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Archive for the 'Media' Category

Divorce and dads


One of the things that my divorce has accomplished for me is that it has created a very close bond with my son. That’s not to say he’s not equally attached to his mother. But, basically, we had a lot of time together when he was with me. I think that’s the nature of the circumstances that he was hurled into.

That’s kind of why I was intrigued when I came across “an article in Science Daily”:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080109094337.htm about a study out of Penn State. The study suggests that divorce widens the gap between fathers and their children, compared to mothers. I think that says quite a bit about custodial outcomes from divorces, and the fact that mothers are predominantly named the custodial parent.

But one of the more striking findings was that, prior to divorce, 71 percent of the youngsters interviewed for the study reported being very close to their mothers, but only 57 percent said they were very close to their fathers. So I wonder, do fathers who develop a close relationship with their children before a divorce do a better job of keeping that alive after a divorce? Or is it out of our hands?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Saturday, May 3rd, 2008 at 6:22 pm |

I stole this blog


At least I’m saying so up front, which has to count for something.

Anyway, I did indeed steal this blog entry from one of my favorite single-parent bloggers, Rachel Sarah, who does the “singlemomseeking”:http://singlemomseeking.com/blog blog. In a recent post, Rachel spoke with former “Top Chef”:http://www.bravotv.com/Top_Chef/season/4/index.php contestant Camille Becerra, a single mom who was bounced from the hit cooking show during last season.

“Rachel’s blog post”:http://singlemomseeking.com/blog/2008/04/30/top-chef-and-single-mom-camille-becerra-says-im-dating-myself reveals that Becerra had to give up all contact with her daughter throughout her time on the show, including the little girl’s birthday. That’s an interesting proposition. So, as Rachel asks, is that something you’d be willing to do?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 at 1:41 pm |

Welcome to Dad’s House


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 |


Sick child? Whose turn is it?


Somebody’s got to stay home with the kid, right? That’s logical enough. But who misses a day of work?

A study last year by sociologist David Maume at the University of Cincinnati determined that moms are still significantly more likely to stay home than dads. Maume surveyed more than 1,400 parents and determined that 78% of women reported taking time off to stay home with a sick kid, compared to 28% for men. You can “read more about the study”:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070813162452.htm in Science Daily.

The thing is that the study seems to have looked only at traditional homes, with mom and dad in the house. How does one handle the situation when they’re a single or divorced parent? Needless to say, this is a major problem if you solo parent. Unless there’s family nearby or a support group of some sort, you’re in a bind. And what are the rules on this in a blended family?

This has been on my mind this week because my girlfriend’s little boy has been battling the flu and hasn’t been able to go to his day care. She missed a couple of days, and her ex missed a couple and took him to his sister’s house for the day. Statistically, she ultimately takes more of those days on than her ex does, which seems to fit Maume’s study.

But at some point I wonder what my role is. I normally save my days off for when my son is sick, and juggle those with my ex. Is it my role as a stepparent figure to take off as well when my girlfriend’s son is sick? Or is that a responsibility that falls squarely  — and exclusively — on the little guy’s parents?

In the end I’m thinking gender isn’t all we should be looking at. Frankly, I’m thinking we need a new study.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, April 16th, 2008 at 11:11 am |



Sometimes dad needs a helping hand. Well, here it comes, thanks to the United Way of Westchester and Putnam, and Family Services of Westchester. They’re sponsoring the New York Father’s Conference in White Plains on April 26th. It’s long overdue, I say.

The idea is to bring together dads from all walks of life — be they happily married, divorced, single, etc. — for a day-long program to provide advice, guidance and referrals. It features guest speakers that include Hugh Price, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former president of the National Urban League, as well as former NY Jet offensive back Bruce Harper, who is the co-founding director of the youth program “Heroes and Cool Kids.”

Russell Ross, senior vice president of community initiatives for the United Way, told me they’ve had similar conferences elsewhere in the past, including in Rockland County. But this is the first in Westchester County — and he hopes not the last.

“One of the things that we’ve seen in our research and talking to a lot of folks that are working with families is that dads don’t really have an opportunity to interact with each other and learn and kind of share,” he said. “Women and moms, they have their groups.”

