Saturday, July 24, 2010

Virtue stands in the middle - Est modus in rebus

Baby super swaddledWilliam under cosy blanket

Virtue stands in the middle. I must have tried to explain this simple concept to at least 10 surprised people in the last 2 weeks! Is this such a difficult concept for Americans to grasp? Or perhaps it is my reaction to the moms I bump into in Massachusetts (the so called Massachusetts parenting groups) but I end up talking about this with almost everyone I meet these days: friends, neighbor, tourists visiting, even the pediatrician!! It has become my favourite topic of conversation: In medio stats virtus, said Aristotele. Or, as the Latins counterparts (and my father) used to say, est modus in rebus. But how can I explain this to a Massachusetts mom?

Being a mom in Massachusetts: ever feel alone in how you perceive this role? I swear I feel like I’m surrounded by women who are still trying to be smart and interesting but who have helplessly become zombies who can only talk about what special yogurt coated kids food their baby will take and what wooden toy or baby class will get their child to Harvard!

I am a stay at home mom with dreams for a career I temporarily abandoned when I decided to have a child, don’t feel I am super smart or more interesting than others, just a mom with Italian background, trying to be a no-frills mom in the States. I don’t talk about organic snacks in pomegranate flavor (I wouldn't even eat that myself!) - my baby boy happily eats the food that I eat (e.g pasta al sugo), but just feel too tired to hear joy joy no fun educated moms acting as scientists, while, at the same time, basing their decisions on extremes, always looking for the perfect choice.

The first example that comes to my mind is sleep, the parents' sleep discussion. Some sort of philosophical symposium on how to get a baby to sleep. Every mom who lives in the Boston area, sooner or later will have to hear and contribute to this. It was especially bad in the beginning, when I would constantly hear a mom saying, "Oh, so-and-so sleeps for twelve hours and naps for three," and I’d think, "Oh, shit, I screwed up the sleep training!".

To give you an idea of what I mean, here is the conversation between two moms: the American one and the Italian one. They meet at a coffee shop. Here is how it goes.

First, they talk about sleep.

American mom:
"She was crying a lot. We swaddled her, super swaddled her, but she would still fight sleep. So we came up with a sleep plan, a modified version of the Ferber one. You should try. I have been doing this for 3 months and it does work. At 7 pm, I put her to bed, with the exact same routine (i.e rubbing of feet, gentle massage, PJs and story time). I use the same book and tell her the same story, every evening. I started by letting her cry for 5 minutes, then for 15 minutes instead of 20, then for 30 minutes instead of 45, then for 45. For the first three days, I stayed in the same room with her to make sure she felt safe and that she felt it was ok to fall asleep. Now she will occasionally wake up but that's ok"

Italian mom:
"Is there anyone out there still swaddling babies? That is what the Romans used to do! My daughter did have trouble falling asleep early on but not for long. Grandma, grandpa, my brother and I were all cuddling her, singing and rocking her. She now goes to sleep at around 11 pm and she sleeps through the night until 7. Occasionally she wakes up during the night - but I give her chamomile and she goes back to sleep. Otherwise, she sleeps so well on her tummy!"

Then the conversation goes on food.

American mom:
She is feeding her baby cheerios and slices of onions from her sandwich. She hears another baby crying and she goes "what's wrong with him? Does he need a snack??" (hard judgmental look)

Italian mom:
"No thanks, I don't give kiddie snacks to my baby. They are not very healthy and would ruin the lunch that I prepared for him this morning" (annoyed look)

American mom:
"Naaa, these days, it seems if we parents feed our children anything but whole grain bread, brown rice and veggies from our backyard gardens we're in danger of hearing from child welfare authorities! Now they are even banning the mac donald toys. What are they gonna ban next?? "

Italian mom:
"Well, I am Italian. I wasn't brought up here. I am someone who eats everything, I have no problems of digestion, not even with spicy food, but" - God, will I offend her if I say this? No, go on, say it! - "if I go to mac donald, the flavor of the hamburger comes back to me for one or two days. It is pretty disgusting. But what can you expect when the food is fried in the same oil, used and reused many times on the same day?" - Oh good, she won't be offended after saying this - "and don't you find mac donald expensive? I calculated that if I buy the ingredients, all fresh, and do it myself, it costs me half the amount!"

