lohud.com

Sponsored by:

Archive for the 'Single parents' 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 »

Advertisement

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:

<object width=”425″ height=”344″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/BcznS8hYe8g&hl=en&fs=1″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/BcznS8hYe8g&hl=en&fs=1″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”425″ height=”344″></embed></object>

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

My son and the icy little “planet”

May
18

I remember one of my son’s first trips to the Museum of Natural History years ago. He was at the height of his interest in astronomy — one of those rites of passage evey kid seems to go through. It’s like the interest all kids develop at one time or another in dinosaurs.

So there we were in the parking garage entrance area, where the ticket booths are. Along the far wall are models of the planets, and we followed them from the start: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and so on. We followed the line down until we hit Neptune, then kept walking and wound up inside an adjacent gift shop.

“May I help you?” the woman asked.

“Yes, we’re looking for Pluto,” I said.

“It’s not a planet,” she said.

My son and I were greatly disappointed, to say the least.

Little did I realize at the time that we were at the height of controversy surrounding Pluto, which has since been officially demoted from planet status.

I’m actually in the midst of finishing a book about it all, titled the Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson, head man at the museum’s Haydn Planetarium. Turns out the museum started an uproar when it refurbished the planetarium without Pluto among the planets.

Anyway, it’s a story that, as they say in my business, has legs. Just last week, our neighbors had a dinner party which they dubbed “astronomy night” for all the kids, and we pulled out a couple of telescopes to see Saturn in the southern sky.

In the middle of it all, my son decided to poll everyone at the party on whether Pluto really was a planet. Needless to say, the results were inconclusive. But I couldn’t help but sense that a lot of the kids really miss Pluto as a full-fledged planet. My son certainly does.

The experience heightened my realization that our kids are growing up with some different realities than we had as kids.

These aren’t necessarily life-changing situations or ideals. It’s just different. When I was a kid T. Rex was supposed to have been a slow, lumbering creature that walked like Godzilla in the Japanese monster flicks, and there were a few less elements in the periodic table that I had to memorize.

But I’ve come to see it as a positive thing. Parents are traditionally supposed to help educate kids on the world around them. Now it seems my son and I are learning a thing or two together. And that’s kinda cool.

Even if I had one more planet than him.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
| | 7 Comments »

Advertisement

When is Blended Family Day?

May
13

Here’s a built-in problem in blended families: You never have the whole family together for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

There’s a simple reason for it. Namely, my son will always be with his mom on Mother’s Day (as he was earlier this month) and my girlfriend’s son will be with his dad on Father’s Day. So, we’re inevitably incomplete when celebrating our respective parenting days.

Kinda makes it hard to have the ideal family day.

Or does it?

Bethany Grey, editor at eHow.com, offered a list of suggestions for dads and stepdads to celebrate Father’s Day in a blog titled “How to Celebrate Father’s Day in a Blended Family.” I don’t agree with all of it, but some of Grey’s suggestions make sense, including the idea to shop for Father’s Day cards with the child. It’s a good stepdad experience to share.

Mostly, I like the idea of doing something the day before, something Grey didn’t hit on. This year, we grilled hot dogs and steak the day before Mother’s Day and had a picnic outside. It was fun and we did the family thing. I’m thinking we’ll do the same with my girlfriend’s son the day before Father’s Day next month.

One thing I’ve never wanted to do is give my girlfriend’s son the notion that I’m replacing his dad, at least not that way. This makes for something of a juggling act at times. But that’s a blog for another day.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 at 10:35 am |
| | 2 Comments »

A dad’s place is…. on a blog

April
23

Leave it to a dad’s blog to make this case, but the Examiner’s fatherhood blog has put out a list of five reasons why dad blogs are worth keeping an eye one. You can read the post here.

(Kathy Gardner/The Journal News)

Obviously, Parents Place is a general parenting blog, with capable dads AND moms in the mix. So, we’re more inclusive and take a wider view of parenting.

