I have a little Italian baby.
Of course she’s Italian-American, but the novelty is the Italian part.
Having a baby is an adventure, but raising a baby in another culture brings a whole new set of challenges.
Being pregnant in another country means immersing yourself in another culture’s convictions, both philosophical and physical. I regularly visited my Italian doctor, took blood tests at the nearby Italian hospital and lamely listened to more advice from Italian nonne than I ever thought possible (most contradictory).
Years ago I realized that living in Italy meant any hypothetical children wouldn’t be American. They wouldn’t grow up around multiple religions or ethnicities; they wouldn’t cheerlead or play American football, join clubs and organizations in high school or wear letter jackets; they wouldn’t drink too much at house parties or shop around for colleges. They wouldn’t know the slang – it’d be impossible to be cool!
It was a terrifying thought: my daughter would grow up inherently different than I had. She would never know an American childhood. And yet I realized:
I want my kids to grow up Italian.
I want them to wear chunky knit cardigans and not complain about wearing a hat or scarf.
I want them to come with me to art exhibits, to know how to navigate the metro and to be aware of public transportation (which is severely lacking in, um, basically all of the United States). I want them to learn about Ancient Rome and study European history for more than just one short year. I want them to study multiple languages and to be exposed to them regularly.
I want them to know what the sea is because they’ve floated in it and what the mountains are because they’ve hiked their peaks.
I want them to eat fresh food, to instinctively know the seasons and follow them naturally, to be relatively protected from pesticides and antibiotics and big Pharma.
I want them to know what travel is and what relaxation is; to not be hyper-managed and overworked.
I want to vacation with my children – long, rambling vacations with sun-tanned limbs and relaxed parents. I want to go out to eat without my kids and not feel guilty and I want to go out to eat with my kids and not field glares from waiters and diners.
Many of these things can happen in America and, I’m sure, many American things will come about here as well. My children will likely eat many-a sandwich for lunch in lieu of a fresh, homemade plate of pasta (every day? come on!). They might eat nutella sandwich as a snack or maybe a PB&J. They’ll likely always be the least bundled up of the Italian kids and perhaps the only with regular chores and home responsibilities (“your only job is to study”? ha!).
So my daughter won’t be reciting watered down renditions of A Christmas Carol at school. She won’t drink milk with lunch or know the joys of an elementary school chocolate chip cookie. Instead I’ll bring her fresh focaccia when I go to pick her up and she’ll sing Tu Scendi dalle Stelle for Natale. She’ll speak two languages and be constantly surrounded by art and culture. And as she grows she won’t drink too much at house parties because there really aren’t any Italian house parties.
I hope Adeline grows up independent and entrepreneurial, polite and confident, and I hope she leaves the correct amount of space between her and the other person in line like a proper American, but I expect her to call her dad papi and I want to be her mamma – there’s something beautiful about the mix.