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Archive for the 'Relaxation' 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 »

Father’s Day a little less bountiful this year – but not by much

June
15

Dads can expect a little less for Father’s Day this year, but we can still count on our fair share of neckties and dinners.

At least that’s what we’re getting from the National Retail Federation, which says the average Father’s Day spending will be about $90.89 this year, a slight dip from the $94.54 average spent last year.

Not too bad, considering the recession.

I guess no one is in any condition to complain. And if the breakdown on the expected expenditures is any indication, we’re more likely to get a gift card and a shirt or tie than the electronics we’re really hoping for.

Well, it is the thought that counts.

Anyway, here’s a portion of the report from the Retail Federation:

The survey found people will spend the most ($1.9 billion) on a special outing such as a dinner or even a sporting event, but clothing still ranks high among gift givers who are expected to shell out $1.3 billion on new socks, slacks and ties. Others will treat dad to a gift card ($1.2 billion), electronics ($1.0 billion), books or CDs ($548 million), home improvement items ($522 million) and sporting goods ($502 million).

Discount stores and department stores will be going head to head this Father’s Day as 33.9 percent of Americans plan on shopping at discounters and 33.7 percent will shop at department stores. Others will head to specialty stores like electronics and home improvement stores (26.8%), online (17.9%), at specialty clothing stores (6.1%) or through a catalog (2.8%).

When it comes to who is getting gifts this year, the majority of people said they will only buy for their father/stepfather (51.1%). Husbands (28.6%), sons (7.6%), grandfathers (4.7%) and brothers (5.1%) will also see gifts from family members.

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

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, June 15th, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

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Playground parenting and other issues

June
11

I made an observation at the playground when my son was very young. Namely, parents seem to hover.

The problem with this is that it seems to me that kids aren’t allowed to learn a very basic life skill at the playground: Conflict resolution. If two kids have a beef at the monkey bars, there’s always a parent or two coming in to mediate or, more likely, to separate the kids and force them to play at opposite ends of the playground.

That’s kind of the type of thing that Lenore Skenazy has been talking about for a while now.

Skenazy is a Big Apple colunmist and blogger who made waves in 2007 by letting her then-9-year-old son take the subway and bus home on his own. She peddled the experience into a book, Free Range Kids, and a blog by the same title.

“Amid the cacophony of terrifying Amber Alerts and safety tips for every holiday,” Salon.com said in its review, “Skenazy is a chipper alternative, arguing that raising children in the United States now isn’t more dangerous than it was when today’s generation of parents were young. And back then, it was reasonably safe, too. So why does shooing the kids outside and telling them to have fun and be home by dark seem irresponsible to so many middle-class parents today?”

We’ve taken up similar issues here in the past. Admittedly, I’ve tended to err on the side of smothering my own son, relying more on that gene that says I should protect him. And, personally, I would not have let my 9-year-old ride the subway home alone.

But that’s just me, and I am likely very much guilty of the type of over-parenting Skenazy warns about.

Nonetheless, there is a lesson in it all, regardless of your personal feelings on it: Sometimes you do have to let the reins loose a bit.

Perhaps it is a matter of degrees. And I at least give myself credit for letting him work out his playground scuffles.

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

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, June 11th, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
| | Comments Off on Playground parenting and other issues

Playing hooky: a parental judgement call

May
24

Well, I did it: I kept my son out of school on Friday even though he had two tests and a project due. And I hope I’m not getting him in trouble by posting on it.

Okay, so the truth is I arranged with his teachers to have him take both tests on Thursday, and hand in his portion of a team alegebra project the same day. So, the damage was minimal, if there was any at all.

But in the end I reasoned that he wouldn’t remember that day at school in years to come. He will, however, always remember our day: We went to the free Green Day concert at Central Park for the Good Morning American summer concert series.

Needless to say, it’s his favorite band, and pretty high on my list as well. And I can’t ask for a better day, nor a more fun outing for him (above). No, that’s not me on the right. I took the photo. (I still have a tad more “coverage” on my head — no offense to the man in the photo.)

Anyway, this has been a periodic judgement call for me, as it is for many parents, I suspect. I had the day off, so it was no issue on my end. But education is important, and occasionally parents may opt to keep the kid home. I handle it on a case-by-case basis, but it’s something I take seriously.

I spoke to a couple of other parents at the show who had done the same thing, and they had all made the same decision: That it was a treat worth cutting school for the day.

Is it something that can be abused? Certainly. I have friends who were periodically kept home from school for a “mental health day,” which I think is of limited value for most kids, depending on age and circumstances.

But the question is when do you think it’s okay to have your kid play hooky?

