Posts for girls empowerment

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.

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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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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.


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101 Reasons to #CelebrateGirlhood

Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - September 6, 2016

Girls can shine
They can make messes
They can make trouble
Girls can get dirty
They can make money
They can make movies
They can make you laugh
Girls can rise strong
Be fierce
Be gentle
Code
Stand up for each other
Girls can care for animals
Be mindful
And see the beauty in everything
Girls can wear their crown
Say no

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Ride bikes in skirts
Girls make worms into friends
They choreograph Thanksgiving Day dances
And feed their lizards
Girls can smile, or not
Girls insist on justice
Remember the underdog
Perform a wedding ceremony for their yorkie and chihuahua
Girls make potions from sunflower petals and apples
Spell words out of sticks
Girls can be born with boy parts
Question being a girl
Question authority
Girls can be curious
Cut their own hair
Dye their bangs purple
Rip Barbie’s head off
Girls put lavender oil in their bath
Speak out of turn
Ask for what they want
Yell to get help
Girls win championships
They can be mean and stop being mean

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Girls ask for forgiveness
They can let it go
Girls can believe in fairies
Tell the truth
Spit a phat rhyme
They can walk away from gossip
Intuit the future
Start the conversation
Girls can love their brown skin
Love their curly hair
Love their freckles
Love their glasses
Love their round body
Love their skinny legs
Love their big feet
Love their bellies
Girls can rock short hair
Learn all the words to Hamilton
Recover from embarrassment
Girls win gold medals
They can act confident even when they don’t feel it
They can say “I’m smart, too” when strangers tells them “You’re pretty”

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They can love other girls
Girls start movements
They learn to use their words instead of their fists
They invent new technologies
They can start over in a new home
They can be scared and do it anyway
Girls jump off a diving board into the deep end
They can gut a fish
They can set boundaries
Girls can read books for hours
They can be part of a group
They give and receive love
They have big feelings
They write stories about unicorns and witches
Wear a suit and tie
Speak many languages
Girls can understand their privilege
Girls can insist on being seen
Girls can take up space
They can run barefoot in the dirt
They can pretend to be Beyonce
Girls can learn the dances of their ancestors
Wear bells on their ankles
Travel the world
Girls can learn differently
They can talk with their hands
Use wheels to walk
Girls can believe they are amazing
Take the power out of rude words
Grow up to be themselves
Girls can choose friends that are good to them
Teach people how to treat them
Believe their ideas matter
Girls grow gardens
Jump rope
Gaze at the stars
Girls can notice the moon
And take center stage

 

Want more chances to #celebrategirlhood? Bring your family to the Spotlight: Girls Telling Event. I can’t wait to get on stage with other amazing tellers and share real life moments from our girlhood.

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Grateful to be Honored as a BlogHer Voice of the Year

Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - July 29, 2016

As an adolescent, I used to win awards for playing softball. After practicing at all hours with my team, traveling to tournaments across the county, wrapping up minor injuries and playing right through them…every once & awhile, we’d bring home the big trophy. State champions. And that moment when someone in our matching uniform would cross home plate for the win, we’d all rush to her, ponytails flying, tears streaming and yes, dumping water all over our coach. Winning is awesome.

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When I got notice that my piece, “If I Took Care of Myself Like I Take Care of My Daughter” was being honored at BlogHER16 as one of the few Voices of the Year, I was tempted to scream and cry and dump water on someone. That’s how excited I am to to show up and be a learner alongside thousands of women entrepreneurs and media makers.

In the face of so much injustice, tragedy and violence in our country, I get to go and learn more about how to be a contributing voice for what matters most to me. Raising a Go Girl is my platform to advocate for alternative families, celebrate self care for parents and practice being the Go Girl I want my daughter to see.  As I’m learning to take up space and find my voice, I get to go to L.A. next weekend for the biggest conference of the year and be with women who are doing it best. How do they take centerstage in their own lives? How do they create content that serves a bigger purpose?  How do they write their personal stories in ways that are of service to the wider community?

I can’t wait to find out…

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Get Your Girl…Go Squirrel!

Go Girl!, Media - Allison Kenny - July 10, 2016

In her kindergarten and 1st grade year, my little girl was always bringing home these 10 page paperback early readers with just a few words to a page. The featured cats and monkeys with lots of repeat phrases to make reading fun and accessible. As I sat with her each afternoon to practice her reading, I listened to storylines that were bland (ahem…hella boring) and thought, “I can do better than that.”

What are the words I want my daughter to read in the precious moments she’s reading for the very first time? As her critical thinking skills are just starting to develop, what characters do I want her to examine? What concepts do I hope she’ll dig into and ask questions about?

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It did not take long for me to generate a set of 9 simple stories that star a powerful girl (ahem…Squirrel) with the courage to learn from her mistakes. Are these stories about my daughter? YES. They are a celebration of all the things she has had the courage to learn since coming home to us. But our daughter is not the Squirrel in the story. Our daughter is one of the featured Go Girls cheering Squirrel on. Look for the girl with glasses. She helps Squirrel remember how to be a good friend, how to stay flexible, how to manage big feelings and how to love herself just as she is. These are the values I have for our girl. They all match up to the Go Girls! Culture Code and are reinforced in our summer camp.