The conversation goes then onto computers and high-tech baby stuff

American mom:
"Well, if it was up to me, I would ban all the TVs, computers and webcams from our house! I have heard that the toys with batteries are dangerous. Children can swallow the batteries and die! Have you heard of that child who died? We only have a couple of toys with batteries at home, right Nora? These are the talking dog Whurf and the drum Bang Bang. I wonder if I should take them away from her..." (terrorized expression in her face)

Italian mom:
She is giving her daughter a little laptop to play with. Then she goes "Only because something happened to a child in an accident whose circumstances are not clear, that doesn't mean that it will happen to my child. I wonder how that child could have swallowed the battery. Where was the mother? To be honest, in our house we probably have more toys with batteries than any others. We live in a world which is more and more high-tech and computer driven every day. Our children need to get used to this stuff. I put that laptop in Serena's crib every day and her grandmother from Italy wakes her up in the morning. She is so happy when she sees her!"

So, what do you think? Am I the Italian mom above? Not really but I am not the other moms either. I see many exaggerations in the way most moms I come across deal with their children: for example, they give their babies a snack on every freaking toy they are using; they take the babies to up to 6 organized play activities per week; they proudly advertise the fact that they own 20 different types of wooden puzzles coming from Europe; the list continues. I freely admit that I am not neutral when it comes to resisting the attraction of doing the right thing for my child or purchasing the cutest baby hat with special UV protection and anti-bacterial properties. At the same time, once I take something like that home, I cannot help realizing that, once again, I have added one more thing to my collection of useless "Extra Cautious Super Safe Massachusetts Moms and Baby Vanity" accessories!

A less pressured and contradictory culture that values good rather than perfect kids, and that treat the kids like adults and not like a special race, would certainly make all of these moms (myself included) happier. I am thinking of my parents, who never read a single book on sleep training, yet they remember that after days of normal baby crying, at some point, I learned to sleep. I am also thinking of my husband's parents who told us to make sure that the child will base his life on our life and not the other way round. When I watch American moms dealing with their children (the other day I came across a mom who was giving chocolate milk to her boy because she said he doesn't take plain milk!), I feel that the exact opposite is happening to the moms around me. It sometimes look as if the children have become the bosses and their mothers the employees taking orders!

As a matter of fact, in the old days (my grandparents' generation), children were viewed as economic assets to their parents. If you had a farm, they helped you to maintain its upkeep. If you had a family business, the kids helped in the store and later on would take over the store. But all of this dramatically changed. The kids of wealthy people nowadays are more and more viewed as a protected, privileged race with aspirations, talents and wishes to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed and groomed (as sociologist Viviana Zelizer puts it: “economically worthless but emotionally priceless”).

Here in Massachusetts, I often see moms making a big effort to go to great details to explain books that the children in front of them are not even looking. I also notice the incredible efforts these moms make to talk to their children, answering questions with questions (e.g mom asking toddler in coffee shop which picture was the tallest and which one was the largest), and treating each child’s thought as a special contribution to the world. I sometimes find it fascinating how much effort they put into everything they do or say to their children. I know moms who spend all their time trying to arrange the most refined activities, playmates and meeting places for their babies (e.g. if I bring my boy to the Brookline library bookclub, there he will mix with the right kiddie crowd!). It seems as if these parents constantly feel that if they don't do this and that, they put their child at risk by not giving him every advantage.

There are better and worse ways to discipline a child. But I feel it is a mistake to compare yourself to others and to constantly conclude that you’re doing the wrong thing. Yet that’s precisely what all these extremist and conformist moms do!

I know it is much easier to exaggerate on one side or on the other than to make the more reasonable choice in the middle but, if there is one thing I would like my American boy to learn one day, this is it:

I can now take William to enjoy Sprouts, his only weekly organized activity. For now. ;-)

Friday, July 16, 2010

My first birthday - il mio primo compleanno

Isn't this supposed to be my blog? So this post, I am going to write it myself. Let me think, my first birthday started at around 7 am. I got dad out of bed to change my diaper. Dad sang me a strange song , while getting my cereal ready. I couldn't understand what the fuss was all about. He doesn't usually get excited. Then mommy rushed into the kitchen to come to sing the same tune. The words were different but the tune was the same. Then cereal followed. It certainly had more fruit than usual. Aha. Mom and dad were excited about everything, even about changing my clothes! Then dad went to work and mommy took me in front of the magic box. She never does! There, grandma and grandpa were waving at me, while singing "happy bir-ba-ba-ba", the same tune mom and dad were singing to me in kitchen. They also were more excited to see me than ever. I don't know what this was all about.

