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Archive for the 'Fatherhood' Category

Census: Fewer families with kids at home

March
4

Interesting stats out from the U.S. Census Bureau. In a nutshell, fewer families have children under 18 living at home. The number dropped to 46 percent last year, down from 57 percent in the ’60s.

The reason, the bureau says, is because of lower fertility rates and the aging of Baby Boomers.

“Decreases in the percentage of families with their own child under 18 at home reflect the aging of the population and changing fertility patterns,” said Rose Kreider, family demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau.
“In 2008, not only were baby boomers old enough that most of their children were 18 and over, but they were having fewer kids than their parents, as well.”

Among the factors:

• Increases in longevity: The average numbers of years of life remaining at age 30 increased by about three years, comparing those 30 in 1960 with baby boomers who turned 30 in 1980 . As adults live longer, more married-couple households will be older and either childless or with adult children who live elsewhere.

• Increases in childlessness: The percentage of women 40 to 44 who were childless increased from 10 percent in 1976 to 20 percent in 2006.

So, society is getting older and having fewer kids at home. Or is there a deeper story behind the stats?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Single-parent bailout?

February
23

Single-parent blogger Jennifer Wolf addresses an interesting issue in her About.com column: Are single parents included under “families” getting a helping hand in the new economic stimulus package? Well, according to her, the wording of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 suggests not.

There’s at least some legs to the issue: Examiner.com picked it on their site. To me, it’s less about the stimulus package and more about the redefinition of “family,” as Wolf points out. I suppose there’s two viewpoints on this: A family should legally be a traditional family, or it should be much more loosely defined. The latter is up for interpretation, either a household of children and at least one adult in a parenting role, or whatever. And you could argue that the traditional family definition ignores some demographic realities.

No doubt the issue is heightened when you’re talking about who gets stimulus money and how much is out there to give. But I suspect it’s a gray area we’re going to have to define at some point or other.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, February 23rd, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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 »

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My cellular kid

February
13

I got my 11-year-old son a cell phone.

I know, why does an 11-year-old need a cell phone? I actually dwelled on this for a while, understanding that some of his schoolmates have had them for a couple of years. And I wondered why he would need one. The upside was that he would be able to reach out to us in an emergency or if there was a change in plans during afterschool activities or while at a friend’s house for the day. The downside was, well, why does he need it?

So, in the end I got him one, and I figured it was a good exercise in responsibility for him: Manage your  minutes, use it wisely and you’ll be able to keep it. As an aside, I also wanted him to have a way to keep in touch with his cousin, who he is very close with and who he is likely to see less off now that my ex’s mom — their grandmother — passed away at the end of last year. She was the glue that kep those kids in touch. Now they’re able to text and stay in touch regularly.

But I wondered about what it would cost. I have friends whose kids chalked up hundreds of dollars in cell phone bills after first getting one. So I waited for the “report card” — the first cell phone bill since we added him to our calling plan. Well, it came this week, and he’s well within his minutes. Phew.

Still, was it still a good idea? What age should we be hooking up our kids with telecommunication gadgets?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, February 13th, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
| | 12 Comments »

My son’s health care crisis

February
11

It’s a little bit different than the dilema plaguing many families across the nation right now. My son has too much health care coverage. This is the kind of thing you’d only get from layers of blind bureaucracy.

In a nutshell, my son has been on my health plan since my ex and I split up. No problem there. Recently, she added he husband and his son to her health care plan. Somehow, the paperwork was mixed and my son ended up on her plan too. Except we didn’t know right away. Anyway, she finds out and confirms this at her job and we discuss it. She suggests leaving him on her plan and we agree to do so. Obviously, I agree to remove my son from my plan. Seems simple.

Now, this is the kind of arrangement my ex and I have always been able to follow through on amicably. I’ve paid his health care costs for six years, and she figured it seemed fair that, given the inadvertent mess up by her health insurance carrier, we use the opportunity to have her pick up the costs to even things out. Seems fair. I know full well that health care costs are routine issues in custody disputes, and I am grateful that in this instance it has never been an issue.

Well, it wasn’t so simple. My health insurance provider says I had to make the change by Jan. 31, or I have to wait a year. I get it: That’s the rule. But that there’s no flexibility at all seems, well, bureaucratic. Oh, they are sending me an appeal request form, which will be considered and processed after a month of review.

