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.
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.
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.