Then mommy's friends came to the house. They brought me a toy to play with. The strange thing is that it had a lot of paper around it, which I had to unwrap. Then we went out to eat. I ate something new which didn't smell good at first but that, once I got the taste of it, was not bad. They kept calling it "fisha", I think. I must have eaten a lot of that "fisha", while people were starring at me. Then a huge colorful thing arrived on the table. It had a strange flickering light on top. They were all waiting for me to do something. They kept saying "blow blow soffia soffia". This is what I don't really get. As soon as I tried to grab it to put it in my mouth, they took it away from me!

After that, I met Alex, one of my buddies. He also gave me a toy difficult to unwrap. 15 minutes later, we were splashing in the water - so much fun! Alex (or maybe his mom, I can't remember) was singing that same "bir-ba-ba" tune that everyone has been singing to me all day long. Don't ask me why.

Such a weird but fun day. I was expecting everything to go back to normal the day after but it didn't. The singing of the "happy ba-ba" tune continued. Mom and dad kept acting as if I was a different baby. Mommy was busy preparing stuff. Not sure what she was up to. Then, yesterday, I had dinner with all of my friends. Our table was full of balloons and cool stuff. There was a cute fun girl I met few times sitting next to me and stealing my toys. And everyone was looking at me. Nice people. Then, another big colorful thing, like the one that came at lunch the other day, came. Mommy called it "totta" or "checche", something like that. Once again they put that flickering light on top. They wanted me to do something with it. Don't know what. I got frustrated. When I finally got to taste it, ba-ba-ba-ba'! It was the softest, sweetest and most delicious bite I ever had to take. Hope there will be some of this for dinner tonight.

When I got home, mom and dad gave me a lot of new toys but once again, they all needed unwrapping. It was so much fun to play with the paper but, as it usually happens, mommy took it away. Despite that, there was still a lot of stuff to play with but sadly, right when I was starting to get excited, they put me to bed.

For more details on all this, I highly recommend that you watch mom's video below. Aha aha aha! I mean... so cool, she didn't miss a thing!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

William is turning one and all this has happened - William sta per compiere un anno ed e' successo tutto questo

So much has been happening in William's life in the last two, three, perhaps four days. I have kept telling myself that I should just stop and update the blog. But as usual, just after I promised to myself (in the shower) that I should write all about it, I wait for the magic moment of William's nap and when that finally comes, an old friend I never talk to calls me on the phone. Then, someone I know comes to knock on my door, the washing machine finishes running, which means I need to start the dryer and lunchtime is getting close. I need to start preparing something to eat, which also means the food I prepare should cover the needs of three people for a day or two (it never does :) ). William's toys are all crazily spread out in the living room and I just cannot help taking them all one by one, organize them according to my scheme and put them back inside the right boxes, leaving on the floor the only toy I can bear to look at. I hope it will make William happy on his tummy for 20 minutes or so. Then, as always, someone I emailed needs an urgent clarification from me, William has an appointment, I have an appointment, or a major decision is required on something that in the past I would have considered not important, but that I now view as vital (e.g., how can I live without the best set of pans for our kitchen?). Then the packing for the move to our new house (still in construction) - see? I knew I was going to forget something. I have to call the movers to confirm the day - and the latest most important event in our family, coming in two days: il primo compleanno di William!

With two houses not childproofed and with packing boxes half filled and pieces of furniture all over the place in house 1 and dust everywhere and a camping chair as the only thing to sit on in house 2, the option of inviting our families from Italy and from Wyoming and other babies to either house wasn't appealing. John wanted to do something intimate with the three of us, while I was thinking of arranging an outdoor playdate of some sort with other babies. We settled on a small dinner party with 3 babies William is often playing with and a couple of close friends. I could not find a restaurant with play area that would take reservations so I decided to arrange a swimming playdate and a marine Summershack party, the perfect theme for a true Bostonian. Tour de force to find a pirate ship table center piece, hats with whales and a couple of other decorations in marine theme. Then the right cake. Not the traditional Italian chocolate tartufo cake or the tart fruit I grew up with but a traditional American soft cream cheesecake with strawberries dipped into chocolate a baby cannot resist to. I should say cakes, the first one offered by William's nonno, the second one offered by William's tata, Pina, who cannot be persuaded not to bake a cake for William's first birthday.