I suppose the upside is that my son won’t be lacking for health care this year. But it strikes me as unfair that there are kids out there with no health coverage and my son is covered under two plans.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 at 2:03 pm |
| | Comments Off on My son’s health care crisis

My metal-head kid

February
9

Last year I took my son to his first “concert:” a performance by Ringo Starr and his all star band at Radio City Music Hall. This time we turned it up a notch.

The truth is my 11-year-old is a metal-head with a guitar teacher who is a Metallica nut. So I bit: Two weeks ago I took him to see Metallica at the Prudential Center in Newark, with ear-plugs in tow. Now, I think we’re fortunate to be in a situation where it’s common for my generation to have similar musical tastes with our children, simply because we grew up on rock. And, let’s face it, Metallica has been around long enough that it they were a big deal in my college and post-college days.

So we were able to share the experience. To me, it was a great bonding experience, similar to my view on video games. He and I play X-Box together all the time, which I enjoy as long as his schoolwork is done and we still put aside time to do more traditional recreational activities.

Still, I’ve had other parents express surprise that I would take my son to a heavy metal show and that I would devote so much time to playing video games with him. Is there a viewpoint out there that those things either cut into traditional parent-child relationships or are prematurely exposing kids to “older kid” activities?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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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 »

Promises, Promises

January
26

When my son was just a few months old, our pediatrician promised he’d be sleeping through the night by the time he was 6-months old.

Okay maybe she didn’t promise. But we should have had her define ‘through the night’. His version is nothing like what we were led to believe.

Now 13 months, he goes to bed between 6 and 7 pm, depending on how many times he interrupts his bottle or book reading to march back and forth across his room waving a piece of paper, or a block, or his teddy bear or whatever else is at hand. 

When he finally has enough milk, one of four things happens: the bottle is finished and he has fallen asleep and we put him in the crib; the bottle is finished, he pushes it away and goes off on another marchfest; the bottle isn’t finished but he’s asleep and we put him in the crib; the bottle isn’t finished, he pushes it away and goes off on another marchfest. 

Options 1 and 3, we love. Options 2 and 4 usually extend bedtime by 30 to 45 minutes. But its OK. He’s adorable and usually in good spirits at this point. 

He routinely wakes up after that sometime between 10 and midnight. 

There is nothing cuter than the half-asleep pose he assumes sitting there in a corner of his crib. There is nothing more frustrating than not knowing what it is he wants since he’s not talking to us yet (I mean, he’s talking but we have no idea what he’s saying). Sometimes, it takes another bottle, sometimes a diaper change, sometimes a walk around the apartment in the stroller. 

I’ve heard people put their young kids into the car and drive around the block a few times. I live in Manhattan. I’ll do anything for my son short of give up a parking spot.

Getting back to ‘through the night’, the hardest part is when he wakes up for good, usually between 4 and 5 in the morning. Through the night should mean ‘until it’s light out’ or at least when I can raise the blinds and show him something other than the bread and newspaper trucks.

When I’m really, really, really tired I put on a DVD of one of the original Sesame Street episodes, stick him in the Pack n’ Play and slink off back to bed. He usually cries for a few minutes but then gets that deer in headlights look when he’s mesmerized by a television show. 

One morning the reprieve lasted just 24 minutes. When I went to the living room to see what had happened, I realized I had put on Jack’s Big Music Show instead of Sesame Street. Lesson of that day was to always make sure to set him up with an hour-long show.

Posted by Jon Bandler on Monday, January 26th, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

Is Spongebob killing our kids?

January
23

It seems this issue has been around forever. In 2006, a group of parents and advocacy groups threatened to sue Kelloggs and Viacom, Nickelodeon TV’s parent company, over the peddling of unhealthy food on commercials during shows like Spongebob Squarepants. In 2007, Kelloggs agreed to get more health-aware, and the suit was dropped.

But with Spongebob still flipping greasy crabby patties, and sugar-laced cereal still being plugged on the tube, it seems a lot of parents and advocates are still up in arms. The current issue of Best Life, put out by Men’s Health Magazine, takes issue with corporate cartoons and lists how to fight back. In October, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood took issue with the whole health thing as well. And I understand the concern, as kids’ waistlines are growing and growing. But aren’t we missing the point?

