Posts for raising daughters

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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Raising Girls Who Know They Matter

Forever Family - Allison Kenny - April 6, 2017

 

Before my daughter came into my life, I worked for a decade as a theater teaching artist. Children ages two to twenty-two of every race, gender, ability and learning style taught me to be a compassionate human. I got used to thinking on my feet, tuning into their particular needs, and speaking from my heart. All of this prepared me for parenting.

“That sign says Black Lives Matter, Mommy. What about me? Does my life matter, too?”

I remember the day my little girl asked me this question. She was almost seven and was learning to read more every day. She was in that exciting threshold between reading nothing and reading everything. Spacing out as we moved through the world and noticing every billboard, menu, and sign. This was a big opportunity for me, too. She was asking me, her White Mama, to unpack the Black Lives Matter movement while we waited in line at our favorite mac n cheese spot.

A big part of why my wife and I choose to stay in Oakland, CA after adopting our little girl was to make sure conversations like these were part of our everyday experience. We’re commitment to living on a street with folks of all races, sending her to a diverse school, and making sure she has teachers who look like her. My wife grew up as one of few Black people in an all-White suburb. This was hard on her. She wanted something different for her daughter.

READ MORE on RAISING RACE CONSCIOUS CHILDREN

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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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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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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!”

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I have maybe never laughed so hard.

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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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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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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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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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If Your Daughter Fears Being Fat

Girl Power, Go Girl!, Self-care - Allison Kenny - March 10, 2016

How do you respond when your daughter says, “a boy at school called our teacher fat. I NEVER want to be too fat!”

Sigh.

There are so many problems with that sentence. Of course we don’t know the factual details of what  went down- we are only getting a glimpse. But let’s say that’s exactly what happened. 3 reasons that sentence at the dinner table made my skin crawl and my heart ache.

  1. that a young boy would body shame an adult female teacher
  2. that the word “fat” is being hurled as an insult at all
  3. that my chronically underweight first grade daughter is afraid of being “fat” (or more accurately, afraid of being teased by boys for being “fat”)

There is one big reason my daughter’s story made me feel hopeful, though. Empowered even. And that’s that after 8 years of struggling with my own disordered eating, body shame and fat fears, I get to respond from a place of fierce compassion and share what I know to be true. Continue Reading

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