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Archive for the 'Dating' Category

Our blended family vacation

July
13

There’s always a unique kind of dynamic with these situations — in our case two parents, each with their own child. That’s our blended family.

Last week we all hauled ourselves upstate and settled into a lakeside cabin, and I came away with some observations.


The interesting dynamic is how a blended family operates in these situations. We did all of the family activities you would expect: Canoeing, swimming, toasting marshmallows, taking a hike to a waterfall, etc.

But, in the end, there’s always a bit of a division that happens at the end of the day. That’s not to say it’s in a bad way, necessarily. But, ultimately, I gravitate toward my son and my girlfriend towards hers. The inescapable fact is that I am ultimately responsible for my son and she for hers, much as we do generally function as a family.

Is that bad? As I said, not necessarily.

But it’s certainly a different component that you don’t find in your traditional family. The hope is that, with time, those divisions are minimized. But I suspect they’ll always be there in some capacity.

My question is does this happen in traditonal families also?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, July 13th, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
| | 5 Comments »

Recommended: Pacem in Terris

June
22

Pretty unique and rewarding Father’s Day for me this year, and something I’d recommend.

We shelved the idea of a cookout or a ballgame this time out, and instead headed upstate to Warwick to visit Pacem in Terris — six acres of sculpture and meditation gardens along the Wawayanda River.

The gardens are the life work of Frederick Franck, a Dutch-born sculptor and author who spent nearly half a century adorning the land around his home with sculptures, artwork and meditation spaces. The NY Times did a nice piece on it three years ago.

Pacem in Terris essentially translates from Latin to mean Peace on Earth, and it’s in keeping with Franck’s spiritual outlook on life. Franck, who wrote more than 30 books on Buddhism and other subjects, died in 2006 at the age of 97, and the property is now maintained by his son, Lukas, as a nonprofit corporation.

Pacem is laced with Franck’s message, and immediately alerts visitors that it is “neither church, nor chapel, nor temple.” He cites his associations with Albert Schweitzer, Pope John XXIII and Buddhist scholar Daisetz Suzuki with helping shape his world view — and homages to them abound throughout.

Franck, a dental surgeon-turned artist, also has his work on display at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Tokyo National Museum and St. John the Divine Church.

My girlfriend turned us on to the place, which she frequented in past during times when she sought solace and tranquility. It was also a hit for my son, who is 11.

I would note that younger children may not be as enthralled — the place is not a playground. But for older kids, it’s a worthwhile experience. My son was very taken by it and was very vocal about appreciating that he and I shared it on Father’s Day.

Anyway, Pacem in Terris is at 96 Covered Bridge Road in Warwick, and, while it’s a tad out of the way, it’s worth a trip. Most of it is literally in Franck’s back yard, so visitors are asked to be respectful.

However, it is also free, and opens to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jfitzgibbon

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, June 22nd, 2009 at 10:30 am |
| | 5 Comments »

A dad’s place is…. on a blog

April
23

Leave it to a dad’s blog to make this case, but the Examiner’s fatherhood blog has put out a list of five reasons why dad blogs are worth keeping an eye one. You can read the post here.

(Kathy Gardner/The Journal News)

Obviously, Parents Place is a general parenting blog, with capable dads AND moms in the mix. So, we’re more inclusive and take a wider view of parenting.

But I’ve always felt that there’s a need out here for more of a voice from fathers, whether it’s dads in traditional homes like my co-bloggers Jon and Len, or myself,  a father building a blended family. So it’s reassuring to see a list like this out there, especially with more dads involved in hands-on parenting.

And remember, there’s no shortage of good dad blogs on our blogroll, including Crazy Computer Dad and David Mott’s Dad’s House.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 at 8:00 am |
| | 3 Comments »

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Does rent make the parent?

February
18

Interesting issue tackled by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The paper’s advice column fielded a question from a woman complaining that her boyfriend of three years was allowing his grown daughter to live in his house rent free. It has apparently become enough of an issue that she’s contemplating ending the relationship.

