Even if you don’t have kids—or if your bambini are already grown up—I think you’ll find today’s discussion with Andrea Timonere from “Sex, Lies, & Nutella” extremely interesting. We sort of used child rearing as a focal point for discussing Italian society at large, and comparing those practices to their American equivalent.
First off, I admit that I sort of “borrowed” the title of today’s podcast episode from Andrea’s blog title because, well…it’s so very appealing. And actually, it seems to fit.
How so, you ask? Let’s break it down…
Sex: Well, obviously when talking about having children, you can’t really skip this important first step in the process. Enough said.
Lies: This refers to the lies that soon-to-be parents tell themselves. Example: “I won’t make ANY of the mistakes that MY parents made.” (No, in fact you’ll invent brand new ones.)
Raising Children Italian Style: This is really the center of today’s discussion—and I apologize to those of you who only tuned in hoping that we’d talk about the first topic on the list. In Internet marketing jargon, this is known as “click bait.” And you fell for it. For the rest of you, let’s continue…
Raising Children Italian Style
Beyond Italy, maybe it’s a European thing. Our discussion reminded me of a book I had started reading a couple years ago (i.e. before my daughter was born) called “Bringing Up Bebe,” written by an American woman in Paris. She made several observations that only now really make sense to me.
For example, she described a restaurant scene that probably sounds familiar to many American parents. You sit down at the table, and immediately order something for the baby to eat. Then of course, she’s not hungry and is only interested is seeing how far she can launch her pasta across the room. So you rush through your meal, take turns entertaining the little monster—I mean, angel—then skip coffee and dessert, and leave a way-too-generous tip to compensate for the havoc your child has wrecked upon the wait staff. Looking over your shoulder as you dash out the door, you decide that maybe it was worth it, after all, to have someone else clean up the aftermath of a typical baby dinner, for a change.
European kids don’t seem to behave this way, and yet their parents don’t appear to be heavy handed with the discipline—at least not in the Mediterranean countries. Rather, the accepted norms of the cultural environment are what guide the behavior for both parents and children, even if it’s more or less unspoken.
We touch on this in the podcast, and Andrea is very insightful with her observations. We also venture into a discussion about the older “kids” in Italy. Yes, I’m referring to the legendary population of mammoni, who live at home well into their 30s and 40s so that they won’t miss a single occasion to indulge in Mamma’s trippa alla romana or to have their shirts ironed just the way they like.
I would like to give a big “GRAZIE” once again to Andrea for taking the time out of her double duty as career woman and mamma to her two year-old, Luca. (We chatted during his nap.)
Please visit her on her hilarious, insightful blog, and “like” her Facebook Page to keep up with all her posts about life in Rome. Andrea is definitely someone who I look forward to inviting back to my podcast for another discussion in the near future. Next time we’ll leave the kids at home, and so perhaps we’ll discuss that “other” topic that you were hoping to hear more about. (And no, I’m not referring to Nutella…)
Her Website: Sex, Lies, & Nutella
Click the link to check out other episodes and see my list of the best podcasts about Italy.
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Beautiful episode – it was really interesting for me to hear Andrea’s perspective. I am Italian and I literally lived with my parents since I was 28. So this definitely makes me a ‘mammone’, and I already knew that. What I didn’t know is that it’s my mom’s obsessive care for my most basic need – surviving – that made me the cautious person that I am. I wonder if it however held me back in life a bit… not so sure. Andrea, you have a new follower, you’re way cheaper than therapy!
I’m European, English actually, and smacking is illegal in my country. Also the American restaurant scene you described was all too familiar to me. I’m not too sure what that says about European versus American child-rearing. Could it be that some Europeans are different from others? Anyway I look forward to reading Andrea’s blog and listening to your podcast.
Ciao! Thanks so much for stopping by and giving us the English perspective! It’s interesting, because (from what I’ve observed), the English share things in common with both Europeans and Americans.
Actually I have to confess that recently I heard a debate on smacking on the radio and spanking is illegal in England but not smacking. Whoops! Personally I think of myself as European as well as English and British, though I don’t know how many of my fellow countrymen and -women would agree.
This was a great podcast Rick! And I love Andrea. So much fun! And really interesting. Although, regarding the discipline thing, this hasn
Interesting. This hasn’t be my experience. My many talks with Italian friends about discipline are always the same: Their father spanked them often (especially in the south). The difference between Italian kids and American kids that I’ve seen is that Italian kids go everywhere with their parents. Always. So they’re used to dinners and parties etc. Plus, the children are often the center of attention so they get less bored. In the US, kids are considered too young for mixed adult company (I think that’s weird and dumb) so kids don’t get out as much for social things aside from birthday parties with other kids. And we tend to be weary of interacting too much with other people’s kids in the US, so kids are often ignored so the adults can talk. At least, that’s how it usually is among my friends with kids and definitely how it was for me growing up. Italian parents (in the south) are also more controlling. Every move is monitored so closely that kids become hyper aware of their every move. In the US kids are given a bit more freedom in a way. I don’t know which is better because I don’t have kids. I just have neices in both Italy and the US. Those are my observations from being around them in multiple scenarios so my view is probably quite narrow. Still, from asking all if my friends if they were spanked as kids, Italian dads seem to be spanking the shit out if their kids left and right. I remeber at a dinner party I once mentioned that my dad had never spanked anyone, the whole table went silent, and they were like, “no!!! But how is that possible?! That’s his role to scare the children into doing the right thing!” Again, in the south though.
With both my parents being Italian (my mom is Sicilian) and my dad’s family from Umbria, spanking came from both parents. With my mom it was the wooden spoon and with my dad…whatever was handy! I survived, but if someone pulls a belt off really fast it still sends shivers down my spine. Haha!
Really? So interesting. I take your word for it, because I have no first hand knowledge… only what I’ve observed or read. My Italian-American family did not spank, but that could be the American influence on child-rearing. In Italy, I’ve seen kids get a little spontaneous “reminder” whack once in a while, but not a spanking, per se. But again, I don’t know what goes on inside the homes.
And I definitely agree with what you wrote about kids being the center of attention and mixing with the adults. In my mind, that’s where the discipline comes in–the close monitoring of their behavior.
As for my own child, she will never be spanked. To me it seems like a “shortcut” to adjusting behavior. A more deliberate approach of reasoning with the child might not produce quick “results” in behavior modification, but I believe it will nurture better overall development in the long run.
Another great post and podcast Rick! I am really enjoying listening to these podcasts while in my car heading either to or from work on The Phoenix freeways. Although I don’t have kids, this was very interesting to me, perhaps because as an Italian-American I could relate to some of the parenting views/styles of Italians. Believe it or not, I could relate to many of the points that were made about the parenting styles of the Italians. It seems as though many of those styles were passed down in my family and even though I was born and raised in the US my experiences growing up sounded more like the Italian style than the American. As a kid I wondered why my parents were so different than my friends, and this podcast brought back some of those memories…of course now I appreciate them more. 🙂
Oh, and as for the mammone…my mom and dad were appalled when I moved out of the house after college, I was the first in my family to move out without getting married. I’m not entirely sure I am completely forgiven for that yet even though I am over 40 now!
I’m sure you’re forgiven…but that doesn’t mean that they’ll ever let you forget your “sin” of leaving the house at such a tender age!
So true Rick…it still comes up 20 years later!
Hahaha. I love your perspective and your childhood stories (you mention things from time to time). Always makes me wonder what my future kids will have to say about their childhood. Haha