Posts for strong girls

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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Taking Care of Myself Like I Take Care of My Daughter: Winter

Self-care - Allison Kenny - December 1, 2016

Alarm goes off and all

Beings pile into the big bed

Mama, Mommy, Roxie, Rufus

Heaven

 

Serious snuggling

Kisses and puppy games

A little morning light

Kitchen pajama dances

Cause all I want for Christmas is YOU

 

Nursing colds with hours and hours and hours in bed with books

Sipping tea from gold mugs on saucers

Sweet orange oil in her bath and mine

Smudge with sage and sweet grass and lavender

 

Let’s make posters about what we believe in, Mama

Give our money where it counts

Breathing in fear, breathing out safety

We’re all working hard to make sure the leaders we choose do what’s right, love

 

Smoothies with beets and pasta with bacon

Real wood in the fireplace

Hot water bottles

And so many twinkly lights

 

New running shoes for the Revolution

And daily walks, walks, walks

Family hugs inside a redwood grove

Can you feel the roots entwined under our feet?

 

Close friends close

Smiling at neighbors

Keeping the house clean, clean, clean

Early bedtime

Candles lit

 

Keep laughing, Mommy

I love it when you laugh

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Curbside

Forever Family, Self-care - Allison Kenny - October 3, 2016

This morning was

Expected.

The refusal to get dressed

The screaming

The loud NO!

The “I don’t want to go to school”

Even the need to pack up her toothbrush, her glasses, her breakfast

The curbside drop-off

As she kicked and hollered

Puffy-eyed

Wild-hair

Snot everywhere

Shoes in a bag

Because she refused my help for an hour

My wife’s frustration

Totally expected

As she sat in the back seat

Bra-less

Her own feet bare

As she secured the seat belt again and again

For our angry daughter

PTSD fits

Are expected

After we get-a-way

for 2 days of

Self Care

Blue Waves

Crashing against the headland cliffs

11 hours of sleep

A night

Champagne picnic as the sun sets

So, it was expected

That today would be hard

The Homecoming

Turbulent.

It was Unexpected, though

When our daughter

Who had refused

Empathy

Support

Kindness

for an hour

Choosing to derail

and come undone instead

When this wild-animal-powerful-girl

Was lifted, kissed and placed

Gently on the grass

In front of her school

Curbside

It was Unexpected

To see the

4th grade Safety Monitor

Taking his duties

Very seriously.

He did not bat an eye

As we drove off

And she screamed.

We paused, of course

On the corner

To watch her put on her shoes

And go into school

Whether she wanted to or not

The 4th grade safety monitor

Held his post

Reliable

And helped my little girl

Find her glasses

Which she had thrown

In the Grass

 

 

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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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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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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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