The paper’s answer? Since the girlfriend doesn’t live in the house and doesn’t contribute to the rent, it’s none of her business how the man runs his house.

This is not that far off an issue in single-parent relationships and within blended families, where turf issues — both physical and in terms of parental limits — are typical. What do you think?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
| | 7 Comments »

Our culture and the new clan

January
28

You don’t necessarily set out in life to start a blended family. Some of us simply find ourselves in a place where you’re a candidate for it. You start you first family, have a kid, then things don’t work out and you go through a divorce or a split.

As I’ve blogged before, I’ve been fortunate in my situation because my ex and I do remain friends, and split parenting duties amicably. But there’s always a loss, and that primarily comes in the loss of a sense of family — something kids in divided homes will almost always want to recapture as well.

In our case, my ex and I have been lucky: She’s remarried and I live with my girlfriend and her little boy, so we’re both a part of blended families now. In fact, we’re part of a growing trend that, right or wrong, is reshaping the American family. Census statistics say that 75% of divorced people remarry, and 43% of all marriages constitute a remarriage for at least one partner. Yet, there’s still no guarantees: 60% of remarriages end in legal divorce.

Is it a case of, “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try and try again?” Perhaps. But I think single parents in particular legitimately covet that feeling of family for themselves and their children — a growing number of single parents, in fact. Given all this, I want to put a few questions out there:

• What do you think about the changing family dynamic in America?

• Given the percentage of failed remarriages, do you feel children of single parents are generally better off with a lone parent or in a new, blended family?

• What is your gut reaction when someone tells you they’re a single parent?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

The prom date … revisited

June
12

Remember the prom date? “In this earlier blog,”:http://parentsplace.lohudblogs.com/2008/04/23/the-prom-date-debate I spoke about a mom who put her foot down when her 15-year-old son was asked to go to the prom by a senior girl in his high school. Her thinking was that he was too young, etc., etc. That sparked some lively debate.

Well, the prom came and went, and the 15-year-old did, indeed, attend with the older girl. It turns out that the boy’s mom ultimately had discussions with the girl’s mom, discussed it with her son, and they agreed to the ground rules. So she relented.

How’d he do? Things went smoothly. He was a gentleman, there were no after-parties, and he was home at the agreed-to time. By all accounts, the two had a wonderful — and safe — time together.

So, does this make the concern some of you had moot? Or did the mom dodge a bullet?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, June 12th, 2008 at 12:35 pm |
| | 3 Comments »

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The school dance

May
20

Friday was the big night out for my son — his school dance.

This was my son’s second dance, coming on the heels of last year’s fourth grade gala. The fifth-grade version wasn’t much different, except that I have learned to be less intrusive. That is to say, the first time around my ex and I were both there, and she kept prodding him to go and pick a girl to dance with. Not sure what we were thinking, because I wasn’t exactly love-struck at his age.

This time around I was on my own, so I backed off and let him do his thing. I noticed that I was one of the few solo parents there, and actually felt like something of an outcast being a single parent. That’s something that rarely happens with me, so it was an odd sensation. One of the other parents — who I actually went to school with years and years ago — spent a bit of time telling me about his storybook marriage and the splitting of parenting duties he and his wife are able to do: His wife took their son to a Boy Scout event the same night, so he escorted his daughter to the dance. I didn’t take offense, but I wondered why he felt it necessary.

Either way, I did my own thing, and watched from the wings with great amusement. My son, to his credit, stood in the crowd and danced his butt off pretty much  all night. At that age, they’re not necessarily looking for girls to dance with. The girls themselves nearly all dance — again on their own or with other girls. There’s just a real gender divide at this age.

Looking around that room, I wondered when that will start to change. He had his first kiss in kindergarten, and was quite popular with two girls in first grade. By second, he showed less interest, to the degree that now he couldn’t care less if a girl showed interest. So when does that change? I’m sure by high school it’ll be THE issue, over what girl or other he likes or likes him.

