10 Things I’ve Learned in My First 2 Weeks as a Foster Parent

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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.

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“I don’t like chicken!” “You literally ate chicken last night.” “Well, I tricked you.”

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.

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“Can I please have some more milk?” “Sure, AJ can get it for you.” “I WANT YOU TO GET IT FOR ME!”

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!

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Not all heroes wear capes. Some heroes are just self-congratulatory for waking up and doing what adults are supposed to do.

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.

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Probably need to just start getting ready for bed beginning at 5 pm.

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.

LEAVE A COMMENT: What did you learn about yourself when you became a parent?

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20 thoughts on “10 Things I’ve Learned in My First 2 Weeks as a Foster Parent

  1. Oh I am laughing at SO much of this! I always say my kids are off like a herd of turtles. Their slowness boggles the mind! And food? Forget it. Just because they eat it one time does not mean they won’t burst into tears if you dare feed it to them a second time.
    But I LOVE that you are finding yourself as a parent and loving who you are in that role. That right there is a big part of why we keep them 🙂

    1. Off like a herd of turtles is the most accurate description of all time! That is amazing! I’m dying.

  2. I’ll give you my #1 parenting tip to avoid tantrums. Choices. People including kids like to have control. So give them choices. Make both results what you want. Example: would you like to leave the park in 5 minutes or after you go on the big slide 5 times. Let them choose. Would you like a banana or an apple as a snack with lunch. Would you like to take your vitamins first or put in your pajamas?

    It works well a lot of the time. The only thing I don’t give choices on is what’s for dinner. I make one meal. It’s all I can do. If they hate it they make themselves cold cereal and I don’t (try not to) take it personally.

    By the way – I learned this at a parenting seminar. Walked out of the room thinking – whatever, that will never work. But it does.

    1. I guess I should have mentioned this in the article – we actually do that! We do choices for pretty much everything, and you’re right – it really does work! I read about it in a book for foster/adoptive parents and it has been so unbelievably helpful. Especially for kids from trauma backgrounds, it helps them feel more in control of their lives and I think that’s a very good thing! We had done both choices and a countdown at the park on the day of the first tantrum, but there was also a lot of other stuff going on too.

  3. HA!!! Yuuuuup, you nailed it in a nutshell. I literally can’t imagine jumping into a 5yo situation like you, but at the same time no amount of books prepped me for having any age of child.

    I can so SO relate to: no sleep, more wine, I’m the one who is more strict w/ the little guy in spite of being less strict in real life, and the logistics of….EVERYTHING. But, hang in there – especially with that last one you’ll find a good groove. Back to school time is always tough for the first few weeks until everyone finds a good routine.

    Also, you both are AMAZING people.

    1. Thank you so much, Adam! We are definitely starting to find our groove and it has made things much easier. It really has been a lot of fun to see the world through a kid’s eyes, and he is a joy to be around 95% of the time. Just has way more energy than we do, haha!

  4. Getting to meet him on Sunday, and observing how you treat him, I could not be more proud of you and AJ! You were calm, loving, patient and did everything right! He is a sweetheart and is thriving in your care. I had so much fun being a “grandma” for the day. Btw, #3 on your list is totally the truth. I remember when you were little and Daddy would be in the kitchen, but you always came looking for me! Paybacks are a b****. Love you 💕💕💕

    1. Thanks so much, mom! That means a lot. He is very excited for his new blanket and definitely looking forward to you coming to visit again soon.

  5. Hilarious! And all so true – I do agree with Amy that giving some amount of control can help mitigate tantrums … sometimes. And it depends on the personality of the child – some like more structure, some like more freedom. But all like to feel ownership of stuff – and giving it to them on things that are easy to let go is definitely a great approach. But there are still absolutes, will still be tantrums .. mostly from the kids, but none of us are perfect 🙂

    I love that you have found happiness in this – and have been pleased with ‘who you are’. It is really a journey of self-discovery – eventually it becomes a routine and second nature, but you never know what the heck you’re doing! 🙂

    As for what I discovered: I have infinite patience, have fun playing with kids (sometimes they like engagement rather than space), am great doing voices reading books aloud … and apparently have a voice that can stop kids dead in their tracks when there is mayhem (realized it when one mom said ‘I need to get that voice for myself’ and the others agreed)! haha

    1. Yes! He is responding really well to choices most of the time and that has been a great tool for us. Like you said, it doesn’t ALWAYS work (sometimes he doesn’t like either choice), but we have mostly been able to avoid complete meltdowns. I actually said something very similar to AJ in the midst of one of the more difficult days: “We’re adults and we can’t control our behavior and emotions all the time, how can we expect a 5 year old to?” It puts it into perspective.

  6. I don’t have kids, much less foster kids, but I’m really loving your tips and your two week remarks on how things have changed already. I think you should revisit this blog post in a year or two and after a few kids and maybe comment again on things you’ve learned.

    I have so much respect and admiration for you and AJ for fostering, too. It’s been fun following your journey.

    1. I definitely will! I will probably look back on this whole post and laugh 🙂 But I figure the learning curve is steepest at the beginning so I might as well start documenting now!

  7. I love the choices recommendation. Also giving my nephew warnings really helps too to mitigate the tantrums aka, kid, you have 5 more minutes of swing time and we are leaving or 10 more mins of video games before dinner is ready. Abrubt transitions can be hard for kids. You sound like you’re doing a great job.

    1. Yes! Oh my gosh, choices and warnings are our bread and butter around here. We do countdowns for pretty much everything! It really does work 95% of the time and we avoid issues (besides the occasional tiny whine). Great advice!

  8. Danielle….I love this post (I may say that about quite a few). But seriously….the brutal honesty (but with a lot of humor thrown in) is just pure awesomeness. I became a parent by carrying the child over 9 months. You and AJ….overnight….to a 5 year old. Seriously, the way you relay things to your readers it really sounds like you are both doing a friggin’ amazing job. Parenting is not easy (not that you ever thought it would be), but….well….I do not really know what to say. This is all so true. And I think what I love the most….is #10. I love that you love who you are/have become as a parent. I do not know how many of us could say that (uhh….myself included). You and AJ just keep doing your thing because it definitely sounds like you are doing something well and very right!

    1. Thank you, Aimee! I am not sure if we are doing an awesome job or not but we are definitely trying our best. The honesty and candor is really important to me, as it always has been on my blog, but especially in this situation. There are many amazing and wonderful things about becoming a foster parent for the first time, but there’s also a lot of annoying things and weird things, too! I want people to know what it is really like and hopefully that will help them decide if foster parenting is something they could handle. Plus, there are lots of funny moments that I feel compelled to share 🙂

  9. I love you, and I love this. I knew you would be incredible parents an dfoster parents, and I am so proud of you for this.
    I am really interested that you are not the disciplinarian! I don’t think that Alex and I will deviate; we all know I am going to be the bad guy.

    1. Thanks girl! Never say never. Honestly, you might surprise yourself. Our personalities have both been so different than we expected! Of course, it is different with a baby, though. Not much to discipline when you’ve got a newborn, ya know?

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