Before I adopted my daughter, Hannah, age 6 at the time, I read lots of books. I talked to parents. I babysat. I researched. I observed. I was nervous about becoming a first-time parent, and I wanted to be as prepared as possible.

But there are certain things that no one told me about …

  1. That once you have a child, you enter the “secret parent club.” When you walk down a street, or into a library, or push a cart through the grocery store– all with your child in tow– other parents smile, nod, and say hello.
  2. That with an inquisitive child, wandering through Home Depot can become an afternoon’s entertainment. Hannah always has to remind me, however, “Mom, slow down … don’t walk so fast … we’re just looking around … “
  3. That no matter how much you tell yourself before your child is home that you won’t take them to McDonald’s, you will.
  4. That even though you defend your McDonald’s visits by saying, “We hardly ever go,” you still end up throwing away gazillions of kids meal toys.
  5. That as a parent, you become a receptacle for gum wrappers, sticks, pebbles, toy car wheels, and broken doll arms. Your child hands you everything that needs to be thrown away or protected until you both get home.
  6. That airports are full of places to play with a child. You can walk down corridors skipping every other floor tile, race each other up different escalators, and race-walk in the passageway next to the trains.
  7. That going out the door without kid snacks, kid drinks, and wet wipes is against the parenting rules.
  8. That life is much easier before your child learns how to tell time. After that, they time you when you say you’ll be on the phone “just two more minutes.”
  9. That the curb next to your parked car is a great place for a child to sit for a time out.
  10. That your name changes. You go from being Susan to being called Ms. Ward, Ms. Susan, or “Hannah’s mom,” as in, “Hannah’s mom, are you going to come help in our class this week?”
  11. That on airplanes, the people who smile sympathetically when your child is wild and refuses to do up her seat belt are parents.
  12. That what people think about your parenting abilities becomes less and less important the longer you’re a parent.
  13. That I could learn to be so silly and giggle so much with my child.
  14. That I would have so much fun walking barefoot in streams with my child.
  15. That snuggling up with my child and reading together would become my favorite pastime.
  16. That I would love my child beyond words.

Susan M. Ward, an older child adoption specialist, provides parent coaching and resources for adoptive families. Susan’s training has focused on adoption issues relating to attachment, grief, and parenting. She’s also the adoptive parent of a child healed from RAD (reactive attachment disorder). Her website is