In the meantime, I’m good with standing in the wings and watching him do his own thing. As for being one of the few solo parents in the crowd, I’m good with that too. My boy seems okay with it.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, May 20th, 2008 at 10:13 am |
| | 2 Comments »

It’s vacation negotiation time….again

May
14

Is it that time of year already?

Seems to me that every year my ex and I do this vacation juggling act with our son: Who gets him which week, who has to compromise their plans, who put in for a particular week first, and so on and so on. Frankly, it’s when our amicable custodial agreement is most tested.

This year, my girlfriend and I have plans to head south to spend a week at a beach resort with our two boys, although our departure is delayed one day because of a scheduling conflict with my ex. My ex, meanwhile, has to interrupt her week away to drive back and drop my son off for my scheduled weekend with him. Well, it happens. We’ll work around it. The real tricky part comes with the bartering for weekends. It’s inevitable that we have to swap our weekends for this or that three-day getaway: I want to fly out and see my brother and my nephews on her weekend; she wants to extend her vacation by keeping our son over my weekend.

Let the negotiations begin!

We always end up working it out, and have somehow managed to keep our post-divorce friendship intact. But it leaves me wondering if there isn’t a system we could put into play, or some process that would make this whole juggling act function more smoothly in years to come, particularly as it’s not just the two of us that are affected by our scheduling: There’s her husband and his son, and my girlfriend and her little boy — our blended family. Everyone is potentially inconvenienced if it tips the wrong way.

So, does anyone have a fool-proof formula for this stuff?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, May 14th, 2008 at 1:18 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

My blended-family report card

May
9

 It seems like it’s about time that I gave myself a blended family test. After all, my girlfriend and I have been working on this for quite some time now, and I wonder myself if I’m always doing my part as the two of us and our two boys build our new clan.

With that in mind, I went on the web and stumbled onto “this online piece”:http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Blended-Family—Three-Tips-On-Making-Your-Blended-Family-Blend&id=580108 on making blended families work. Seems as good as any three tips I’ve come across. And what better way to rate my own performance?

So, here goes:

TIP 1: Both parents need to stop tooting their own horns. Each parent needs to give up the old ways of family and agree on a unified way that each agrees to for raising the children.

MY GRADE: This has been an adjustment for me, but I am increasingly open. One does get into parenting habits when you’re a single parent, and you tend to cling to them when they worked. So, shaking loose of that in a new familial setting takes some effort. I’m learning, or at least being more open to it. Grade: C

TIP 2:  Each parent and each of the children must learn to accept differences.

MY GRADE: Another adjustment for me, but one I was a tad more prepared for. I think I’ve generally done quite good on it, though. And my son has generally been a trooper, so some of that must rub off on me. Grade: B+

TIP 3: This new family will need to learn how to be courteous to each other.

MY GRADE: I think I’m generally pretty good on this one. Disagreements do at times breed discourteous behavior, and I’m a firm believer that a healthy disagreement now and again lets off some steam. Grade: B-

If I’m honest with myself I’d have to say that there are two major things I’ve learned, and need to heed more often. First, not to let things fester, no matter how minor they seem at the time; and, second, address the more sensitive issues at calm, stress-free times. Do I always take my own advice on these things? Probably not.

But, you know, this whole thing is a work in progress, and the fact that we talk about these things is a real plus. But I could honestly do better. I figure that gives me an overall C+ grade. Maybe next semester I can get up to a B?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, May 9th, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

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Welcome to Dad’s House

April
25

The more I search, the more I find.

As in more single-parenting websites. This is a particularly good one from David Mott, a West Coast dad who runs the “Dad’s House”:http://dadshouseblog.com blog. David is a divorced dad with half-time custody, and addresses everything from solo parenting to the single-parent dating scene and all the issues in between.