I am now thinking that William is turning one in two days, only two small days, and he will no longer be that tiny "how many months is he?" baby I had yesterday but an inquisitive toddler who will be faster than me at figuring things out and at doing things. Blame it on his coming first birthday but I have started to get frightened. I have realized that William is changing every day in front of my eyes but that, at the same time, I cannot keep up with these changes. Not only I cannot remember when they first happen but, once they happen, I cannot even remember how different William was before these changes happened!

So here I am, frantically trying to remember and to describe in detail the changes he has gone through before they vanish from my memory. I remember thinking how exciting it was when William turned three months. That tiny baby with the alert expression but who was taking hours to drink a little amount of milk, all of a sudden, was smiling at us and was eating like a champ! And his skinny legs became a trophy to show the lactation consultants in Boston. In his fifth month the little man proved that he could fall asleep without crying and could eat something other than milk. It took another two months, and the secret of Parmesan cheese, for him to abandon his disgusted face and open his mouth wide at the sight of mashed peas. Next came sitting, clapping and the hours of careful examination of everything on which he lays his stubby fingers. He then started learning about mobility, and the world that it opens up (latest: using the computer keyboard!).

But what changed in William in the last few days? First, he started saying more sounds, perhaps words: from mamma, papa' and da-da to ta ta, nanna and gatta! Ans his babbling has become more meaningful. When he says "Brrrrr" I think he means "I am playing", when he says "aglie' aglie' aglie'", I think he means "I am really excited", when he says "Da-da, da-da", I am nearly sure he means "I am talking, I am a happy baby". Unfortunately when he says "mamma", it is not always easy to understand what he means. At times, especially few months ago, most of the time he was saying "mamma" with an angry or annoyed tone of voice. That was not happening with da-da. So it was easy to jump to the conclusion that he was saying "mamma" meaning "go to hell". I then moved to the interpretation that when he says the angry "mamma" he is asking for help and this usually happens when he is frustrated. More recently, William has started saying a sweet version of "mamma", which I interpret as some sort of "thanks, I am ok mommy".

William has also started to imitate us, luckily only the good things: the clapping, nodding of the head, dancing and the sounds we make to him. In particular, he has mastered the production of the cheeky sounds "aha', aha', aha' " I often make to him, meaning "oh, oh, I've got you!" - Now, when William says "aha', aha, aha', aha, aha'", I think he means: "see what I have done? I have figured this out!" So, in the last few days he said: (1) "aha', aha', I managed to open and shut one of the two draws in your living room", (2) "aha', aha', I managed to switch off the music of your stereo!, (3) "aha', aha', I switched on the music, I did it!, (4) "aha', aha', I figured out how to open and shut the cabinet where you hide my toys!, (5) "aha', aha', I just removed the tape that you put around the box for your house move, (6), "aha', aha', I opened the Velcro strap on the beach shoes you just bought me, (7), "aha', aha', I disconnected your laptop!

He has also started to use his gestures to convey his wants. He always shakes his head when he is done with his meal. When he doesn't like it, he still takes a little like a good boy, but with an expression of disgust. He then shakes his head to refuse more.

As a one year old William is: smart (furbo), moooolto furbo - I will stick to Italian for this paragraph because it comes better to me - William e' dolce e mammone. Curioso, biricchino e pacioccone. Sorride incantato alla vista degli altri mettendosi tutti, cosi' facendo, dalla sua parte. Fa finta di piangere per attirare l'attenzione. E ci riesce bene. Una faccia tosta, quando ci sono io ad osservarlo non ha voglia di gattonare, ne' di allungare le braccia per afferrare qualcosa, preferisce dire "mammaaa, mammaa" (con tono frustrato), in attesa che io mi sciolga e lo prenda in braccio. Quando gli metto in mano i gessetti per fare un disegno se li ciuccia e poi li getta via. Quando non lo guardo, si muove, rotolando e girando come un elicottero in cerca di un malvivente, va da un lato all'altro della stanza e con i gessetti, trasforma il tappetto del salotto in un opera d'arte!

