Posts for motherhood

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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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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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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Taking Space

Self-care - Allison Kenny - August 26, 2016

It’s the first day in 14 without my

daughter

and my nervous system is

screaming

I find

Refuge

in a kelly green vintage shrug

My coat of armor as I

Enjoy the quiet absence

of Her questions

and the Luxury

of being my own

Lunch Date

 

10 of these 14 days felt so wonderfully

Yummy

with my little girl

but then I started

Drowning

without the

Alone Time

that is my

Oxygen

 

Parenting can be so

Suffocating

If we choke on our

Children’s Needs

and forget our own

 

Here’s to me

Remembering

my right to

Silence and Space

 

And won’t it feel good

to miss her

I cannot wait

to miss her

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10 Ways to Respond When Your Kid Disrespects You

Forever Family, Go Girl!, Self-care - Allison Kenny - August 22, 2016

Ever feel like a punching bag in your own home? When I’m faced with eye rolling, furniture kicking, hands over ears, screaming in my face or a disgusted tone of voice, I do my best to respond without throwing a tantrum myself…which is not easy for me. Here are the phrases I practice and use like a script to keep from throwing my daughter’s toys in the trash or cursing like a sailor.

“I wonder why you’re not listening to me…”

“I’m turning my ears right off to that.”

“I don’t listen when people talk to me that way.”

“Wow. You seem really angry. Please don’t take it out on me.”

“I’m sorry you’re mad, and stop.”

“I’m happy to listen when you’re calm.”

“I’m starting to get angry. I need some space to breathe and get calm.”

“I won’t listen when you’re yelling.”

“That was rude. Would you like a do-over?”

“Please try that again with a respectful voice.”

I want my daughter to feel powerful and know how to stand up against violence. But when she uses her power to yell, kick or fight back when I’m simply asking her brush her teeth, it’s a misuse of her power. I believe it’s my job to teach her how to treat me and others. I try to be super flexible in all other areas of my parenting, but this is a battle I will pick every time. She cannot disrespect her parents. Period.

How do you keep your girls strong and ready to fight for themselves while also keeping the peace and expecting respect?

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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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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
Hers

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
Deeply

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
Visible

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

When your Mothers
Look
Different
Than you

You claim them
Anyway
And when your
Daughter
Wants your haircut

You say yes

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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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