One final note on the show, it really was a treat. I’ve blogged on the music element of it on The Listening Room, our music blog. But for those that didn’t see it, here’s a clip from GMA:

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Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Sunday, May 24th, 2009 at 11:57 am |
| | 3 Comments »

My bigtime movie goof

March
24

Sure, I should’ve paid more attention. But I didn’t.

So, here I was taking my 11-year-old son to see Watchmen at the theater, not having done enough legwork to know that there was heavily graphic violence, sex and nudity. Whoops.

Well, he knows enough to cover his eyes during certain moments (aided by me, of course). But I did stay the course and we sat through the whole movie. Yes, I considered walking out, but I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong: This wasn’t Last Tango in Paris, nor was it Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was just a tad over the top.

In hindsight, I wouldn’t take him to see it had I known the extent of it all. But I also reason with myself that you can’t shelter a kid from everything. My philosophy on cursing, for instance, is that he is in no way allowed to use foul language. However, I know he hears it in the course of his day and has to simply censor himself.

I see this movie experience similarly. Of course, now he figures if we saw that he can go see Slumdog Millionaire and it would be okay. Not sure I’m ready to make that leap.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
| | 5 Comments »

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Vote in our poll on vacations!

August
1

What are you Parents’ Place readers doing this summer? Vote in our poll in the right column of the page to share your plans.

balloon.jpgWe’re heading to Sesame Place next week in what Pumpkin is already expecting will be the time of her life. We’ve been looking at the brochure and she keeps touching the picture of the Big Bird’s Balloon Race and saying, “I’ll be BIG happy when I’m on there.” Let’s just hope <a href=”http://www.sesameplace.com” target=”_blank”>Sesame Place</a> lives up to expectations.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, August 1st, 2008 at 8:52 pm |
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Father’s Day odds and ends

June
10

Let’s call this one of my lazy blogs. But there are some good facts here, so I don’t feel that badly about it.

It’s basically a collection of tidbits sent out by the U.S. Census Bureau to mark Father’s Day this coming Sunday. Like many holidays, this one kind of snuck up on me because of a hectic work schedule of late. As it turns, out this coming weekend is my ex’s weekend with my son. But, as per our agreement, I’ll get the day with him and if the weather is anything like it is here right now, we’ll be spending a good chunk of it at some body of water or other. Unfortunately, my girlfriend’s little boy gets the day with his dad, so we won’t have both the boys to splash around with.

To be honest, what I’ve always looked forward to the most is whatever arts-and-crafts project my son puts together for me at school. As I sit here now, I’m looking at a pencil holder made from painted tongue depressors that he gave me several years ago. I treasure it almost as much as the mood ring he gave me last year.

Anyway, here’s the Census stuff. Thanks for reading and enjoy:

The idea of Father’s Day was conceived by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Wash., hile she listened to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a widowed Civil War veteran who was left to raise his six children on a farm. A day in June was chosen for the first Father’s Day celebration — June 19, 1910, proclaimed by Spokane’s mayor because it was the month of Smart’s birth. The first presidential proclamation honoring fathers was issued in 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Father’s Day as been celebrated annually since 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed the public law that made it permanent.

64.3 million
Estimated number of fathers across the nation. Source: unpublished data from the Survey of Income and Program articipation

A good place to buy dad a tie or a shirt might be one of 8,685 men’s clothing stores around the country (as of 2005). Source: County Business Patterns

Other items high on the list of Father’s Day gifts are tools such as hammers, wrenches and screwdrivers. You could buy some of these items for dad at one of the nation’s 14,257 hardware stores or 5,925 home centers (as of 2005). Source: County Business Patterns

23,195
Number of sporting goods stores in 2005. These stores are good places to purchase traditional gifts for dad, such as fishing rods and golf clubs. Source: County Business Patterns

More than 74 million Americans participated in a barbecue in the last year — it’s probably safe to assume many of these barbecues took place on Father’s Day. Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008

159,000
Estimated number of stay-at-home dads in 2006. These married fathers with children younger than 15 have remained out of the labor force for at least one year primarily so they can care for the family while their wives work outside the home. These fathers cared for 283,000 children. Among these stay-at-home dads, 60 percent had two or more children, and 40 percent had an annual family income of $50,000 or more. Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2006

25%
Among the nation’s 11.3 million preschoolers whose mothers are employed, the percentage who are regularly cared for by their father during their mother’s working hours. This amounted to 2.9 million children. Source: Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2005

26.5 million
Number of fathers who are part of married-couple families with children younger than 18 in 2006.

– 22 percent are raising three or more children younger than 18 (among married-couple family households only).

– 2 percent live in someone else’s home.

Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2006

2.5 million
Number of single fathers in 2006, up from 400,000 in 1970. Currently, among single parents living with their children, 19 percent are men.

– 8 percent are raising three or more children younger than 18.

– About 42 percent are divorced, 38 percent are never married, 16 percent are separated and 4 percent are widowed. (There is no significant difference between the percentages of single fathers who are divorced or never married.)

