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Archive for the 'Health & safety' Category

‘Coraline’ and the distant parent


Watching “Coraline” on DVD this past weekend, I cringed and even paused the movie to turn to my husband and say: “I hope that’s not how the Pumpkin sees me.” If you’ve watched the movie, you are familiar with the scene in the beginning when Coraline fails to wrest her mother’s attention from her computer screen. (Warning: If you haven’t seen <a href=”http://coraline.com/” target=”_blank”>”Coraline,”</a> stop reading now and go rent it. It was wonderful.)

I was speaking mostly in jest, of course. I’ve never shooed away the Pumpkin so harshly, but I have to admit that there are times when she knows that I’m working on the computer and can’t play with her. Given the amount of indulgence and love my daughter gets in general, I’m not worried about her. But Coraline does make you think about children who aren’t so cosseted and whose parents really do tell them they are too busy to make time for them much of the time.

The evil witch who preys on Coraline’s vulnerability isn’t just a fairy tale creation. There are those who prey on young children by offering them the love and companionship they are missing at home. Just as the “other mother” offers Coraline the homecooked meals and cozy surrounding she craves in hopes of stealing the child away, pedophiles and other criminals can weasel their way into youngsters’ hearts by exploiting their need for love. Children are vulnerable when their parents are absent or uninvolved. Even if they don’t encounter a witch who wants to steal their souls and replace their eyes with buttons, they will encounter peers with dubious morals who might offer the approval they aren’t getting at home.

While cast as a fairy tale (that would earn an R rating if it were a live-action picture)‚ “Coraline” teaches its younger audience about the dangers of believing in something that’s too good to be true. And it provides a reminder to the parents watching that if you aren’t there for your child, someone else (someone scary) might be.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, August 5th, 2009 at 2:36 am |
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Pharmacy gives candy to kids in pill bottles


Sometimes people just don’t get it, do they? Check out <a href=”http://consumerist.com/5299890/sams-club-giving-kids-candy-in-pill-bottles” target=”_blank”>this report on Consumerist</a> about a Sam’s Club in Maryland that is putting candy like Dots and Tootsie Rolls in prescription bottles labeled with an advertising message touting the pharmacy. Here is a link to the <a href=”http://sbynews.blogspot.com/2009/06/saturday-at-sams-club.html” target=”_blank”>original blog post</a>. And here is a photo of the offending “treats.”

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 at 2:18 pm |

Playground parenting and other issues


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 |
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Exploiting parents’ worst fear


Worry. This is a catch-all word for emotions that can range from mild to heart-pounding, depending on whether your child is merely testing her skills on the playground or pulling out of your hand to run toward traffic.

I’m what an earlier generation liked to call a “worrywart.” I worry about almost everything, but usually succeed in communicating none of that worry to my child. I encourage her to try new things, while taking appropriate care against hazards of course.

Probably most parents are worrywarts to some extent, which is why marketers are so effective at getting us to spend a fortune baby-proofing our homes and buying safety devices.

In my in-box today was a promo for a product called the <a href=”http://www.snuza.com/pages/en/home.php” target=”_blank”>Snuza</a>. It’s a baby monitor that clips to your infant’s diaper and monitors movement. If the device doesn’t sense a movement in 15 seconds, it stimulates the baby with a “pulsed vibration.” If no movement is sensed after another 5 seconds, an alarm goes off. On the Web site’s frequently-asked-questions page, the maker acknowledges this is not a medical device but is more akin to the heart monitors people wear while they exercise.

As I read all this over, I found myself getting angry at this company for exploiting parents’ fear of sudden infant death syndrome to sell a lifestyle gadget.

You see, my daughter, as readers of this blog know, was a preemie. When she was in the hospital for more than two months, she was hooked up to an actual medical monitor. Learning to interpret the sounds it made took a while. At first, I was worried every time it went off, but the nurses assured me that those weren’t the beeps to be concerned about. Then, one day, I was holding her when it went off with a new sound. Assuming it was one of those unimportant beeps, I ignored it. That was until a nurse quickly came up and started vigorously rubbing my baby’s back to remind her to breath. That wasn’t the only time I had that experience. I, too, learned to rub her back when the monitor went off a certain way.