He tells me that his goal is to tell the world “that single fathers are perfectly capable of caring for children and running a household solo.” He concedes that his half-custody situation puts him in a different role than solo moms or single parents with full-time custody. But there is plenty of common ground in terms of dating, relationships and parenting concerns. He hits on all those and posts regularly.

“I’m sharing stories and opinions on online dating,” he said. “Also how to deal with things like the general lack of acceptance of a single dad by married couples, and things to do with your alone time. Interestingly enough, my blog has already opened some eyes to married readers who are now re-evaluating the father’s role in a household that has both parents. I’m all for men being more present with their children.”

I’m trying to be selective in the sites I add to my blogroll, and didn’t hesitate adding Dad’s House. The stories are always honest, often funny and consistently useful. And if you noticed, David has already begun providing his input on my posts here, which is valuable to the discussions we engage in.

As I like to say, check it out.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, April 25th, 2008 at 9:57 am |
| | 2 Comments »

The prom date debate

April
23

Looking for input on this one.

This is an issue that came up in a friend’s family, and I differ with my girlfriend and others on it. The scenario is this:  A 15-year-old boy was asked to go to the Senior Prom by a senior at the school. The parents know each other and the kid’s a good kid. He’s never been in trouble, very mature and the whole bit. The girl asked him, and he said yes.

Next, he told his mom, who said he could not go because he is too young to go to a Senior Prom. The boy never shared this with the girl, and told her he would be going. When the parents ran into each other, the boy’s mom found out he had not declined as she told him. So, he got grounded and will not be going to the prom either way.

The two issues are this: Is a 15-year-old boy too young to go to a Senior Prom? Secondly, should he have been grounded for defying his mother’s wishes and not telling the girl he wouldn’t be allowed to go? Frankly, I’m not sure how he would’ve pulled it off when the prom day comes around, but perhaps he hoped to convince his mother before then.

For the record, the parent here is in a traditional two-parent home, so it’s not a single-parenting issue. Of course, I always think of these situations as they would apply to single-parent or blended family homes, and I think that adds other potential elements. So, my third question is, does your answer to the first two questions change if I apply the situation to a single-parent household?

Anyway, what do you think?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 at 10:12 am |
| | 15 Comments »

The single-parent blender

March
5

When I started writing here I thought that blogging as a single parent would offer a needed voice on our parenting blog. I hope I’ve been right. But something’s changed.

Several people have asked me if I am truly a single parent — my girlfriend among them. Well, yes and no. I am divorced and therefore unmarried. And I am a parent. But am I single? In one sense, yes. In another, no, as in, I’m spoken for. So it sent me on a quest for a more accurate label. It didn’t take much thought to figure out that my girlfriend and I have a blended family, as I’ve blogged about before: We live together with our children from prior relationships.

But do I have a right to the single-parent tag? I share some issues with truly single parents, and not others. I seem to share all the issues with parents in blended families.

Ultimately, I’m not so sure it matters. My point in joining this blog was that there were many of us out here living with children in non-traditional homes, and that continues to be the case. That also seems to be the issue — and the point. I also have several years of experience as a truly single parent, which led me to this point.

Hopefully, all of us who find ourselves single with kids will make the same journey from single parent to blended family. With any luck, that transition will lead us to a traditional blended family of onetime single parents.

But perhaps that’s a blog for another day.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, March 5th, 2008 at 12:51 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

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Stepparent rules

February
8

Raising kids isn’t easy. It’s even harder when they’re not yours.

And there are two distinct sides to the dynamic: Your child and your partner’s child.

Yours: You have to learn to relinquish control, and allow that your partner is going to be in a parenting role with your child — regardless of how subtly you introduce them to the role. This has admittedly been hard for me, only because my son and I had been alone for so many years and established, not only a strong bond, but a set of rules that revolved around the two of us. I’m learning.

Partner’s: This is not your biological child, and he has a father. Yet, you are in a parenting role, again, regardless of how slowly you enter into it. This is a tough balancing act for me, because I want my girlfriend’s son to continue to like me and accept me. But I also have to adhere to the rules set out for him, and correct misconduct when it’s necessary. I’m trying to find that balance.