– 16 percent live in someone else’s home.

– 27 percent have an annual family income of $50,000 or more.

Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2006

85%
Among the 30.2 million fathers living with children younger than 18, the percentage who lived with their biological children only. In addition, 11 percent lived with stepchildren, 4 percent with adopted children and fewer than 1 percent with foster children. Source: Living Arrangements of Children: 2004

31%
Percentage of custodial fathers who were due child support. They numbered 678,000. Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

$2.4 billion
Amount of child support received by custodial fathers in 2005; they were due $3.3 billion. In contrast, custodial mothers received $22.4 billion of the $34.7 billion in support that was due. Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

43%
Percentage of custodial fathers who received all child support that was due, not significantly different from the corresponding percentage for custodial mothers. Fathers received an average of $6,210 in child support in 2005, compared with $5,981 for mothers. (These figures are not statistically different from one another.) Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

36%
Percentage of custodial fathers with child support agreements or awards. Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

72%
Percentage of custodial fathers receiving noncash support, such as gifts or coverage of expenses, on behalf of their children. The corresponding proportion for mothers was 59 percent. Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

30%
Percentage of children younger than 6 living with married parents in 2003 who ate breakfast with their fathers every day. The corresponding number for children living with unmarried fathers was 41 percent. Source: A Child’s Day

64%
Percentage of children younger than 6 living with married parents who ate dinner with their fathers every day. The corresponding number for children living with unmarried fathers was 66 percent. Source: A Child’s Day

63%
Percentage of children younger than 6 living with married parents who were praised three or more times a day by their fathers. The corresponding number for children living with unmarried fathers was 57 percent. Source: A Child’s Day

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 at 12:07 pm |
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The first rock concert

May
23

Bring it on. My kid’s 10 and I figure it’s high time he got his first rock concert under his belt. After all he’s a little metal head like his dad, and is pretty crazy about Green Day and My Chemical Romance. I’ve even gotten him into Black Sabbath and Radiohead.

But, aside from his recording-artist uncle, he hasn’t really been to a live show yet. We’re changing that.

How to start? My first criteria was that he fare better than I did for my first concert. I was in seventh grade and they gave out promotional tickets for the old Westchester Premier Theater. The performer was country-crooner-turned-casino-act “Mac Davis,”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZNWz00R3Ng&feature=related with comedian Gabe Kaplan — in his pre-Welcome Back Kotter days — as the opening act.

It got better after that. Linda Ronstadt was next, and before you knew it it was Santana, the Allman Brothers, Kiss, etc. By my last year of high school, we were at the old Palladium on 14th Street almost every weekend, watching everyone from Van Halen to Twisted Sister, and whoever else showed up to play that day.

Now it’s my son’s turn. And it’s just going to be our own thing, as the other half of our blending family — my girlfriend and her little boy — will hold down the homefront for the night. For the two of us, I think it’s good bonding time in a “coming-of-age” kind of way, although I suspect other divorced and single parents do these kinds of things as some sort of compensation for time lost or something. To me, it’s really just a great thing to share with my son.

So, the first thing I sought in planning it was advice. The “Family Education”:http://www.familyeducation.com/home website offered a list of suggestions on “what to keep in mind”:http://fun.familyeducation.com/music-performances/family-time/36505.html in such a situation. Some of it was common sense, some of it was silly. But it was advice nonetheless.

The next step was, where to go? I actually considered the Van Halen show at Madison Square Garden tonight. But the Garden was never great on acoustics, is kinda big, and it’s hard to get close to the stage. Besides, decent tickets for this show would’ve run me about $300 a pop. So, that was out. As it is, I had just missed a golden opportunity to take my boy to the Garden: My Chemical Romance wrapped up their tour there on May 9, about one week before I got the rock concert bug in my head. Smaller venues were okay, but they’re mostly just glorified bars which are fine for me, but not for a 10-year-old.

Ultimately, I narrowed it to three sites, including the Beacon Theater and the Jones Beach Theater. The third was “Radio City Music Hall,”:http://www.radiocity.com and that’s where we’re headed. That’s not to say that we may not pick up additional shows at Jones Beach or the Beacon later this summer.

Finally, what show to catch? Here’s what we picked: “Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band”:http://www.radiocity.com/events/ringo-starr.html at the end of next month. I mean, the guy’s a former Beatle, has fun on stage, and puts together a fun group of musicians every time he comes around. This year he’s playing with, among others, Edgar Winter, Billy Squier and Colin Hays from Men at Work. My son loves Winter’s classic, “Frankenstein,” and the rest of it will be kind of a trip for me, since I listened to some of those guys in my teens and 20s.

