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Archive for the 'Sibling rivalry' Category

Our blended family vacation


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 |

(Step)parent balancing act


Alvin Toffler once wrote that parenthood remains the greatest single preserve of the amateur. I wonder what he might have had to say about step-parenting.

With my girlfriend and I and our two boys now sharing a roof, I’m realizing that parenting her son will be something of a balancing act. He’s a great kid, with unusually good manners for a 3-year-old. But he is 3, and going through a transition on various levels, which will mean there is a period of adjustment coming up.

We’re both acutely aware that we need to keep an eye on both boys while the move takes hold, and we’re both acting accordingly. But there’s a period of adjustment for the adults too. For instance, I’m still trying to set the parameters for my relationship with my girlfriend’s son. He’s a tad confused by me, and my role in his life. From my end, I have to fight the tendency to spoil him so he’ll like me, while also being cautious not to come down too hard on the other end and be too strict.

Don’t get me wrong: So far, so good. Both boys are happy and seem to be enjoying our new home. But as I think down the line, we need to fine tune the roles we will play as parents to each other’s children. I think the fact that we’re discussing it and dwelling on it is a good sign, even if we do feel like amateurs at times.

Anyway, stay tuned. We’ll see how this goes.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, September 12th, 2007 at 3:44 pm |

The countdown begins


Our big move is set for Labor Day weekend. That’s when my girlfriend and I will merge our two mini-families into one.

There’s no shortage of stress associated with the move, but we’ve been careful to make it smooth for our two boys. Frankly, I think I’m most stressed about the physical move: The act of actually moving stuff from one place to the next. I’ve always hated moving, and the friends who helped me last time I relocated still curse me for all the unnecessary junk I couldn’t part with and that they had to lug upstairs.

I think our families are a tad concerned as well, largely because there are two little boys involved. I can entirely understand this. Some of it is unavoidable, and I think there will be a period of transition for the boys.

We’ve done as much as we could to ensure a smooth move for the kids. My girlfriend’s son is 3, so changing schools won’t be a problem. He will swap day care centers, but we found an excellent one that he took to on his visit, and we were able to get a spot after a couple of months on the waiting list.

After he settles in, we think he’ll benefit greatly from having a more permanent home: He currently spends time with me and my son, with his dad, and with his mom at their place. It’s a bit much for a 3-year-old, and I think this is one of the most difficult things for the child of a single parent who dates: A lack of a sense of place. The transition to a new family setting may be a bit unnerving for a child, but if the home is loving and caring — which this one will be — it is a huge benefit in the end. Both boys, I think, will be more secure in having a place where they belong.

It’s a slightly different set of hurdles for my 9-year-old son. His mom recently remarried, so he already has a stepbrother and will have two homes where he spends equal time. (My girlfriend’s son spends considerably less time at his dad’s house). So, how have we worked on that transition?

Talk, talk, talk. My son and I have spoken at length about the move, and he genuinely looks forward to it. We have involved him in all the decisions, including how to rearrange furniture — what to get rid of, what to keep. We made it clear his space will be his, and we are going to add some posters and personal items.

We also made it clear there will be time alone. That is, I will have  time to be alone with my son, and my girlfriend with her son. But this is where the balancing act lies, because it is important to us that we live and play as a family, not as two mini-families that simply share a household. I know parents in similar situations who continue to parent their own child separately after moving in with their partner and their child. This essentially creates a sort of sub-family within the new family. For us, it will be important to genuinely become a blended family. After all, and despite the age difference, the boys get along well and my son has taken to the role of being an older brother looking out for the little one.

So, we will mix it up. But we feel it is most important that, despite alone time with our boys, there is more together time as a family. What do you think?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, August 14th, 2007 at 9:42 am |


Back from vacation; Now time to rest


We’re back from vacation and for those who are keeping score at home, we all survived. In fact, we may have even learned something about getting along. Well, I’m allowed to dream.

For anyone who missed our last episode, I took my two sons on vacation without my wife, who was stuck at work. I did have some concerns about behavior problems, but more on that later.

First a little tour info: The trip was to the northwest corner of Connecticut – rolling country dotted with little villages filled with white houses where, curiously, no one seemed to be at home. One of the highlights was a hike along the Appalachian Trail and up Lion’s Head, a mountain just outside Salisbury, Conn. We brought along cutlet sandwiches from Toymakers Café in Falls Village, the settlement where we were staying. The climb was fairly easy and at the top there was a great view of the Berkshires and a good piece of Massachusetts.

Now back to the family: My oldest son, 17, is athletic and, well, let’s just say, exuberant. He seems to constantly need to prove to his 12-year-old brother that he is the alpha pup in the family. Hell, sometimes the older brother thinks he runs the family.

Without going into detail here, at a certain point I had had enough. I don’t know how you handle sibling rivalry run amok, but I took the older guy out for a talk. I was calm and the talk dealt with expectations and responsibilities. A little later I needed to give his brother a similar talk.

Funny thing, when we climbed to the top of Lion’s Gate the next day, we found a camp counselor having a similar talk with one of the teens in his charge. It was awesome. The counselor, who appeared to be in his mid-20s, kept asking the boy to look at him as they talked and there was some hard work from both sides for at least 20 minutes. I learned a little about persistence in the face of a teen trying to wear you down.

Another highlight was watching Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein on our last night. My oldest son was certain he would hate the movie. Later, he pronounced the movie “not bad,â€? truly high praise from him and I suspect from most teens to anything suggested by a parent.

When we arrived home Saturday, I thanked my oldest son for helping out with the chores. I suggested to him it would have been a lot more pleasant if he didn’t argue before he did those chores. He acknowledged that what I was saying might not be completely unreasonable. I’ve got to check back with him again to make sure I heard him right.

Posted by Len Maniace on Monday, July 2nd, 2007 at 10:23 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