Then, one day, it was time to take her home, to take her off the monitor where I could watch how fast her heart was beating, how many breaths she took a minute and how much oxygen was in her blood.

It was leap of faith. Faith in the doctors that they wouldn’t send her home before she was ready. Faith that she would be OK. And faith that I would at last get to be her mom in our own home.

I buried my worries and embraced a normal family life. If my daughter had needed a monitor, then the doctors would have sent her home with one. (As, indeed, they did for some preemies.)

What if I had given in to my darker fears and bought a contraption like the Snuza? It’s not a medical device, as the maker clearly states. If your child needed a monitor, wouldn’t you want a medical device that could actually save her life? So who is it for? The parents. To feed their worry. The Web site proclaims: “How did we cope before Snuza? It’s been a great relief to finally get a good night’s sleep.”

What kind of goodnight ritual is it when you attach a monitor to your baby’s diaper? Isn’t that saying, in effect, I don’t trust you to live until morning without this thing? Every new parent has this fear, and every new parent gets over it — except those who are reminded of it daily when they buy products like the Snuza, that is.

I am not minimizing the risk of SIDS. I can easily imagine the agony. But the American SIDS Institute does NOT list devices like the Snuza in its <a href=”http://www.sids.org/nprevent.htm” target=”_blank”>advice for parents</a>, which includes placing infants on their backs to sleep without any soft coverings that can suffocate. New research also shows that having a <a href=”http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-10-06-SIDS-fans_N.htm” target=”_blank”>fan in the room</a> can also lesson the risk of SIDS.

What do you think about devices like the Snuza? More harm than help or a useful addition to the nursery?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 at 2:01 pm |

Playing hooky: a parental judgement call


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 |

Why I’m walking in the March for Babies


Last summer, one of my husband’s college friends, Steve, came to visit with his wife and two children, a little boy a bit older than my daughter and a baby. They stayed with us for a couple of days and we all had a nice time, visiting the Long Island Sound and just relaxing. It was the first time I met his wife, Jennifer, and we hit if off right away. The Pumpkin fell in love with the baby. A few months later, we found out they were expecting a new baby who was due in June. But something went wrong. They’ve spent the last several days in the hospital delivering the baby, who died. We’ve been getting e-mail updates about the experience, including a last e-mail that came at 2 a.m. this morning with details about the keepsake box with a lock of hair and some photos that they brought home instead of a baby.

It’s been hard to get Jennifer and Steve out of my mind. I could easily have ended up with a similar box if it weren’t for the life-saving treatment my daughter received at White Plains Hospital Center.

Four years ago on April 20, I went into the hospital showing symptoms of preeclampsia, a disease that affects about 5 percent of pregnancies and poses risk for both mother and baby. I hadn’t read about preeclampsia before and didn’t really know what the doctors were so concerned about. I had been showing the signs of preeclampsia for a couple of weeks and had even spent a weekend on bedrest, but the doctors didn’t use that word yet. Here’s a clue: If your hands are so swollen that you lose sensation, it’s time to worry. Swollen ankles in pregnancy: Not so much.

My first night I was dazed, suffering from a horrible cold, unable to sleep. Over the next few days, the signs were clear that the doctors expected me to deliver my daughter early, but wanted to wait as long as possible. I was given steroid shots to mature my daughter’s lungs, moved to a private room and ordered to rest on my left side. In retrospect, I think I went into a bit of denial. After my cold cleared up by the weekend, I actually felt really great. It was sunny outside and I didn’t feel like staying in bed. It seemed absurd that I would actually have the baby that early, and so I discounted the idea, especially since I felt so healthy. The swelling had gone down and I didn’t have other classic symptoms, like a headache or pain in my abdomen. (I found out later that these are important symptoms of something going wrong. At the time, I just knew that nurses came into my room every four hours to ask me, “Do you have a headache? Any pain in your abdomen?”)

Every day, I rode a wheelchair down to radiology and got a look at my baby, who was healthy but tiny. Things were going so well that after a week and a half, on May 2, my doctor during rounds that morning even talked about maybe letting me go home on bedrest for a while. That was before he got the results of that morning’s blood draw. (Oh yeah, every morning I gave about five vials. Fun stuff.)