Well, here are “some things to keep in mind,”:http://www.kidsfirstinternet.org/infostepparentyounger.htm from a link that was forwarded to me. But it’s also a “gut” thing, and you have to work with your partner to ensure all the kids in the home — biological kids and stepkids alike — feel that the rules apply evenly to them. We’re working on that balance as well.

Because if you’re trying to build a blended family, you have to accept that they really are yours after all.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, February 8th, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
| | Comments Off on Stepparent rules

Making it work

February
4

With so many unmarried couples moving in together, it was only a matter of time before lawyers figured out a way to make some cash from the situation. So now there’s an increase in cohabitation agreements, which lay out the rules for out-of-wedlock couples. This doesn’t apply just to single parent blended families, but having kids in the mix ups the stakes a bit for single parents.

I’m not pushing for the agreements, but think it’s a good idea to have some questions addressed and some issues ironed out in those situations. This is something we’ve addressed piecemeal in our home, and something we need to go back and address in more detail.

With that in mind, I found “this checklist for couples”:http://www.divorce360.com/articles/460/live-together-and-do-it-legally.aspx who are sharing a home but not a marriage. It’s another one of those tip sheets I love to put out there, as I think they lay the groundwork for serious discussion in single-parent and blended-family households. At least it’s a start.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, February 4th, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
| | 3 Comments »

One single dad’s journey

February
1

It’s not as if I need another book on my reading list, which is already backed up. But this one seems worth a look.

To hear him tell it, single dad blogger “Trey Ellis”:http://treyellis.com/blog had been plotting this out for a heck of a long time, even before he began writing in earnest three years ago. Initially, he simply sought to put together a memoir of his experiences as a single father. It kind of ended up being a little bit more than that.

“I was determined to capture the unvarnished truth,” he told me, “so I included events that evoke pity: my parents’ early deaths, my wife leaving me to raise our then three-year-old girl and eight-month-old boy, as well as revulsion: Internet porn and Brazilian hookers, as well as envy: beautiful French actresses, models, and an Italian countess.”

“As you will see in the book, the reason it took so long to finish was that I was living a life in search of an ending.”

Well, at least he seems to have found an ending for his book. “Bedtime Stories: Adventures in the Land of Single-Fatherhood”:http://treyellis.com/bedtimestories.htm makes me envious because I wish I had thought of it first.

But most of all, Bedtime Stories has me curious and interested to pick it up when it hits the bookshelves. Trey, who’s one of the single parent bloggers I’ve tracked down and put on the blogroll here, seems poised for some success with this. He’s even gotten an endorsement from writer Naomi Wolf, who called it “moving, funny, down-to-earth, sexy and delightful.”

So, best of luck to Trey. It’s on the top of my list.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, February 1st, 2008 at 11:28 am |
| | 2 Comments »

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About this blog
Parents’ Place is a hangout for openly discussing the A’s to Z’s of raising a child in the Lower Hudson Valley. From deciding when to stop using a binky to when to let your teenager take driving lessons, Parents’ Place is here to let us all vent, share, and most of all, learn from each other.
Leading the conversation are Julie Moran Alterio, a business reporter and mom of a toddler, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, a reporter and single father with joint custody of a 9-year-old son, and Len Maniace, a reporter and father of two sons.


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About the authors
Julie Moran AlterioJulie Moran AlterioJulie Moran Alterio, her husband and baby girl — “Pumpkin” — share their Northern Westchester home with three iPods and more colorful plastic toys than seems necessary to entertain one tiny human. READ MORE
Jorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-Gibbon has been a journalist for more than 20 years and a father for nine. READ MORE
Jane LernerJane LernerJane Lerner covers health and hospitals for The Journal News in Rockland, where she lives with her husband and two children. READ MORE
Len Maniace.jpgLen ManiaceLen Maniace is a reporter and father of two sons. READ MORE



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