Some Feature Presentations

1              Fathers parenting?…Why is it that people still question the effectiveness of fathers parenting? That’s so out of date. Wake Up!!!!

 

Fathers Parenting — The current crop of Dads is doing really well, according to John Cowan, writer and researcher with The Parenting Place. Talking about fathers parenting he says

“Men are taking their role in the family more seriously. ‘WHICH men!?’ you might snort derisively. Okay, my gender has a long way to go – Mums are still shouldering
the lioness’s share of the parenting burden – but I have observed a steady improvement. I cannot cite any research on this but I have had a ringside
seat in observing family life over my eighteen years as a parent educator at The Parenting Place and I am impressed at how men are picking up their game.

It’s not hard to find dead-beat dads and examples of appalling parenting but I see an increasing willingness by men to get involved with their children.”

Cowan points to the attendances at the recent Fathers’ Breakfasts in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. “Hundreds of men turn up. They know they are important to their kids and they want to do better. I was also amazed at how many men turned up at a ‘Dads and Babies’ seminar I ran at the Baby Show. So many of these new dads are really informed and confident and quick to show off their prowess at looking after their infant.”

The tide may be changing but Cowan is still concerned that too many men still retreat from their babies. “Many Dads are scared to get involved with their kids. It probably starts early on in our parenting when we think that we aren’t as well equipped as women for handling small children. There’s no pelvic shelf for parking an infant on while you’re walking around. There’s no built in lunch bar. We also lack some of the instinctive parenting skills women seem to naturally know. Men don’t come with the hardware or the software, so we back off and leave child-rearing to the apparent experts, that is, the women. But if we step back when our kids are babies, everyone loses.”

 Cowan urges men to get used to holding and hugging their infant. “If you’ve got a baby, learn to handle her. Babies are not as tough as a rugby ball, but not as fragile as a Flake bar. You should never shake a baby or handle them roughly but as long as you support your baby’s head, and don’t drop them you’re probably doing it okay. Handled with care, a baby should last a lifetime!”

“I really like the way modern dads are less shackled by stale masculine stereotypes,” says Cowan. “They’ve grasped the idea that you are no less manly when you get involved with children; in fact it is a very masculine thing. They realise they are not just ‘mums without the bumps’ but are dads, and dads do things a bit differently. For example, one thing the testosterone-laced nature of a man teaches children very naturally is that the best bits of life are out beyond our comfort zone. What is a Dad doing when he is throwing a child in the air and catching him? Well, he’s alarming his mother for a start! But, for the child, it’s fear, followed by reassurance. The edge of terror, and then back again to safety. A Dad will run with the push-chair, heave the swing up to shrieking height and lift a child up just before a wave hits them. All terrifying, but if Dad is holding their hand, it’s safe and it’s fun. Dads teach that the best adventures and life’s greatest treasures are very close to that edge of terror and that courage unlocks life.”

 

 

2                          Fathers Parenting  Special needs Children

Parenting a special needs child may not be easy, but mothers are more likely to find support systems and tap into available resources than fathers. Now, a local organization hopes to bring fathers of special needs children into the equation as fathers parenting becomes more commonplace.

As a part of its 20th anniversary celebration, the Fathers and Families Center will host a six-hour seminar Saturday designed specifically and exclusively for fathers parenting special needs children.

It’s the first time the non-profit agency has ventured into this arena. And it’s a situation that’s near and dear to the heart of center president and chief executive officer Wallace McLaughlin.

About a year ago, he and his wife noticed that their son, now four and a half, had frequent meltdowns and a preoccupation with order. They had him evaluated and learned that he was on the autism spectrum. McLaughlin realized that although he was a professional in the field of helping fathers, he had no idea where to turn. Then, a father of a special needs child — not knowing that McLaughlin shared that experience — came to his office and started crying. McLaughlin later noticed that this father had trouble bonding with his son.

“Out of that, I got an a-ha moment and thought that there are a lot of special needs issues,” McLaughlin said. “I talked to a number of men in our own agency and found out that they felt isolated without a place to go.” But such resources are sorely needed, McLaughlin realized, as he met other fathers coming to terms with their special needs children’s situation. One man who had a son with Down’s syndrome told him that when he learned his son’s diagnosis, he started hurling lamps around the hospital and the police had to escort him out.

Saturday’s event at IvyTech Community College Corporate and Culinary Center aims to provide a support base for fathers of children with special needs.

3         Foster mom retires after taking in 150 kids

She’s known as “Mom Trom” to her 153 children. Yes, 153 children, three of whom are biological and 150 others who have always felt like her own.“We had always been the family that had everyone else’s kids at the house for the summer. Friends, cousins and second cousins, they were always at our house,” remembers Marlene Tromczynski, 72, of Kent, Ohio.

foster mom

Courtesy Tromczynski family
Marlene Tromczynski hugs one of her foster sons’ daughter. She began taking in foster children almost 40 years ago.

But it wasn’t just casual visits from friends and family that filled the Tromczynski home, it was foster children, most of whom were fleeing from abusive families and an unhealthy home life.

Since 1974, Tromczynski has taken 150 children, mainly teens, into her home. The first child, Lori Busch, now 54, was 14 when she fled her abusive home and was placed with Tromczynski.