In the last month or so he has changed from the quiet seated baby to rolling everywhere and pivoting in a circle (like a weather vane) on his tummy. He has figured that by doing that he can better explore the corners of the room. He can play with cables, with the remote control, with mommy's cell phone and with unpleasant things (even a dirty diaper which happened to have fallen behind the trash can!). It is incredible. I used to leave him in one position on the floor and would always find him in that same position. Then, two weeks ago, the magic: after placing him in the center of the living room area I would find him 10 minutes later playing with one leg of the table in the dining area of the room. And, each time, I would ask myself if I was really sure William was not there when I left him. Could it be that I am getting old and I forget this sort of things?

Finally yesterday, the latest big milestone. I had gone through extensive repetitive fingerfood trials using the ubiquitous organic Puffs (called Cheerios by the moms), colorful veggies, exotic fruit, etc. I was getting used to the idea that William will always depend on me when it comes to putting food in his mouth, when two small pieces of "parma cotto" landed on his tray and he snapped them up! William grabbed the pieces and stuffed them both in his mouth, with both hands ready for more.

The same magic happened with tiny slices of high quality raw English farmhouse cheddar that I put on his tray. I tried with less tasty American cheese -  it did not work. My little man is not only a talker, a comedian and a mover but he is also a true "buongustaio" (gourmand). The other food was not to his standard.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What does motherhood means to me - Che cosa significa essere mamma per me

I am not quite at the stage of the mom in the movie Motherhood (you can watch the trailer here) but I am sharing some of the experiences. My husband John picked this movie to watch with me because the plot reminded him of what he thinks I am going through. Am I really? I will try to explain my version of motherhood.

One year and a half ago I was a full-time researcher developing a vision-based lie detector in a top College for Engineering in London. I was working 13-14 hours per day, sometimes even in the middle of the night, and my meals were either at my desk with one hand typing and the other picking salt and vinegar crisps or in one of those Asian fast food restaurants (Hong Kong style), eating Singapore noodles in front of the same engineering paper I was trying to make sense of. I was soo convinced that if only I could have worked out the secret small steps used to build the system described in the impressive particle filter paper from Oxford geniuses Black and Isard, and if only I could have worked out the recipe for forcing people to answer questions under stress, my life could have sorted itself out.

All of a sudden I could say goodbye to my small apartment with filthy flatmates in Kensington, I could say goodbye to the unhealthy meals I was eating and to the bosses taking advantage of my patience. I could travel the world to share it with other researchers. I could start my own behavior analysis center at the University and could even write a book about the lies I was coming across in my subjects!

Two things I had not, maybe purposefully, calculated: (1) the time it would take me to study maths, engineering and physics during the course of a PhD, being a graphic designer major! (2) that there is not a large demand for a lie detection scientist in behavior analysis - how many behavior analysts do you know? (3) that there is more to life than spending 13 hours in front a computer screen! As my father once told me on the phone while I was still in the lab at 11:30 pm, "there are more important things in life, for instance seeing your own child run on the beach next to you".

At that time, when I was not in front of a computer, nor I was trying to figure out creative ways to force people to lie - I had the stage magic and cold reading phase - I was enjoying chatting about this and that (the weirdest, the better) with my British friends. This pretty much summarizes my life a couple of years ago.

Before that, I was either enjoying adult students' life in Oxford, which means I was getting pissed on a weekly basis with a bunch of Oxford technical and mathematical minded people or I was using London as a travel hub to go to experience life in other countries (for not longer than a week though, with the exception of India, where I lived for a month, so that I could always get back and land a safe computer job which could pay the rent in London).

Going further back in my life, there I was, at the Jemey's bar, offering champagne to Jennifer Aniston and to handsome French footballer David Ginola (seen naked in the Agency one hour before) to celebrate the latest "because I am worth it" ad. Then I was having a fight with the two-faced, junior account exec the Agency had trained for one year, who was supposed to assist me. She was like my opposite: I have dark brown hair, she was a bleach blonde, my eyes dark brown, hers crystal blue . She was 100% English. I was 100% Italian. This is how our first meeting went. We both were at Jemey's, drinking champagne with our bosses.