But I’ve always felt that there’s a need out here for more of a voice from fathers, whether it’s dads in traditional homes like my co-bloggers Jon and Len, or myself,  a father building a blended family. So it’s reassuring to see a list like this out there, especially with more dads involved in hands-on parenting.

And remember, there’s no shortage of good dad blogs on our blogroll, including Crazy Computer Dad and David Mott’s Dad’s House.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 at 8:00 am |
| | 3 Comments »

National Provider Appreciation Day coming in May

April
16

The folks at Child Care Aware sent out a reminder that next month will bring National Provider Appreciation Day, when child care providers we entrust with our kids get honorable mention.

Not a bad idea, depending on the care the kids receive. We’ve been lucky that way, so I figured I would send CCA’s press release along for your consumption:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 11.3 million children under the age of 5 that spend some part of their week in child care. If this number includes your family, chances are you’ve added an extended family member or two to your daily routine. And you’ve selected a person that you feel will provide the best care for your child.

Child care providers put a lot of love and hard work into their careers, and they’re often rewarded with little hugs and a “thank you” every now and then. As your child spends time with his/her child care provider, a special bond begins to form. This person is an additional teacher, friend and trusted caregiver. Your child shares many special moments with the child care provider, and you enoy the benefits of these relationships on a daily basis.

This year, take some time to show your child care provider how much you appreciate what she does for your family. On Friday, May 8, 2009, the nation will celebrate National Provider Appreciation Day – a day set aside each year to honor those who are caring for our young children.

For more information on Provider Appreciation Day, go to www.providerappreciationday.org.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, April 16th, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
| | Comments Off on National Provider Appreciation Day coming in May

Advertisement

Who lays down the law?

April
10

Who wears the pants in a blended family? More to the point, who handles discipline?

According to blended-family blogger Cathy Meyer, the biological parent should discipline their own child or children. The stepparent should, in turn, deal with their own child.

Well, it’s an interesting dilema. I find that in our home my girlfriend and I often defer to the biological parent to dictate terms and punishment for misdeed by the kids. For us, this always entails a verbal reprimand and nothing more. But the tendency of both our children to be a tad more uneasy with the stepparent issuing the reprimand is part of a learning curve that I think takes time – and we’re still working on.

But I have never seen it as a black-and-white issue. We do consult each other regularly and we have gotten comfortable with correcting or issuing mild reprimands to the others’ child. If it’s still a learning process it is more so for our two boys, and they are coming along.

Still, Meyer seems to take a harder line in her blog:

“As a stepparent, you should avoid any decisions about the discipline of your stepchild. This can and does depend on the situation but in most cases, it is best to leave issues of discipline up to the biological parent. Your role as a stepparent is that of mentor and supporter, not parent. This is something many stepparents have a hard time coming to terms with.”

I don’t think it’s that rigid, and I think it is something that has to be overcome for a blended family to eventually succeed. What do you think?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, April 10th, 2009 at 11:45 am |
| | 4 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 »

Study: More kids now homeless

March
11

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 |
| | 2 Comments »

Advertisement

Study: Kids benefit from grandparents

March
6

Kids are better behaved and have better social skills if a grandparent is involved in their upbringing, according to a recent study in the Journal of Family Psychology, That’s kind of a no-brainer for most of us, but take note of the fact that the study found it’s particularly true in single-parent and divorced families.

(Joe Larese/The Journal News)

Obviously, plenty of children grow up to be marvelous human beings without significant influence from their grandparents. It was largely lacking in my childhood. But, and especially in single-parent homes, what an element of stability that can add to a child who doesn’t have the benefit of both parents in the home, or is struggling emotionally with the adjustment to a step-parent.

That’s a noteworthy footnote to the whole thing. At least it is for me.

 

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, March 6th, 2009 at 6:33 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

Census: Fewer families with kids at home

March
4

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

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

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

Among the factors:

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

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

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

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

Single-parent bailout?

February
23

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

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

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

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

Advertisement
Advertisement

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.


Subscribe

Daily Email Newsletter:






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



Poll