Later that afternoon, I had just showered and was sitting up in bed, making phone calls and relaxing when a phalanx of nurses from labor and delivery strode into my room with a gurney and told me I was coming with them to deliver the baby. This was a shock. My own nurse came in behind them and said the doctor had been trying to reach me, but I had been on the phone. My bloodwork showed that I had developed a complication of preeclampsia called HELLP Syndrome, which basically meant that internal organs like my liver weren’t doing so hot. The baby had to come out, or else we both would be in trouble.

After panicked calls to reach my husband to come as quickly as possible and to my sister-in-law for reassurance, I was prepped for a C-section. That evening, my daughter was born at 26 weeks, five days, gestation. She weighed just 1 pound, 13.4 ounces, or 834 grams. I didn’t even get to see her born because I was so swollen the anesthesiologist couldn’t get a needle into my spine. I had general anesthesia. I didn’t get to see her for more than 24 hours because I was stuck in bed in a haze thanks to a magnesium sulfate drip. I didn’t hold her for almost a week because she was so delicate. I just sat by her incubator, lightly touching her with my hand and talking to her. Her entire hand was the size of the tip of my pinky finger. The first days were so scary that it’s hard to even describe what it was like. The first week of a preemie’s life will determine what happens for the rest of it. And for us, the news was all good. She didn’t need a ventilator, and was breathing with just positive air pressure. No bleeding in the brain. Lots of pee. A feisty attitude. (That hasn’t changed.) I got to hold her for the first time six days after she was born. It happened to be Mother’s Day. Part of me is still in that chair, holding my swaddled baby for the first time, oblivious to everything else. One of the neonatologists walked up to me and started to talk to me about how well she was doing, but I ignored him, repeating over and over, “My baby, my baby.”

Today, she weighs about 33 pounds and is as tall as some 5-year-olds. And when she climbs into my lap for snuggles, the world still disappears and my mind repeats, “My baby, my baby.”

On Sunday, for the fourth year, I will be lacing up my sneakers and heading to White Plains to walk with hundreds of other parents who know exactly how I felt in that first moment I held my daughter. Parents of preemies never take a day or a minute for granted. We know how easily we could have come home with nothing but heartbreak. We are thrilled for the chance to help out the March of Dimes, which is committed to making sure that more babies come home with their parents. I pester my family, friends and coworkers for donations because I know that every dollar raised will go to programs to prevent premature birth and to make sure that the ones who are born early, like my Pumpkin, will live.

While I was writing this, my daughter came over to me to give me a hug and show off the blue ponytail holder her grandmother put in her (long and messy) hair today. I have never cut her hair, which is below her waist. I hadn’t realized until this moment why I haven’t, even though I know that it would be nice to have a lock of the baby blond at the tips before the whole head turns darker. I don’t need a keepsake. I have my baby. I’m marching on Sunday so that other moms can say the same.

May 8, 2005

May 8, 2005

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 at 2:51 pm |


The idea of ‘strangers’


When did you teach your children about the dangers of “strangers”? We started earlier this year and have approached the topic in a measured fashion, trying not to freak her out but also hoping to instill caution.

This is on my mind this morning thanks to my colleague <a href=”http://www.lohud.com/article/20090420/NEWS02/904200322″ target=”_blank”>Janie Rosman’s article</a> about a seminar on “stranger danger” held in Scarsdale. It’s well worth a read. I particularly liked the advice about helping children find “safe” strangers if they get lost. Telling your child to go up to a mom with children and ask for help is a great idea.

The Scarsdale mom who organized the workshop was inspired by a scare in a store when she lost track of her 5-year-old for a moment.

I’ve always kept pretty close tabs on the Pumpkin while we shop — which won’t surprise any of my friends and family who know my protective parenting style. But I have to admit that I used to relax some of my vigilance when we shopped in kids’ stores like Baby Gap and Gymboree, letting her wander around a bit while I browsed.

An experience I had in December put an end to that casual attitude.

