It can’t be emphasized enough – becoming a parent via foster parenting has turned my world upside down. While that may seem like a negative description, it’s actually all-encompassing. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my husband, and parenthood in general in just a few short weeks. The learning curve is steep and the adjustment is fierce, but the effort has been more than worth it. Besides the hours of lost sleep, of course. Can I get that back?
1. I drink less water and more wine (oops). In my previous life (two weeks and one day ago), I carried a gigantic water bottle everywhere and drank at least 100 oz a day. Now? I’m constantly running around after my foster son and not lugging that bottle around with me. A 64-ounce day is now the norm. As for the wine? Well, I think that is pretty self-explanatory. I’m working on the water thing, but the wine can stay.
2. I’m much more patient and much less neurotic than I thought I’d be. Full confession: I had a considerable fear that I would make a terrible parent. Not in an abusive or dangerous way, of course, but more in a neurotic, helicopter, perfectionist type of way. I thought I’d freak out over small misbehaviors and constantly be the “bad guy.” The opposite has actually proven to be true. I’m far more patient, compassionate, and kind than I ever thought was possible. I honestly think my level of empathy grew 500% overnight. I actually really like the person that I am when I am parenting, and I hope that this newfound patience and calm infiltrates all areas of my life.
3. AJ is the disciplinarian: For those of you who know AJ and I in real life, you know that he is generally quieter and more reserved than I am. He’s the calm one, the unflappable presence, the person who never worries. Logically, I think we both expected that I would be the stricter and tougher parent and the one more likely to get upset. In actuality, he is far tougher than I am. I’m not sure either one of us really expected that. It turns out that punishing kids is kind of hard and I am a little bit weak in this area. I tend to over-empathize and over-think the reasons behind different behaviors to some extent, where he just has a standard and sticks with it. I don’t think one way is better than the other, but it’s been interesting to see this side of ourselves unfold.
4. Sugar? What sugar? Maybe I’m just busier now, but I am eating a lot less in general and definitely much less sugar. I think it’s because when I am home, I am usually playing, making dinner, doing bath time, or whatever – not as much time is spent thinking about all the yummy dark chocolate in my pantry. We also of course limit the amount of sugar that our foster son has, so it is not constantly in my face. That said, I am now thinking about it, so it’s time to go get some chocolate. BRB.
5. Foster kids ask tough questions…and I don’t have the answers: We have had our foster son with us for a little over two weeks now, and the reality of the situation is starting to dawn on him. He is starting to ask more and more questions about when he will go home, why he can’t be with his family, why his house isn’t safe, and things like that. There are no easy answers to those questions ever – and as foster parents, we often don’t know the answers to them anyway – but there’s really no easy answer to those questions when you are 5 years old and just want to see your mom. It’s heartbreaking. I do the best I can to be honest and reassuring at the same time, but sometimes, it’s just about letting them be sad (or angry or scared) for a little while.
6. It’s easier to get out of bed and go run now: You guys know I’m not a morning person. Quite frankly, I thought that my running might end up getting thrown out the window entirely when we became foster parents because I knew my only running time would be super early and I thought I might just quit altogether. I didn’t want that to happen, but I was also sort of ok with it if it did. After all, there are seasons in life for everything. The opposite has proven to be true! It’s much easier to me to get out of bed now (even at 5 am) and go running because I see very clearly how much it helps me to focus before starting the day. Since we are still adjusting to parenthood, it can feel really overwhelming to wake up in the morning and immediately be confronted by the reality of taking care of a child. Taking an hour to run before I start my day makes a huge difference in how I approach everything – I’m in a better, more focused mood when I’m done!
7. No kid ever wants to leave the park: The first weekend that we had him, our foster son threw his very first tantrum (with us) over leaving the park. We handled it and got through it, but the shock of that moment (again, as a near parent) stuck with me. I relayed the incident to another parent I was talking to at the park, and he laughed. “Oh, my kids throw a fit every time it’s time to leave the park, and they’re 8,” he said. “Welcome to parenting.” In my scientific-ish research observing other kids at the park since then, I can now say that this is pretty much true. At least it’s not just us.
8. The appointments suck: Something I didn’t really grasp before we received our first placement was just how many appointments foster kids go to when they first come into the system. There are doctor’s appointments, hearings, visitation, developmental assessments, interviews, mental health evaluations, dentist appointments, and more. They seem endless! While I do not have to provide transportation for all of them, I do have to transport a good portion of the time. It’s not only challenging for me trying to juggle a full-time job, it’s also hard because the kids miss SO much school. Fortunately, our foster son is 5 and developmentally on track, so we are not too worried about it right now. If he was in middle school or high school and already behind, though, this would be a really tough obstacle to overcome. I understand why the appointments are necessary, but it seems like they could be spread out a bit more or scheduled better so the kids don’t have to miss so much school.
9. Kids take forever to do anything: I thought AJ took forever to eat dinner. I was wrong. Our foster son takes forever to eat dinner. And put his pajamas on, and get out of the bath tub, and pick out a book, and pick out a snack, and the list goes on. This situation has been easier to mitigate once we learned this, and we’re now better at scheduling the appropriate amount of time needed for bedtime (or whatever), but holy crap. Seriously, just pick a book. We can read the other one tomorrow.
10. I like who I am as a parent: I have seen a lot of positive changes in myself since we took our placement in, and honestly, they have really surprised me. I wasn’t sure how I would handle the adjustment, but I am more patient, more kind, more silly, more joyful, more productive, more motivated, more…everything. I don’t know how long this will last or when the other shoe will drop, but right now, I feel like Superwoman. I have to say, I really like the person I am as a parent. I hope it stays that way.
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