There are still all these tiny worries dancing around my head, from the show running too late, to someone blowing smoke in his face all night, to drunken behavior around us — all relatively minor issues to me in the larger scope of things. Mostly, I’m kind of excited myself to see any kind of show after several years without one.

So, how’d I do? I gotta think it’s gonna be a thrill for him to just be at a show, let alone for someone legendary like Ringo. I still have it in me to take him to something more hard-edged down the line, and particular would love one guitar hero or another, as my son is learning to play. But, for now, we’ll see how it goes with the Beatle.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, May 23rd, 2008 at 2:05 pm |
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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 »

The ex-family unit

April
4

My son wants to make it to a Yankee game this year before they shut down the historic Bronx stadium for good and move next door. No problem there. I’m a longtime and avid fan, and took him to his first game there years ago. I myself have been going to games since 1970, when my dad and uncle took us to the old stadium to see the Bombers get demolished by the Orioles. I also had partial season tickets for years, when I worked out of the Bronx County Courthouse during my stint at the Daily News.

Here’s the catch: My son wants to go with just me and his mom — the former family unit.

I have some mixed feelings on this, and it makes for some awkwardness. I’ve always felt fortunate that my ex and I were able to maintain a friendship, and that we are all able to get along. My girlfriend and I had my ex and her husband over for Christmas Eve dinner (it’s a feast we call Noche Buena in Cuban culture, and it’s a big deal for us), and I had Easter brunch with my ex, her family and her husband last month. As I’ve blogged before, we all went trick-or-treating together last year as well.

To be fair, I can see how my son might simply view an outing to a Yankee game as an extension of the friendship his mom and I maintain. But at the same time, I feel like excluding his mom’s husband and his dad’s new partner is a sign that he may be clinging to something. Obviously, he wouldn’t be the first child to want his parents together, even if it is just for a baseball game.

But are we letting him mislead himself if we go along? Or is it just his wish to have an outing with his parents?

Or am I just making too much out of it?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, April 4th, 2008 at 1:06 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

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The stress factor

March
28

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 |
| | 4 Comments »

Growing apart?

March
27

I knew it would start sooner or later. It still stinks.

On Wednesday, I drove my son to school and, as is our norm, I parked in the lot and we walked into the building together. This has been something of a routine when he’s with me that we’ve done since pre-K, through various school buildings. In past, we’ve chatted a bit, joked with each other and I’ve waited with him until the bell rang and he had to get to class.

This time, he walked in ahead of me, and started talking to some friends, seemingly oblivious to my presence. I called out to him, he looked, I said, “bye?” He replied by sheepishly giving an unenthusiastic wave, clearly embarrassed. So I left, heart wounded.

I’ve always known there would come a time when he’d not want to have his dad there when he was with friends. I figured it out early on, in kindergarten, when he first asked me not to hug him goodbye in front of his classmates. I understood.

But somehow this got to me a bit. Probably that’s because it’s an indication of things to come, the years ahead when he will spend more and more time out with friends than at home playing X-Box or watching a movie with is dad, or out at the park playing ball or sled riding in the winter with his old man.

Obviously, it has to be that way, and it should be that way.

But for now, it just stinks.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, March 27th, 2008 at 1:25 pm |
| | Comments Off on Growing apart?

The online scene

January
16

There’s little doubt that Internet dating is increasingly popular among single parents. I mean, most single parents I know are looking for a companion, and a lot of them are turning to the web to restart their social lives. A lot of them.

I think it’s for obvious reasons: Single parents have less free time to get involved in traditional dating rituals, less patience for the “dating game,” and, since they’ve likely been “burned” in some relationship capacity, they like being able to surf profiles to be more selective about who they express interest in. With kids in the picture, being selective is particularly appealing.

Personally, I don’t know too many single parents who haven’t delved into it in some capacity. I do know some who have met mates through groups like “Parents Without Partners,”:http://www.parentswithoutpartners.org preferring the face-to-face encounters that offers, as well as the child-friendly atmosphere it provides. But most folks I know like the convenience of the Internet, and know that the stigma and fear of online dating seems to have subsided a bit in recent years among both parents and non-parents.

But how does one get involved? The top dating sites are certainly active, but not particularly designed for single parents. If you’re considering it, the advice I give single-parent friends is to surf around and read up on some single-parent dating sites. There are plenty out there. But avoid “younger” sites, and hunt down what appeals to you. Then be selective and don’t compromise.

One single-dad blogger who reached out to me this week is putting together an online site that seeks to help. It’s not a dating site per se, but “Single Parent Romance”:http://www.singleparentromance.com offers links to some. More importantly, he’s putting together a list of online resources for single parents and will link relevant blogs in an attempt to create an online community.

I’d put it out there as a good starting point. And remember, while it’s not for everyone, there’s nothing wrong with having options.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 at 2:49 pm |
| | 6 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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