I was shopping for Christmas gifts at Danbury mall with my daughter one evening just a few days before the holiday. It was a special trip just to buy her daddy’s presents. We first went to Lord & Taylor and spent about 45 minutes at the men’s fragrance counter with a very patient saleswoman who helped us pick out a shower gel and deodorant. Pumpkin must have smelled a dozen scents. Then we stopped at Pottery Barn to pick up two more place settings of our flatware to have enough for an upcoming party. Then we went to Jos. A. Bank to pick out a tie. Because my husband is tall, we asked where the long ties were displayed in the back of the store. I put down my Pottery Barn bag, which had the Lord & Taylor bag tucked inside, and both Pumpkin and I talked with the salesman. They were having a “buy one, get one” promotion, so we picked out two ties. Then we found out there was the same deal for dress shirts, so we picked out two of those as well, moving perhaps a total of eight feet from where the ties were displayed.

So, I go to the register to pay, and I realize I don’t have my bag. I head to the back where I left it, and it’s nowhere to be found. Now, this is a *very* small store that’s long and narrow. Even just days before Christmas, it had less than a half dozen customers in the store the whole time I was there. I proceeded to hunt for my bag, but it was nowhere to be found. I made the manager call mall security to report the theft. It took them 45 minutes to show up and they didn’t even write anything down. They were completely uninterested. I thought to myself that it was amazing that my bag could disappear in the few minutes that we were picking out ties and dress shirts. Maybe it was a customer who I hadn’t noticed in the very back of the store. But it seems hard to believe that the one or two customers in the vicinity just happened to be a thief. I’ll leave the reader of the blog to come to the other obvious conclusion about who else was in the vicinity, as my husband did when I told him the story.

After I left the store, and after I went back to Lord & Taylor to re-buy the bath stuff (we skipped a return trip to Pottery Barn, too depressing), I realized how lucky I was: Someone stole a bag with maybe $140 in merchandise inside. But holding my hand was my most precious person. If a bag can be stolen in a few minutes, so can a child.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, April 20th, 2009 at 12:23 pm |

My bigtime movie goof


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 |

Study: More kids now homeless


Troubling report his week from The National Center on Family Homelessness, which released a study that found 1 in 50 children in the U.S. were without a home. That’s about 1.5 million kids, according to the study. And the troubling thing is that the figures were compiled in 2005-2006 — before the current economic downturn that has more and more parents without jobs.

(Angela Gaul/The Journal News)

The study ranks New York 38th overall in a national review of states. The Empire state was 39th in child well being, 31st in risk of child homelessness, and 22nd in extent of child homelessness. It also classified New York’s policy and planning on the issue as inadequate.

It’s just a reminder that as more folks end up out of work, there’s a whole generation of kids tagging along.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 at 11:39 am |


My cellular kid


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 |

My son’s health care crisis


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 |
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Teens under the knife


The surgeon’s knife, that is.

Statistics show that the number of teens undergoing cosmetic surgery continues to rise, with more than 244,000 American teens going under the knife for breast implants, nose jobs and other procedures in 2006, according to an MSNBC report in 2007. Also, USA Today reported a spike in breast-reduction operations among boys, with more than 14,000 a year.

This week, The Hastings Center, a bioethical think tank in Garrison, raised the alarm, announcing a series of essays in its current newsletter addressing the issue. The essays address, among other topics, the surgical procedure that “Westernizes” the eyes for Asian patients. Of course, with some 11.7 million cosmetic surgical procedures among all residents in 2007, it’s not hard to figure out who’s setting the example.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, January 29th, 2009 at 1:52 pm |


Is Spongebob killing our kids?


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 |

The ragged edges


So, my New Year’s resolution was to get busy blogging again and write an essay about why I fell off in my frequency so badly. But then life struck. We have been sick in my house for the past two weeks. It’s hard to express how miserable we’ve all been first with the stomach flu and now with nasty colds. I’ve had lots of good blog fodder coming into my head, though, at 3 a.m. when the child wakes up miserable. Sadly, though, so far no energy to write it up. Some thoughts:

• I can’t help but feel a bit like a failure as a mother because I just CAN NOT deal with vomit. Sorry. Can’t do it. During the worst vomit days, my husband bore the brunt. Fortunately for me, Pumpkin did her sick-making in the evening primarily, so I was off the hook when it came to cleaning up. Who does the dirty job in your household?