Scheduled workshops are to address a number of issues, including wise discipline, balancing work, helping kids succeed in school, and staying connected as a non-custodial parent. You can check out the entire list and get more details “on the United Way link”:http://www.uwwp.org/father.htm for the program.

If you can’t get to a computer, call the United Way at 914-997-6700, ext. 702. But think about checking it out.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, April 15th, 2008 at 1:03 pm |
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Why can’t the daughters do it?


As the mom of a daughter, I just had to take a moment to share a wonderful and pithy article I read on how pop culture sometimes ignores the potential for female heroes. NPR’s Peter Sagal, the host of the popular program “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” explains how in a great commentary. He went to see the new “Horton Hears a Who” movie with his three daughters and came out sputtering with irritation over a new plotline that involves the mayor of Whoville’s son — but ignores the mayor’s 96 daughters.

Here’s a quote from Peter’s essay:

And there’s this — not only does the movie end with father and son embracing, while the 96 daughters are, I guess, playing in a well, somewhere, but the son earns his father’s love by saving the world. Boys get to save the world, and girls get to stand there and say, I knew you could do it. How did they know he could do it? Maybe because they watched every other movie ever made?

We got into the car outside the cinpeplex and I was quite in lather, let me tell you. How come one of the GIRLs didn’t get to save Whoville? I cried.

“Yeah!” said my daughters.

“And while we’re at it, how come a girl doesn’t get to blow up the Death Star! Or send ET home? Or defeat Captain Hook! Or Destroy the Ring of Power!”

You can read the <a href=”http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89318829″ target=”_blank”>full version here</a>.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, April 9th, 2008 at 10:14 am |


Bad parent alert


How could you forget about your kid? Well, that’s what cops are saying happened in White Plains this weekend.

According to the story filed by my colleague Rich Liebson, city officers spotted a 2-year-old boy sitting alone in the back seat of car on Sunday, then waited. And waited. Ten minutes later, the boy’s 25-year-old dad came back and, when questioned, told officers that “he forgot his son was in the car.”

The guy was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, and the kid was turned over to his mom. You can read Rich’s entire story in The Journal News or on “LoHud.com”:http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage tomorrow.

Obviously, your heart goes out to the kid if the charge is proven to be true. If this is any indication of the father he’s going to have, there’s just some painful times coming for him. To paraphrase the old saying, you need to apply for a license to go fishing, but any screw-up can have a kid for free.

You can only hope the boy’s mom is more on the ball.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, April 7th, 2008 at 2:05 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

The stress factor


Heck, everybody’s got stress. It’s just that the most stressed people I know happen to be parents in single-parent or blended family situations. So, I figured I would share this story that I came across on the newswire from Woman’s Day magazine.

I added the emphasis in the text below for effect. I mean, we certainly don’t have a monopoly on stress. My colleague and friend, Noreen O’Donnell, says she’s written on this, and that there’s a direct correlation between stress and the amount of control you have in your life — not necessarily the number of stressors you have to grapple with.

Fair enough. But it seems to me that parents have additional worries — and are more likely to feel less in control — than your average citizen. More so for single or divorced parents, who have that and more stressors to boot. That’s just me.

But see what you think:

From the editors of Woman’s Day magazine
According to the annual Stress in America report from the American Psychological Association, extreme stress strikes a third of Americans regularly, with one in five getting hit a whopping 15 days out of the month.
Of course, there’s the everyday anxiety that’s caused by a looming work deadline or too-busy schedule, and then there’s the big-time stress that comes with a major life-changing event — like divorce or dealing with a chronic illness. Coping with both requires similar techniques and habits. Woman’s Day magazine outlines a plan that will reduce stress in your life now — and help you prep for the big stuff later.
• Pinpoint your biggest stressor: Go through a day or two with a pen and paper handy, and jot down everything that stresses you out as it happens. OR sit back (when you’re relaxed) and visualize your typical day; make a list of all the things you dread doing. Part of what gets people about stress is that it feels uncontrollable. When you get specific and have a concrete list, life starts to feel manageable. Decide what really gets your adrenaline going, and focus on changing that first.
• Cut back on one thing: If your issue is that you’ve got too much to do around the house between the cooking, cleaning, taking caring of the dog, and shuttling kids to school and activities, choose one night (or two or three) that you’ll order dinner out or pick up a prepared meal at the grocery store. In many cases, being overscheduled is the culprit so figure out what you can say no to.
• Prioritize: Make a list of what has to be done by this morning, the end of the day and the end of the week. Focus on what needs to be finished fist, then move down the list. Often what makes us panic is the big picture – not the three things we have to get done by today, but the 17 things we have to do by the end of the week.
With four steps down you can make these anti-stress moves part of your everyday schedule.
• Move: Regular daily exercise can lower levels of stress hormones
• Pop on headphones: Any music lover knows that listening to your favorite tunes can make you less tense almost immediately
• Chat on the phone with a friend: It keeps your social bonds strong, which gives you an overall feeling of support and belonging.
• Take a deep belly breath: Abdominal breathing increases the amount of oxygen in your blood, triggering the brain to decrease the concentration of stress hormones.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, March 28th, 2008 at 11:50 am |

Family photo project


Imagine taking a picture of each person in your family once a year in the same pose. Now imagine doing it for 25 years. That’s what Diego Goldberg of Buenos Aires, Argentina, did in an amazing photo essay. It starts in 1976 with Diego and his wife, Susy. In 1977, Nicolás comes into the world. And the next year comes Matías. Sebastián is born in 1983. The photos continue to the present so you can see both parents and all three young men, now grown. It’s breathtaking in its simplicity (all the photos are black-and-white face-forward head-and-shoulders pictures) and poignancy. Check it out <a href=”http://www.zonezero.com/magazine/essays/diegotime/time.html#” target=”_blank”>through this link</a>.

I have taken, conservatively, at least 8,000 pictures since Pumpkin was born in 2005. But I haven’t began a project as ambitious as this. I am thinking about it now, though. (Hopefully the photos of me in the future will show me getting thinner and thinner!)

Thanks to <a href=”http://photojojo.com/” target=”_blank”>Photojojo!</a> for the tip.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, March 21st, 2008 at 4:15 pm |
| | 1 Comment »


Skittles update, sanity prevails


So, the eighth-grader who was punished with pretty harsh measures for buying a bag of Skittles from a classmate against school rules has been cleared of wrongdoing. Unfortunately, the reprieve didn’t come soon enough to allow him to attend an honor society dinner he missed as part of the punishment. If you didn’t see the earlier post, young Michael Sheridan of Connecticut drew the wrath of school officials because of his love for fruit-flavored candy. He initially was suspended from school and was stripped of his class vice president title. His mom raised a stir, which turned into a media frenzy, and the authorities backed down. Here is the New Haven Register <a href=”http://www.nhregister.com:80/WebApp/appmanager/JRC/BigDaily?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=pg_article&r21.content=%2FMAIN_REP%2FArticle%2F2008%2F03%2F13%2F1728241″ target=”_blank”>story on the aftermath</a>. And here is a <a href=”http://www.nhregister.com:80/WebApp/appmanager/JRC/BigDaily?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=pg_article&r21.content=%2FMAIN_REP%2FArticle%2F2008%2F03%2F15%2F1741601″ target=”_blank”>feel-good follow-up</a> on Michael’s new celebrity — and the Mars candy company’s promise to give the boy a lifetime supply of Skittles.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Tuesday, March 18th, 2008 at 3:13 pm |
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A beating in the ‘burbs


The video was striking: Four teenagers beating up a fifth teen during a violent encounter at a church parking lot in Ossining. At some point local cops said the kid taking the beating got a seven-inch gash across his neck. A 16-year-old girl is also punched in the face, and is threatened with more, at which point she walks away.

This was from a story we ran in recent days. Police said neither of the teens were seriously injured: The gash was apparently not very deep. The video itself, which was posted on YouTube by one of the kids later charged in the incident, has since been pulled off the Internet.

So, why is this on a parenting blog? Well, my very first thought when I saw it was, ‘Oh my God. What if that was my kid?’ It’s a horrifying thought. And what if it was one of our children doing the beating, since peer pressure can be a powerful draw?

