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What I learned is that the hard stuff

Was so much harder than I thought hard stuff could be

What I learned is that I made it worse

Because I really couldn’t see

That it would it get better

I was so very afraid

A lot of the time

But I did remember to enjoy

The good stuff

I learned that when peace and ease visit

It’s crucial

That I enjoy them

I learned that attachment takes

So much longer than I wanted it to

Two and a half years in our case

I learned that she had no reason

To trust us

And it was unfair of me to expect her to

I learned that the things she’d remember

Are mostly good

Like feeding the ducks

Outside the courthouse

On Adoption Day

And being lifted up by her new Mamas to

Put the star on the Christmas tree

I learned that under all her defenses and

Survival skills

She is so sensitive

So sweet

Curious

And generous beyond belief

She is funny

And courageous

It took so much time for her to come into herself

I had to be patient

I had to take good care of myself

I had to learn to just wait

Or I’d miss the good stuff

Altogether

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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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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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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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  1. Join in. When you are part of a community, show up and help.
  2. Fridays are for take-out. Period.
  3. It’s okay to laugh so hard you cry. Or pee.
  4. Swim as much as you can.
  5. Ride horses in the summer even if you are scared.
  6. Pie is a great way to celebrate most things.
  7. Learn how to make chicken soup from scratch.
  8. If you fall in a lake, just laugh at yourself.
  9. Pray. It helps.
  10. Notice who needs help around you.
  11. Mothers are always there for their kids. Period.
  12. School is your job. Work hard.
  13. Find out which activities make you happy and do them.
  14. I will love you no matter what you do.
  15. Take charge of a group, even if you’re shy.
  16. Hold babies every chance you get.
  17. Blankets and scarves snuggle better if knitted by hand.
  18. Let people celebrate you, even if it’s hard.
  19. Singing makes things better.
  20. Make something and enter it into a contest.
  21. Read everything you can.
  22. Get excited about giving people presents.
  23. Decorate your house for every single holiday.
  24. Learn the names of trees.
  25. Let your kids be whoever they are and don’t judge them.

More: If I Took Care of Myself Like I Take Care of My Daughter

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We celebrate the Uncles

who take her to Crab Cove, to ice cream, to bowling

who send her postcards from their travels and buy her dresses for Christmas

We celebrate

The 2 Dad Families in our lives

who remind her that our family is not so different

that she has good friends a lot like her

that men can be loving and nurturing and funny and smart and strong

and make the best french toast

We celebrate

Mr. Corey who made her believe she could do math

Helped her through missing Mamas at school

And spent extra time with her 4 days every week for 2 years

We celebrate her birth dad

who she doesn’t see

but gave her life

who she doesn’t know

but is very real

who kids ask about and she has answers ready

because we practice

We celebrate the men who help her feel seen

Protected

Safe

and

Sound

On Father’s Day

We Celebrate

Our Villiage

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Raising a Go Girl! by Allison Kenny - 11M ago

Being 8 is sitting in the car

Without a booster seat

It’s being able to scooter in front of the house

From here to there

With a friend

While Mamas stay inside

And peek through the window

Being 8

Is no longer needing

Morning snuggles

Most days

Cause you are too busy in your own bed

Memorizing Hamilton lyrics

Or finishing up that Chapter Book

On Your Own

Being 8 is understanding

Cause & Effect

Finally

So chores and morning jobs and “Yes, Mamas”

Are no big deal

They lead to fun and Yes and more of what you love

Being 8 is all about

Playdates

Where you design cookbooks

With recipes like, “Allison’s Amazing Applesauce”

And “Lynn’s Lovely Lemonade”

Being 8 is safe

Being 8 is free

Being 8 is choice

Being 8 is just the tiniest bit sad for Mama A

Because it means you will never again be 7

You will never be again 6

6 is the age that you were born to us

Our baby years with you only lasted a very little while

And you are already

8

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When my daughter sees gay marriage

She sees two parents

Kiss every morning

Every night

And really anytime we see each other

Then begs for kisses herself

She sees us pay our bills together

Make dinner together

Run our business together

Sing made-up song and laugh about nothing

She sees us go on dates, every week or month

She sees us talk it out

When I get triggered

By Lynn’s sarcasm

or she gets frustrated

By how controlling I can be

She sees us ask one another for what we need

Set boundaries

Choose self-care

Most of all, she sees how in love two people can be

After 15 years

How we put our marriage

First

Before even her needs

Because first, we had each other

Because we want to show her what

Healthy relationships look like

When my daughter sees gay marriage,

She sees our marriage

She sees

Love, stability, respect

She sees happy

She sees everything

She deserves

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I remember

Sitting

in a frozen yogurt shop

on a hot day

in Oakland.

The woman behind the counter

(a Wonderland of fruit and candy toppings)

kept smiling at us.

We get a lot of smiles.

3 beauties with skin

different shades

laughing loud,

holding hands,

singing songs

in public.

“Mamas, does the waitress think one of you are my Auntie?”

“I don’t know, Babe. How come?”

“Maybe, she never heard of a family with two Mamas before.”

“Oh…maybe.”

We went right back to singing.

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Raising a Go Girl! by Allison Kenny - 11M ago

They Want to Know-

Those Mom and Dad families

Feeling Curious

Wondering

Imagining

What Family is Like

When the Labels

Don’t Fit

When the Boxes

Aren’t Checked

Mom and Dad Families

Wonder

Who Takes Out the Trash?

And Who Does

Her Hair?

Who Can She Tell Her Secrets To?

And Who Cares For Her When She’s Sick?

How Many Moms Do You Have?

Kids At School Wanna Know

Two

She Says

Lucky!

Kids Know

What’s Up

They Know Love Wins and Would Never

Vote Otherwise

Mom and Dad Families

Have Questions

The Big One

The One They Ask

Most

Is

What Does She Call You?

What is the Name for

Families Like Mine

The Name is Yes

The Name is

Respect Our Rights

The Name is Equal

The Name is Awesome

The Name is Love

Also, I’m So Happy To Tell You

To Help You Picture Us

Families Like Mine

Beautiful

Real

As Important As Your Family

I’m So Happy to Tell You

She Calls Me

Mama A

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