Which family is his family?

Its Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs. The theme is Back to School.

It's Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs. The theme is "Back to School."

family_vennFor homework this past weekend, my preschooler, Jacob, was to make a “me cube,” a tissue box wrapped in colored paper and then covered with photos, drawings and information about him. One of the faces of the cube was supposed to feature a picture of “my family.”

I agonized, as I often do, over whether to show his family of three — just Jacob, his mom and me — or his family of five, which includes his much older half-brothers.

About a year ago, when the teachers in Jacob’s previous class asked for a family picture for the bulletin board, we gave them the family of five. But even at that time, it was a difficult choice.

For a while I had been sensing my wife’s need to identify just the three of us as a family in our own right. A couple of years ago during the holidays, I had been putting all five of our names on Christmas cards when my wife, Angela, observed me doing it and asked why I was including the two sons who weren’t under our roof. I hadn’t thought much about it till then; I had just put their names down because they were my kids. But it was kind of illogical to do that — I know I shouldn’t presume to act as my older sons’ representative for things like greeting cards.

Lately, it occurs to me that Jacob probably thinks of his family in similar terms. Mama and Daddy are with him in the house every day, so we are his ‘immediate’ family in the sense that we are the ones in his immediate reach.

Another observation: When people ask if Jacob has any siblings, I don’t just say ”Yes” or that he has two older brothers. Instead, I usually say that I have two (much older) sons from my first marriage. I’m saying, in so many words, ”Yes but not the same kinds of siblings most preschoolers have.” In a way, I am doing it to differentiate between our ‘conventional’ family of three and our less conventional family of five. This seems to give everyone proper recognition for where they are in life.

In any case, a photo of the family of three is now pasted to the cube.

I’d like to hear from others who struggle with which family to identify as the family.

cube2

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“Trophy wife” intro aside, Globe article is a good read

Add this to the Recycled Dad canon: a 2005 Boston Globe article that doesn’t just state the obvious about older guys who have kids with their second wives.

(Boston Globe Photo / Lisa Poole)

For starters, this piece has a pretty thorough setup that observes the following:

  • The number of “do-over dads” seems to be increasing, though concrete statistics are hard to capture.
  • Men remarry sooner after divorce than women do; for this and other reasons, more divorced men than divorced women are in a position to have children.
  • Recycled dads tend to be more confident and enjoy the parenting experience more.

I enjoyed this passage that quotes Marilyn Yalom, an author and Stanford University researcher:

This second chance at fatherhood, says Yalom, is changing these men. “It gives them the idea that they will do a better job the second time around,” she says. This is because, for the most part, just like his mid-section, the second-timer’s temper has softened as he’s gotten older. His drive to build a successful career is no longer obsessively frantic; he may even be contemplating retirement. This dad is everything that kids love – devoted, patient, giving – and he isn’t as focused on the issues that many younger parents face, such as the balancing act between career and family. He’s not only old enough to be his kids’ grandfather, he practically acts like one.

Some of us might chuckle at the grandfather thing. Others of us might not.

The rest of the story:

  • One profile of a recycled dad to illustrate the above points, plus some of the downsides of this situation, with quotes from his adult kids (one of whom criticizes Dad for shortchanging the new generation).
  • The new wife’s perspective.
  • Vasectomy reversals. (I could — and probably will — do a post dedicated to that topic.)
  • A profile of another recycled dad, which mainly illustrates the physical limitations that some older dads have to deal with.

Check it out and feel free to comment on anything that stands out — good or bad.