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My daughter and her friends love coloring in these books. Christy Booth’s illustrations are so darling, that I can’t help but join in and color right along with them. Christy is an expressive arts therapist and captures the emotional life of children through simple shape and design in a way I didn’t know was possible.  Saturday mornings at our house look like each of the 3 Go Squirrel Coloring Books out with every colored pencil in the house. Mama Lynn, Squirrel and I each take book, drink tea and color…a sweet time I’ll always remember.

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I hope you love these books as much I loved making them. Order one book or all 3. Color with your kids- I’d love to know how it goes.

 

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An Adoptive Parents’ Guide to Finding Dory

Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - July 5, 2016


Finding Dory was aDORable, am I right? Who doesn’t love Ellen and remember Finding Nemo like it was yesterday? Nothing better than packing up your family, getting your popcorn buttered and settling in for a sweet afternoon at the movies. Unless you are an adoptive parent. If you adopted your child, you do your research before going to any movie. You know that for some reason, every other kids movie out there includes protagonists who are orphans, in foster care, have dead parents, mean parents, tragic separation from siblings they love or in the case of Finding Dory, spend the entire movie in a desperate search for their birth parents. Sigh.

I get it. The worst nightmare in the psyche of any child is to be deeply alone in the world and abandoned by their parents. I’m not a therapist, but I imagine that for kids who are securely attached, seeing their worst fears play out on the big screen feels good because it externalizes the nightmares and ties them up with a happy ending. Then, the typical kids get to hug the parents who birthed them and feel safe, secure and aware of how loved they are.

But what if the nightmare of losing your family, being abandoned or mistreated actually happened to you? Seeing it played out would not feel good. It would be scary, retraumatizing or humiliating. They would be anxious on the way to any movie and have trouble sleeping after, even though they begged to go see it.

As a parent, I have to weigh the pros and cons before seeing any flick. I heard that Finding Dory could kick up lots of grief but that it wasn’t too scary. I also knew that all my daughter’s friends at camp were seeing it and talking about it. Having things to connect with peers about is a definite pro when it comes to my quirky girl. Plus, her big cousin was in town from Texas and wanted to go. We didn’t want to deny them the sweet memory of seeing this movie together. So…we went.

We ate a big dinner before and didn’t get candy. Instead, we brought tiny treasures wrapped in tissue paper. When our daughter got anxious during the movie, she turned her eyes to her lap where she could unwrap a little something to focus on instead. While Dori was having flashbacks about the major loss in her childhood, my daughter opened and found a tiny shell. While Dori was longing for her Mommy & Daddy, my little girl found a tiny square of clay to squish into shapes. When she got bored with a treasure, she’d put it in Mama Lynn’s purse and watch the movie awhile. Then, she opened another. Bringing sensory tools to the movies was not something we’d tried before. After Inside Out, we spent 20 extra minutes in the theater holding her while she sobbed. The Good Dinosaur sent her into so many tears, I had to bring her home and rock her like a baby until she calmed down.

But I’m glad we tried Finding Dory before giving up on going to movies all together. With tools to manage her triggers, our daughter got to see a girl lead character take center stage in her own life. Dory and lots of the animals in this film have a vulnerability that makes them different. Dory’s “short term memory loss” and distractibility were a wonderful mirror of my daughter’s special needs. Dory is loveable and adored. Just like my little girl. Dory is a leader. She has courage. She overcomes her biggest challenges. I want my daughter to get to see examples like these of girls in media.

After the movie, my daughter’s review was “ I liked it Mommy. But some parts were sad.” OMG she used a feeling word! Success.

Go see Dory. Pack treasures and tissues. Let me know how it goes.

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Welcome to (Dog) Wedding Season!

Forever Family, Love Wins, Tales from the Maxi Pad - Allison Kenny - June 16, 2016

A Flower Girl Prepares

A Flower Girl Prepares

I like to think that I’m really playful with my daughter. After working with other people’s children for a decade facilitating play and drama classes, I pictured myself being the kind of mom who gets on the floor and plays, you know?

The kind of mom who chases her little one on the playground pretending to be the monster that all the kids run from. The kind of mom who is happy to become a fairy princess with hot lava power anytime her child asks. Continue Reading

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More Books for Girls This Summer

Girl Power, Go Girl!, Learning, Media - Allison Kenny - June 13, 2016

Our little girl loves to read. This is big because last summer, her confidence around reading was non-existent but now she can sit with books for a long time on her own. She loves that I write books and will ask me now and then, “How’s your next book coming along?” which makes my heart melt completely. Continue Reading

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Post-Adoption Wonderful

Forever Family, Love Wins - Allison Kenny - November 19, 2015

Post-Adoption Wonderful
Sounds like…

Okay Mommy

And

I love you, Mommies

And

Please can Mama Lynn come in for one more hug and kiss

This is different
New
Defenses down
Deeply relaxed for
Maybe
the first time
Ever

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