6:30 AM: I’m up before my foster son, Darren.
I like to have my first cup of coffee before starting the day’s adventures with my thirteen-year-old. I’ll need the caffeine to keep up with him. Over the six months he’s been with me, we’ve figured out a morning routine that works for us. I knock on his bedroom door fifteen minutes before he has to get up. He has a better morning if he has time to pull himself together before he gets out of bed. I have a better morning if I have my coffee before Darren gets up.
6:45 AM: Time to wake up Darren.
From the sound of his grunt, he’s heard me. I get out several boxes of cereal he can choose from after he dresses for the day. We don’t talk much during breakfast. Neither one of us is a big morning talker and we don’t have a lot of time. I remind him that today he sees his therapist after school. Her office is near his school, so he can walk there. He groans, but his protests have gotten milder and he never misses an appointment. I tell him my mother will be picking him up after his appointment and coming back here with him until I get home from work. He’d like to stay home alone, but I don’t think he’s ready for that yet.
7:15 AM: And he’s off.
He’s out the door to meet his friend James to walk to school. It took him a while to make a friend in the neighborhood. But now that he has, it seems easier for him to get out the door on time.
Darren and I have an agreement that prevents a lot of craziness in the morning. Each evening before a school day, he’ll get his backpack ready and place it by the front door. I’ll put his lunch in it in the morning. He always asks me if I remembered his lunch. Sometimes I have to remind myself that Darren hasn’t always been able to count on having enough to eat. So, his checking on me every day makes perfect sense. I also have to remind myself that something as simple as making his lunch every day will help him learn to trust adults to take care of him.
Now I can get ready for work!
12:30 PM: During lunch I return a call from his guidance counselor.
I know that this may not be good news. Darren’s been struggling with some of his classes and is frustrated by long reading assignments. He’s changed schools so many times in his life that it’s a wonder that he manages to keep up at all. The news from the guidance counselor is mixed. He’s still having a hard time with writing assignments, but the school has finally approved extra support for him that his social worker and I have been asking for. He’ll get to work one-on-one with an aide twice a week.
Also, he made the seventh grade basketball team. Hallelujah! Note to self: call D’s therapist and beg for an appointment time that doesn’t conflict with his basketball schedule.
3:30 PM: Call from Darren’s social worker.
I fill her in on the latest school developments. We schedule D’s next visit with his two sisters who live in a foster home in a nearby town, and I request information on summer programs. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a foster parent, it’s to plan ahead!
5:30 PM: Dinner time.
I stopped at CVS on my way home to get supplies, which Darren “just remembered” he needs for his social studies poster. It’s due tomorrow. I remind myself that he’s just a kid and this is what kids do. I get dinner on the table (lasagna, no complaints) and “remind” Darren of our agreement; he mumbles a little, but clears the table.
6:30 PM: Homework!
As Darren works on his social studies poster, he gets a little tense. I provide gentle encouragement, avoid taking over the project and ask him how I can be of help. (No, I won’t “do the whole crappy thing for you,” but I’ll help you organize your materials and show you how to draw a simple map of Massachusetts.) Miraculously, it gets done and we put it with his backpack.
8:00 PM: Hanging out.
Although he tells me everyone else has a tv in their bedroom, I stick to my “no electronics in your bedroom” policy. He says he’s going to tell his social worker. I agree that he has every right to do so. Our computer and television stay in shared spaces. Despite his complaints, we end up spending relaxed time together. When he’s slouched on the couch watching tv, he’s most likely to tell me about his day. Tonight he told me he thinks he “aced” his math quiz. Also, he wonders if his sisters can come to his basketball games. I tell him I’ll check with his social worker and his sisters’ foster parents.
9:00 PM: Bedtime.
It took awhile, but Darren finally accepts going to bed at 9 on school nights. He still tells me it’s way too early, but when I check on him around 9:30, he’s always out cold. Which is good because I’m exhausted. He looks like the sweet boy he is when he sleeps.
9:30 PM: “My time.”
I need time to catch my breath after another busy day. Often I text one of my fellow foster parents. They understand the wonderful craziness of foster parenting. As I head off to bed, I wonder what tomorrow will bring. I remind myself that today was another day of stability and safety for Darren. And, that’s a good thing.
Written by Diane Kindler