Junior Account Ex: "Hi, are you the new Account Manager on L'Oreal?"
Junior Account Manager (Me): "Hi, yes, it's me. Nice to meet you."
Junior Account Ex: "All [pause] riiight. Are you [pause] Italian?" [huge fake smile]
Junior Account Manager (Me): "Yes..." [surprised tone]
Junior Account Ex: "I seee! [evil eyes meaning "bitch!"] Well, I really hope it's going to work out for you. If I was you, I wouldn't even try. Good luck really! I really hope it will work out for you! [fake smile followed by evil eyes]
Account Manager (Me): "Good luck to you!" [ she had already left]

The day after, the war was officially declared between the two of us. Instead of being my assistant, she was throwing my work into the trash bin under the desk when I was not in the office! And she was replying to emails I was supposed to reply to. What is worse, my English at the time was still poor and I was struggling to understand what a bunch of advertising executives were asking me to do in Paris! Luckily, a secretary, who late became a dear friend of mine, helped me understand this and a lot more. She made me understand that my account exec was sleeping around to get favors and that my bosses did not like me because I wasn't seducing my clients in the Agency lift and because I wasn't making use of the company's cocaine supplied by the Head of Account Management. They were also disappointed because when they hired me they thought I was the kind of Italian slut wearing high heals and tons of makeup (the "velina" type - you can google this to get a full description of the type of woman they thought I was). Instead, they ended up with the Italian catholic conservative type they couldn't quite use as a show girl!

I could go further back in my life to tell you what was like to live in the scariest neighborhood in London to be able to produce and deliver giant bars of Kit Kat chocolate bars which I was sending with my CV printed at the back to the top advertising agencies in the city. But I will stop here: by now you should get the idea of my lifestyle before moving to the US. I was deeply concerned (1) about the possibility of being tagged "bloody foreigner" because of my strong Italian accent, (2) about finding a creative - meaning intellectually challenging - job that I could enjoy (3) about "having a good time after work" and spend not longer than an hour awake per day at home. What happened 2 years ago to radically change all this?

Well, a tall American, a man from Wyoming, who does not call himself a cowboy but who thinks and acts with the cowboy mentality, the man of my life, made his appearance. How could I possibly convince a man like this used to the open spaces, to the comfort of driving everywhere and to the pleasure of purchasing items which have been discounted 10 times (the norm in the US), how could I possibly convince this man to squeeze into a luxury 500 square feet tiny apartment in west London, close to Harvey Nichols with dinner on the couch and one bedroom only occupying a third of the average American bedroom?

For this and other reasons (mainly back related - this would deserve a post on its own) I moved to the US, got pregnant and, on a hot day in July, a beautiful baby boy with cute hazel almond shaped eyes came to greet me. All of a sudden, I was this happy but completely puzzled mom, survived from the pain of giving birth but still trying to recover. And, right at that time I was also the one who had to take care of a tiny and needy brand new human being.

At that point, all of a sudden, I had to establish myself in a new role: to look after, to nurture and to raise a child. A child? Since I was a teenager my mother had been telling me constantly that I could do anything in life except for being a mother. She would go on about my inability to deal with practical matters. She would then say this: "You?? I want to see you as a mother, with a child who needs a schedule! You, a mother? You'll be forgetting your child in the supermarket, or you'll leave the poor creature roast in the car under the hot sun! Poor child in your hands!" The conversation would end with me saying to her "what? children? che dici mamma? That will never happen to me!".

But William came, with his hunger, his thirst, his need to be changed, to be washed, to be loved. And I learned all this:

(1) that there are parents who are not sleeping at night and who live their life with big circles around their eyes

(2) that there are parents who are getting to the end of the day without having a shower

(3) that diapers and wipes are never enough, no matter if you get them in giant boxes at Costco (wholesale store for US families).

(4) that I should never leave the house with baby William without a pacifier

(5) that a baby gets excited when he sees things that are not meant to be given to him (i.e remote control, cell phone, wrapping paper, but also nails, screws, bits of electrical cable, bits of paint fallen on the floor after hanging pictures, etc). The alternative is to hide some of this toys and to present them back to him once he has forgotten all about them

(6) that adding meat to his lunch doesn't make you all scared of changing his diaper, although, I must admit, the poop smells a lot more. Because of that, having learned the pre-smell of poop, I have also learned to close my nose when I open the diaper.