I mean, isn’t this whole thing about parenting? It seems to me the best thing I can do to make my son healthier is to buy him healthier foods to eat, and perhaps to eat healthier myself — something my girlfriend has had an incredibly positive influence on. If the kids want fruity-sugar cereal, you just say no. Am I off on this?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, January 23rd, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
| | 23 Comments »

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My Jewban kid and his Cubish dad

January
21

Ethnic identity has been sort of a complicated issue for my son. He’s always known that his mom is Jewish and I’m Cuban, which makes him half Jewish and half Hispanic. But a Cuban guy with an Irish last name always has another story to tell, so he’s got the Anglo thing mixed in there from a few generations back, and his mom’s family is originally from Eastern Europe. The Jewish end has mostly dictated his faith, as his mom has been more observant of her faith than I have been of mine. At least we’re all white, so there’s no confusion with race.

Obviously, most of us are mutts these days anyway. But the real complication has always come in how my son is to refer to himself. He had to choose a culture to write about for a recent school project and he chose, with my encouragement, to report on his Jewish heritage. But what exactly is he when you mix it all in?

Well, thank God for the Urban Dictionary, which points out that my son is a Jewban. We even got confirmation on this from Wikipedia, just to make sure we were on the right track. Armed with our new resource, we were able to take it one step further and determined that I’m not just Cuban: I’m Cubish.

Now, we don’t really subscribe to labeling people as a general rule, but it’s just nice to know in a pinch. If only we can get the U.S. Census up to speed we’d be good to go.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 12:22 pm |
| | 9 Comments »

School???

January
20
There’s that recurring fear that I’m a bit too old to be a first time parent. Last week, there was one such moment.
We took my son for a playdate at a preschool we hope to send him in September. He had just turned 1!!! When I was a kid, I didn’t go to school until a few days before I was 4. There was nursery school and then there was kindergarten and then you started all those grades with numbers. Yes, my younger brothers went to 3-year-old nursery and I think I had heard of pre-nursery. But my son will be three months shy of his 2nd birthday when he starts.
In the Toddler class he tried out, all the kids were at least 10 months older than him. And they were still so little. 
My first reaction was – he’s just not ready. But then I had to remember how much further along he’ll be once September rolls around.
Some kids sat in the corner listening to stories, others played with toys. There were two tiny kids with hands and faces covered with paint, standing in front of easels doing their best Jackson Pollack imitations. 
He kind of stood around taking it all in, not joining them but not shying away either.
I was pretty confident things would go well when the kids all sat down for a snack a little while later. My son will eat anything. 
He waited very nicely as the plate of rice cakes went around the table. I was nervous, though, because he had never had one and I worried they were too big. I’m the parent who cuts things into tiny pieces for him. So much that my wife is worried I’m going to give him a complex – that maybe he’ll end up sitting in the middle school cafeteria 10 years from now still cutting his PB&J into small cubes. 
But he chewed away, eating the rice cake quietly as he watched the other kids. He wasn’t as polite once he’d finished that first one — he soon grabbed the cake sitting in front of the girl next to him.
Yesterday, the envelope came from the “school”. There was a moment of panic when I saw how thin it was. Then I remembered, this wasn’t a college telling my son whether he was in or not. Just pre-school – and the news was good. Now we just have to come up with the tuition.

Posted by Jon Bandler on Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
| | Comments Off on School???

Do we have to tell the kids?

January
16

It’s hard to miss the sad state of our economy right now: Layoffs everywhere, furloughs here and throughout the working world, etc. But do the kids really need to be in on it all? Granted, I hope I don’t get to the point where I have to tell my son that times are going to be hard because dad’s out of work. But until then, I wonder if we need to go there. Or am I naive?

Let me back up a sec to the more dire situation. I appreciate that there’s advice out there to help parents talk to their kids in the worst-case scenario. A couple of good ones come from Parents Press, as well as from Kiplinger .com and a good one for parents of teens from Businessweek

Fast-forward to where we are. I think we should all be telling our kids to be frugal anyway, and teaching them that a dollar wasted is, well, a waste. And my 11-year-old son sees the news, so the has a mild sense of it. But I think some worries belong largely with the parents until its unavoidable. Or am I wrong?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, January 16th, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
| | 7 Comments »

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Being the ‘parent’

January
14

At 11, my son is pretty well accustomed to the house-swap that occurs as a result of the custody agreement between his mom and I. That’s not to say he wouldn’t like it differently — I don’t think the desire to have your parents together in one home ever disappears. But after more than six years apart, his mom’s remarriage and my own blended family, he’s pretty much accepted that this is how it is. And he’s a happy kid.

