million hugs. And lots of trashy television. (See my post on Good Enough Self Care).

Then, one day, about 6 months in…we were going into a playground. The Squirrel was running ahead on the always-uneven Oakland sidewalk. She was holding a lemonade in one hand and a picnic blanket in the other, because she always insists on helping. She tripped. But her hands were full and she could not brace her fall. In a split second, I knew she was about to fall hard with nothing to protect her little face but her glasses.  I threw my purse down and started running. I think I even said “F@#k!” under my breath. I got there just in time to scoop her up as she screamed “Mommy!” at the top of her lungs. She cried really hard for a really long time. I held her and rocked her and felt both our hearts racing.

And just like that…I knew it.  Something shifted in me.  This was it.

The exact moment I knew she was my child.

For more about “off-age parenting” and what we are learning/practicing around attachment, read Learning the Dance of Attachment by Holly van Gulden.

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Becoming the parent she needs me to be

Love Wins - Allison Kenny - March 3, 2015

in the dreamhouseI remember hearing this phrase in our early fost/adopt training.  Let go of the parent you imagined you’d be and become the parent your child needs you to be.

Yikes.  I think I froze then and I’m freezing now.

You mean Christmas might not be pure magic? Hikes in nature might be so triggering that they end in disaster? Vacations might be confusing downward spirals of trauma? Making friends at school may prove a far-off dream? Yup. It turns out parenting an older foster-child requires a new brand of parenting. My dear friend, Doug calls it “extreme parenting” as in jumping out of a plane or bungee jumping over a bridge. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I thought I was prepared.

All those years facilitating play with children on the Autism spectrum, helping parents integrate play into their daily lives, writing a mindfulness curriculum for kids, leading 1000 Go Girls! through camp… I’ve spent 10 years preparing to be a therapeutic parent. But until I had a screaming, kicking, singing, roaring, grinning, collapsing, endearing, outrageous “squirrel” in my house… I had no idea what that meant.

Turns out it means gifting a massage to her teacher for Valentine’s Day. It means creating such a boring weekly routine that I want nothing more than to rebel and smoke cigarettes on my back porch. It means sending carefully worded, fierce and loving e-mails to her principal, to her therapist, to her social worker, to our social worker, to the school founder, to family members…to anyone on “Team Squirrel.” It means calling school twice daily so she can hear my voice. It means breathing when I want to yell. Talking when I want to hide. Reaching out when I want to go to bed.

Parents of kids with special needs, how do you become the parent your kids need you to be? How do you evolve past selfishness, past embarrassment, past perfectionism? How do you learn the promised lessons of compassion, flexibility and a new perspective on what matters?

For me, I take it an hour at a time. I laugh as much as I can. I remember to kiss my wife. And yes…every once in a while…I smoke a cigarette on my back porch.

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