“I was nervous coming into this family with someone that I didn’t know, but I felt very loved and cared for right away,” recalls Busch. “I welcomed the different things in the house, like sitting down for dinner and using silverware. My first night, Marlene tucked me into bed and gave me a quilt to sleep with. She said ‘I love you’ and meant it. I wasn’t used to all of that.”

Tromczynski and her husband had never planned to start fostering teens, but after a great experience hosting a foreign exchange student they became open to the idea of caring for a child more permanently.

“We decided we’d like to help someone and they, in turn, would help our family be rounded out. We felt like having another girl in our house of two boys and one girl would help even out the score for our daughter.”

But five years after taking in Busch, Tromczynski’s husband died suddenly of a heart attack and her devastated family had to start to rebuild.

foster mom

Courtesy Tromczynski family
Marlene Tromczynski and Lori Busch.

“Instead of going out and trying to find a new mate, I invested myself into the kids and the community,” says Tromczynski, “So many people lose their children when their spouse dies, but I needed them and they needed me.” {Seems like a substitute for father parenting

]What resulted was nearly 40 years of fostering children, as many as six at a time living in the house and almost all of them teens. “Nobody wanted to take care of the teenagers. Everybody wanted the cute little babies,” she said. And what could have been a competitive battle of the wills ended up being, for the most part, a peaceful household dominated by teens and their single mother. “We did have challenges, no doubt, but the new kids would watch how the other kids who had been in our house longer behaved and would learn from them. I would seldom have issues.” Ed Tromczynski, 51, from Hudson, Ohio, is one of Marlene’s biological sons and says that establishing rules of the household right off the bat is what kept the house so peaceful. “The older kids who had already been there became the experts and taught the ‘newbies’,” says Tromczynski.

mom and son

Ed Tromczynski poses with his mom, Marlene. He says she has a gift of showing immediate love and warmth.

“My mother’s formula was a unique combination of showing immediate love and warmth, but also relying on the kids that were already there to tell the new ones, ‘You’re about to get the best meal of your life so you better set the table and wash your hands.’” “Here were kids that had only been here for an hour, but had already gotten a hug, warm comforter, someone to tuck him in, and a real person caring for them from both my mother and the other kids.” Ed Tromczynski says that this compassion was nothing new, and his mother and father had always instilled a “we” is better than “me” mentality in their family. Part of that, says Marlene Tromczynski, was ensuring that the foster children never came into her home feeling alone. “I never told them that their parents didn’t love them,” says Tromcynski. “Instead, I would tell them that they did love them, but they just couldn’t take care of them right now, and in the meantime I was just the helper.”

Busch has carried Tromczynski’s acceptance with her her entire life. “My family has been there for me 100 percent,” says Busch. “Marlene never made me feel like I was not a biological child.” Tromczynski recently retired from her role as foster mom and says she is going through withdrawals of not having a household full of kids. But with 153 children, and now grandchildren, Tromczynski never truly has to worry about an empty nest. “As a parent, the best thing you can do is put your children first. It’s about them and it’s not about you, and the best thing you can do is give them love and attention and remind them that you care what happens to them,” says Tromczynski.

4           Explore Parenting Through Poetry
We’re very happy to be hosting this guest post from Lauren Wayne.

 

Explore your parenting through poetry photo explore-poetry.jpgBy Lauren Wayne

What I love about poetry is how it allows us to view our lives through a different prism: one that breaks apart the pieces of our experience into rainbow colors and then focuses them with clarity that can be blinding in its insight. When I became a parent, it was natural — even necessary — to explore my new adventures (and misadventures) through the lens of poetry.

Did we dream you into existence,
or was it more mundane?

When you open yourself up to writing poetry, you open yourself to reexamining and memorializing what was meaningful to you, even the hard moments.

Feeling you leave in a gush of pain and red,
in the blackest and loneliest part of the night …

Why were we led all that way, and never to see your face?

 

single paper baby shoe

Poetry gives a voice to the sublime stories you want to retell and re-envision.

You slipped out to our surprise, …
a flashing red-purple,
wriggling in the water, and finally hauled in,
turning it around
and catching us in your net

 

baby after home water birth

And it elevates the everyday into song.

You sleep beside us
for the waking together
sun bright
you point out
and smile.

 

waking up cosleeping

I’ve been writing poetry for years — handmade diaries from junior high glittering with stanzas in pink and green ink, earnest fountain-pen scrawls on random pieces of notepaper from college. But nothing has inspired me more than parenting — this wild, enlightening, exhausting, wonderful journey.

What can I learn in two years together

(almost three)?
What have you changed in me
except everything?

Even if you don’t consider yourself A Poet, even if you’ve never written (or read!) a poem in your life, I encourage you — I urge you — to pick up a pen or sit at a keyboard and give it a try. Consider an image, or a moment, and take a walk into your imagination. Describe it, feel it, relive it, and find the meaning for yourself that you can now share with others. As parents, all our writing opportunities are limited and hurried, but a poem is short — and therefore a possibility for an unexpected interlude.

One-handed now, lap filled,
breast claimed, you furtively search
for the letters, the keys,
the strain to capture your thoughts in the dark.

If you’d like some direction, I have a whole month’s worth of parenting-poetry prompts from my recent Weekly Parenting Poetry Workshop here. The workshop is over for now, but you can free verse it (so to speak).

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