(7) that losing my Elisabeth Arden sunglasses doesn't really matter as long as the baby is safe

(8) that I should eat, have a shower or go to the toilet whenever he is napping

(9) that I can accidentally pour baby milk on a winter coat worth $600 without feeling bothered

(1o) that I have to change my baby if the milk accidentally gets onto his clothes, otherwise I feel I am a horrible mother

(11) that my happiness depends (1) on having had a shower (2) on having nicely fed my little guy (3) on having gone out of the house at least once during the day

(12) I have learned that opening a diaper is always a surprise: the poop can be on its way!

(13) I have learned that when I give him a bath as soon as I start washing him in warm water, a rainbow of pee can color the side wall, if I am not careful.

(14) I have been able to ignore at least 4 of my basic needs in my frantic attempt to satisfy one of his needs

(15) I learned that breastfeeding is more an art than a science and that people's advice is child specific. Same for parenting.

(16) I realized that I have no problems using the baby wipes (which are sold for cleaning the baby's bottom), when nothing else is available, for cleaning the baby's mouth, for cleaning my mouth, for cleaning the stroller, my purse or whatever from the latest drink spilled

(17) I learned that one + one baby make 2 happy babies

(18) that I could teach Italian once a week (as my only intellectual stimulation as fulfilling as a PhD) simply to be able to dedicate the rest of my time to my baby. Even if that means hearing the word "gelato" and "cappuccino" in every freaking sentence the students make!

(19) that being a mother is a relentless job - no matter what happens, you cannot call sick or take a break from it. When the baby is with a caregiver for example, you worry that the he might not be drinking enough water or that he might not be happy to eat the food you prepared for him. You cannot stop being a mother!

(20) I learned that, despite years of efforts in learning and in sounding English to impress the audience of the Brits, what really matters to me is not only to preserve my mother tongue but, above all, to teach my mother tongue to my baby, along with my roots and what the Bel Paese is all about (i.e. not the country of the Guidos and of the red sauce!)

(21) Finally, I learned that the smile of a baby can transform even the most bitter thing in your heart into the sweetest one

His eyes that were looking at me, while I was painfully giving him breastmilk, always gave me the strength to continue, until the pain, at some point, went completely away. A miracle.

And I learned that the little heart of a baby, not that much bigger than a walnut, becomes one thing with yours, from the very first moment, from the first instant, and from that moment it never leaves you.

Oops, I heard you little man. You have just woken up! Not that I was able to write all this during the time-slot of a nap. This posting has probably taken 10 naps! But it's all right now, like my old English friends would say. You should go out and have a good time! "What? Diapers need changing and food needs preparing", says a little voice inside me.

Thanks William for having taught me all this.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

*You* are funny! - Sei molto divertente!

What a fun day William. I was so happy with you at the pool today! So cool to see you enjoy the water and splash splash splash, making everybody around wet and having fun being splashed. We made loads of friends today, although I am not sure whether they truly loved us after all that splashing. A Spanish boy kept swimming towards us with the clear intent of playing with you. He would come as close to you as he could and he would then begin to stare at you, he would stretch his arms towards you as to take you with him, and then he would look at me asking for my approval.

Later, when we were both getting dried, you were exploding in cute cheeky laughs and I couldn't help laughing too. I felt so happy to have you with me. Then, when we went home, I gave you a bath and you were showering me like in the pool. At that point when I started telling you that that was not good, you started laughing laughing and laughing louder and louder, with your shiny alert eyes. Then again, short after I put you to bed, your cute high pitched laughs came back. I went to check what was going on in the crib. Your blankets, sheet and pillows where all around you in a kind of Picasso's composition and you were laughing your little butt off again.

It is not the first time that you make me laugh so much. I think there is a funny/ridiculous side in you that, blame it on your genes or on your dad teaching you bad habits, is growing, every day. Last week I was in a shoe store. An older eccentric, but elegant lady right out of a Jane Austen novel stopped to say hello to you and kept chatting with you - I was thinking, aha, the same old reason: "he is cute!". She then said that she was enjoying talking to you because you are funny. She explained that she used to have a large temp agency business and that she was good at spotting people's personalities from the first encounter. She was convinced that you will become a comedian! Well, that day you must have successfully entertained her for at least 20 minutes. Tu sei un vero latin lover!