• Who doesn’t like Saltine crackers? They are the least offensive food I can imagine. But Pumpkin is turning her nose up at them and about 30 other foods as she slowly recovers her appetite. Worst of all, she is wishy-washy about what she wants. She says, “I’m hungry.” I say, “What do you want?” She says, “You pick it.” Then we go through every food in my fridge and pantry and I try and tempt her taste buds. Tonight, after turning down almost everything when I was ready to put her to bed even as she kept insisting she was hungry, I finally asked if she wanted peanut butter on bread. She ate three slices — crusts off. Go figure.

• She refuses to let me use saline to clear her nose or ChapStick on her lips, which are cracked and dry from the runny nose. My mother thinks I let her get away with too much. I dunno: Does your 3-year-old have autonomy? Mine seems to.

I realize this isn’t exciting stuff, but it’s my life these days. I have other stuff I will get into as soon as I’m not in a sick fog, like the awesome talent show we had on New Year’s Day with Pumpkin’s cousins. Pumpkin sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by heart. I also want to talk about having had the quintessential parent experience: Staying up until 2 a.m. Christmas Eve putting together a toy, in our case a play kitchen. I also want to put in some time trying to explain why blogging about being a mom got a little bit painful when I felt I wasn’t having enough time to BE a mom. Now I regret all the entries I didn’t post because I’ve missed out on sharing all the common and wonderful experiences I’ve had. I’ve also missed out on your reactions, dear blog readers, which is the best part of this gig.

So, here’s to a year of blogging. I’ll be here if you will … after I get over this darn cold, that is.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, January 16th, 2009 at 3:28 am |
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The little bully


I wanted to beat up a 3-year-old this weekend. And boy, would he have had it coming.

Frankly, I would’ve been okay with my girlfriend’s 4-year-old taking the kid out. But that’s where she and I differed, and where it makes for an interesting discussion on bullying. It’s been on my mind lately anyway, since my 10-year-old son is now in middle school. In our district, the middle school is grades 6-8, and since he’s the youngest in his grade because of his late-November birthday, he’s also one of the smallest kids in the new school. So, it’s been on my mind.

Back to the weekend: Our blended family was out and about in the sunshine yesterday, and took time out to hit the playground at Croton Point Park. All is going well, until a 3-year-old boy (I’m guessing on the age) punches my son in the stomach. Now, he’s bigger, so he just laughed it off and let it go. But then the kid punches my girlfriend’s 4-year-old in the gut — three times over the span of maybe 5 minutes or so. Hmm.

So, our boy runs back and complains that the kid kept hitting him. One point: Our little guy is amazingly strong for his age. He has remarkable arm strength for a kid his age, and is big for his age. However, he’s also very, very mild mannered. In other words, he has the strength to be a bully, but nowhere near the demeanor. Therefore, he keeps trying to go back to the play ground but runs back in fear each time the little bully kid starts running towards him.

At one point the bully kid actually pulls down his pants and urinates on the playground equipment as if it was second nature. No, there was no sign of a parent. Anyway, my girlfriend takes matters into her own hands. She walks over, does official introductions for her son and the bully kid. They shake hands, and off they go to play like old buddies — until the smaller boy kicks our boy in the face.

My 10-year-old offered to take the little bully out, but, of course, we’re not going there. Now here’s where my girlfriend and I differed: Her solution was to just leave and to congratulate her son for not hitting back. I also commended him, but felt that, at that stage, we should have instructed our 4-year-old to, A) Tell the bully kid to stop and, B) If he didn’t stop, to clock him in the head. That’s me.

Years ago, when my son was in pre-K, he had a bigger kid push him around regularly. The kid was bigger and the staff at the place did little about it. I complained several times, and finally told them after a few weeks that if it happened again I would instruct my son to defend himself. They said they would do something. Needless to say, it happened again. My son got pushed down, got up and clocked the kid in the nose. The bigger kid went down, started crying and ran away. They ended up being friends after that.

Is that the best option? Maybe not. I saw it as a last resort. And I’m not sure how I’d handle it if he has a similar problem in middle school this year. My fingers are crossed that it doesn’t happen.

With my girlfriend’s 4-year-old, there’s another component: He is, as I said, a very strong kid, and we don’t want him to hurt anyone and we don’t want him to learn to solve his conflicts with his fists. But isn’t there a breaking point, where he should learn to stand his ground? When is that point?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, September 8th, 2008 at 12:26 pm |


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