To be fair, here’s what doesn’t worry me about this incident: It seems to be a “gang assault” in circumstance only. That is to say, it was a group, or “gang” of kids who are charged. They weren’t Bloods, or Latin Kings, or Hell’s Angels. They weren’t a real gang in the most frightening sense. It was just a group of kids seemingly beating another.

But that’s enough for me. It should be enough for all parents. Because regardless of how the criminal justice system deals with it, it is unacceptable, frightening and brutally dangerous. And it scares the heck out of me.

It doesn’t help when the act is downplayed, as seemed to be the case with a “New York Times column”:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/nyregion/02towns.html?ref=nyregion on this in yesterday’s papers. Was too much made of the incident by my own newspaper? Some might think so, but I don’t. Should the Times have spoken to the Ossining police and not just one of the arrested teens, his parents and his lawyer? Some might think not, but I do.

Because while I know that schoolyard fights are going to happen, it shouldn’t happen this way. We, as parents, should care about it.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, March 3rd, 2008 at 1:11 pm |

Books, books and more books


When I lived in Larchmont, my bookshelves were in harmony. I lived just two blocks from the library and satisfied most of my reading needs through borrowing. Plus, we had a one-bedroom apartment — there just wasn’t room to accumulate books. But now, we have a house and live 10 miles from the town library. That combination has led to an unfortunate swelling of our book collection. We have built-in book cases on either side of the fireplace— all full. We have a large bookcase in my office — full. We even have an end table that’s designed to hold books. Add in other assorted smaller bookshelves that are all bulging and you get the idea.

The question I have is whether I should do a major thinning of my shelves? I did once before and pretty much culled out the chaff. Now, most of my books are ones I liked. A lot. Yesterday, as I was glancing at my shelves of fiction, I realized I probably won’t read many of the books again. But, I am reluctant to part with them for one reason: Pumpkin. I love the idea of her someday browsing the shelves and finding books that inspire her, educate her and thrill her— all on her parents’ bookshelves. I can imagine the conversations we might have. So, for now, I am thinking I’ll have to keep the books— but they are starting to really get out of control. Especially the piles next to my nightstand.

What about the rest of you moms and dads who are avid readers — or for that matter, audiophiles or movie fans? Do you thin your collections of books, CDs and DVDs? Or, are you holding these in trust, as it were, for the next generation to enjoy? And if you are holding onto them, what are your savvy solutions for stowing stuff so that you can live in your house without tripping over your portable media collections?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, February 25th, 2008 at 10:37 pm |
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Child care debate


I was listening to one of the presidential primary debates recently and someone threw out a reference to child care costs, and how some Americans had trouble managing the $1,000 monthly cost. $1,000? Talk about low end. Move to Westchester, then we’ll talk child care costs.

I’m sure someone out there can point to one or two pre-K placements in the region that comes in at $1,000, whether it’s through subsidized care programs or otherwise. Personally, I don’t know of any under $1,200, and that’s being generous.

Either way, the point is well taken: Child care costs a small fortune, and it’s a serious issue in the nation right now. For a divorced or single parent, it could be a huge fortune.

Greater minds than mine have delved into this, and here we still are. What I was able to find was an article on this at the “Child Care Aware”:http://www.childcareaware.org/en website. Perhaps it’s not the definitive help list on this, but it does offer some suggestions on “managing child care costs.”:http://www.childcareaware.org/en/subscriptions/areyouaware/article.php?id=92

So, while we wait for the presidential hopefuls to find a way to deliver the goods, let’s get a little proactive.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, February 25th, 2008 at 11:24 am |
| | 1 Comment »

The Census speaks


I can’t say I’m a numbers geek, but I do like to look at the figures now and again to see how things play out demographically. With that in mind, this is new data from the U.S. Census that found that 94 percent of kids in the nation live with at least one biological parent.

Of course, that covers a wide range of scenarios, from traditional mom-dad-kids homes to blended families to single-parent homes. Perhaps more telling is another statistic: That 61 percent of kids lived with both biological parents, whether they’re married or not. This might be one of those glass half-full or half-empty questions. Is that a positive statistic? Or is the number not high enough?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, February 21st, 2008 at 4:12 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

One single dad’s journey


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 |


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