With my girlfriend’s 4-year-old, it’s still a work in progress. We have a good relationship and he thoroughly enjoys my company — he seeks me out when he gets home from school, is sad if I’m not home yet. But, as I said, it’s a longterm process that we’re still going through. His dad is actively involved with him and spends every other weekend with him, as well as some nights when he visits us for dinner.

One of the things we’ve focused on in making the transition for him is coming up with a title for me. Obviously, I’m not his dad, and I’m only sort of his friend, as I am an adult. My girlfriend has decided to refer to me as his ‘parent,’ or his ‘other parent.’ On Christmas, the little guy’s gift to me was the framed text of a discussion he had with his mom, which concludes with, ‘Jorge is my parent.’ It was a transitional thing for me, and it’s now prominently displayed in our home.

But I have no illusions: This will be a longterm process, and one you can’t push. It’s also a process that more and more parents are increasingly dealing with. According to “this blended family website,”:http://blendedfamily.us about 50,000 people become members of stepfamilies in the U.S. every single month, and 1 out of 4 children live in a stepfamily by the time they reach 18. According to U.S. Census data, these kids end up in stepfamilies for various reasons, but most — about 55% — become stepchildren when their biological parent remarries after divorce. Overall, about 80% of divorced adults remarry, and 60% of them have children from a prior marriage, according to the statistic

The comforting part of all this for me is that the more stepfamilies there are, the more ‘field research’ there is on the issue. No one wants their kid to be a guinea pig, but the reality is there. So far, I’d have to say that I think our approach is the best and most organic: Love and nurture your stepchild, but be aware of the existing and vital relationship the child has with their biological parent. Doesn’t sound like rocket science.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

Men in the Mix

January
9

The adoption mix, that is.

While the statistics continue to weigh heavily in favor of women, men are on the rise as single dads and adoptive fathers. In a recent report, CNN noted that a growing number of men “are becoming parents using surrogate mothers.”:http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/12/23/single.men.parenting/index.html

Also note that the national Centers for Disease Control reported in an Aug. 2007 study that “men were twice as likely to adopt as women.”:http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/PRESSROOM/08newsreleases/adoption.htm If nothing else, these are increasing indications that the traditional family is being constantly redefined.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, January 9th, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

A death in the family

January
5

I felt fortunate this year that my son’s holiday season was a happy one. In fact, he made out like a bandit. In my book, that’s as it should be. As we do every year, we also bought gifts for needy children, something he has come to appreciate and we enjoy doing as a family.

His happiness was particularly important to me this year. That’s because he suffered his first significant loss with the death of his grandmother just before Thanksgiving, and two days before his birthday. This was his mother’s mom, with whom he was particularly close. Although she had been ill for some time, it was a very difficult process for him to go through, and one that he — and I — were a little unprepared for. It was, after all, his biggest loss since his mom and I split up, something I’m still learning to navigate in one form or another, albeit on a less frequent basis.

It was helpful for him to mourn with his mother, and the two of them shared their grief in significant and helpful ways. My initial concern was that he tried very hard to be a “big kid” about it, and did not want to be overly sad about it. He appeared more concerned about his mother’s wellbeing than his own. I credit him for that, but tried to assure him that he needed to mourn also. During the memorial service he started to break down, and was visibly overwhelmed by all the mourners who kept assuring him that his grandmother loved him dearly. I took him out of the room and we took a long walk together before coming back to the room.

I eventually realized that I needed him to mourn in his own way, and that perhaps I was projecting my expectation that he should be more broken up. He was, but in his own way, and it would happen slowly over time. The break-down moment for me came a couple of weeks before Christmas, when he was assigned a tribute poem for school. Of course, he wrote it about his grandma. It was therapy for him, and it was the outpouring of emotion that I feared he was bottling up inside. I felt it healed him to a large degree.

But the entire experience left me doubting myself, and how I dealt with it. Horrible as it sounds to say, he will suffer the loss of those close to him in the years to come, and I wonder how I would handle it differently if that comes to pass. I consulted several online resources for advice, and “found this at kidshealth.org”:http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/death.html and also “this at hospicenet.org”:http://www.hospicenet.org/html/talking.html for suggestions. Still, one learns from experience, and I think the best lesson for me was to let him be while reassuring him that it’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to express yourself when you’re ready.

It’s not something you want to plan for, but you do need to be ready. That was my biggest lesson.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, January 5th, 2009 at 11:46 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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