Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Italian vs American kids comparison - Bimbi italiani e bimbi americani a confronto

American kid eating cheeriosItalian kid eating pasta con il sugo

After spending a couple of weeks at playgrounds in Italy, I am back to Boston wondering what group of kids William will belong to when he gets older. See Italian versus American kid comparison below:

American kid: as a baby/toddler, you are swaddled, put to sleep in thin sleeping bags in fleece material and put to sleep on your back without blankets, to reduce the slightest chance of suffocation
Italian kid: from the day you leave the hospital you are put to bed on your stomach in your warm 100% cotton pigiamino (PJs) with a cotton sheet and a 100% virgin wool blanket keeping you warm. And mom will make sure that your blanket is tucked in!

American kid: they bounce you on all sorts of balls, swings, rocking chairs and put you in specific positions to help you fall asleep
Italian kid: they give you chamomile (grandma's secret tip) to help you fall asleep.

American kid: as a baby you spend most of your time with the other kids at the nursery and doing planned activities with your parents
Italian kid: as a baby you spend most of your time with your grandparents, wondering when your mother will come to pick you up!

American kid: you nap in the morning at 8 am, in the afternoon at 12 pm and you go to bed at 7 pm.
Italian kid: you nap in the morning until you wake up exhausted from the previous late night, doze off a little during the day, then stay up until you fall asleep, completed exhausted, at 11 pm-midnight!

American kid
: you proudly feed yourself cheerios and exotic (better if organic) snacks all day long
Italian kid: you get started on food with hand made creams of mashed up veggies sprinkled with parmesan cheese followed by fresh grated fruits you mom spoon feeds you every day, at lunch and at dinner
American kid: you are gently asked with sign language if you want more or if you are done
Italian kid: firstly, you are told that you must eat the last boccone of pappa, otherwise you won't be given the fruit that comes after. Then, you are told that if you don't eat it, you'll jump out of the window!

American kid: you don't get to see a single person smoking next to you
Italian kid: you happily smoke alongside your caregivers

American kid
: as a toddler, you continue to eat cheerios all day long. Later on, you will get peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on soft mushy white bread for lunch alternated with the usual turkey sandwich. In special occasions (at restaurant), you will be able to choose between mac and cheese, fried chicken, hotdogs and hamburgers, all rigorously served with fried chips. The only fish you'll ever taste will be in the fried fish sticks (who knows what fish is in it, says my friend David). And the American pediatrician, instead of pointing out that some fish out there has too much mercury will tell you "don't give fish to your kids. It has too much mercury!"
Italian kid
: as a toddler, you rarely eat sandwiches but if you do, you get speck, bresaola and provolone cheese on crusty Italian bread and complain that your mom has not made porcini risotto for you on that specific day! Here is your weekly menu (I thank my Italian friend Elena for passing it to me): fish 2-3 times per week (common sense will make you choose small orate and sogliole instead of swordfish), minestrone twice a week, veggies at every meal (one cooked, one raw) and pasta for lunch! Meat (unfortunately), every other time.

American kid
: you drink colorful juices in colorful huge (half a liter) high-tech BPA free thermo insulated and ecological bottles
Italian kid: you drink water from a small glass

American kid: you are told that Cappuccetto Rosso (Little Red Riding Hood) was not eaten by the wolf and that everything is safe and cool
Italian kid: you are told that if you don't behave, the babau (the bogeyman) will come to eat you and that nothing is safe outside your parents' house!American kid: you move out when you are 18 with the full support of your parents.

Italian kid: you move out when you are 3 to stay with grandma, then back with your mom (and dad, if there is one) when you can go to full-time pre-school. You move out temporarily to stay with friends then back with your mom and dad. You move out for good when you are 38, having saved enough money for a house, and are two weeks away from getting married....unless there's room in the basement for the newlyweds.

American kid: when your mom visits you, she brings a cake, and you sip coffee and chat.
Italian kid: when your mom visits you, she brings 3 days worth of food, begins to tidy up, dust, do the laundry, and rearrange the furniture! Nota bene: this only applies to my mother's generation of moms

American kid: your dad always calls before he comes over to visit you, and it's usually on special occasions.
Italian kid: your dad can show up at any time, unannounced, on a Saturday morning at 8:00 and it's usually to do some cool last-minute activity with you, totally unexpected.

American kid: when you need to get something done, you either look for help on the internet and pay someone or, in most cases, you do it yourself
Italian kid: when you need to get something done, you call your dad and uncle, and ask for another dad's or uncle's phone number to get it done for free. Hey, know what I mean? ;)

American kid: you will come over for cake, and you will get A LOT of cake. But nothing else.
Italian kid: you will come over for cake, and will get antipasto with a choice of two cured meats, a pasta dish, a secondo con contorno, a choice of three types of cheese, salad, bread, a tiny bit of wine, a piece of crostata, fruit, espresso, and a few after dinner special treats.

American kid: you have not heard your parents cry
Italian kid: you cry along with your parents while trying to be even louder than them

American kid: you borrow stuff from your parents for a few days and then return it
Italian kid: you keep anything that you borrow from your parents. If you try to give anything back, they will insist that you keep it for a little longer!

American kid: you eat at the dinner table and leave
Italian kid: you will spend hours there, talking, laughing, and just being there, getting bored but showing excitement to be with the grown ups

American kid: you will stay in the queue to get on the bus
Italian kid: you will push and push and push, as much as you can, to get the best seats on the bus!

American kid: you are a kid for a while
Italian kid: you are a kid for life

American kid: you like to wear cool trainers
Italian kid: for you, even builders' uniforms are to be worshiped, as long as they carry an original (or pseudo-original - e.g Lumberjack) American brand!

American kid: you think that being Italian is cool
Italian kid: you are not cool if you don't speak English and know a few things about what is not Italian

American kid: you don't care about differences, you have been trained to not even see them to avoid being labeled racist. So you don't question them, nor write about them
Italian kid: you worry, hear and talk a lot about differences and try to be open to them, often concerned about coming across as a citizen of the worldNot all kids of course will go to these extremes. I was thinking about these stereotypical differences in Le Cinque Terre, while I was looking at some kids diving from high rocks and then swimming into high waves. Then again, in the Turinese playgrounds, while I was looking at a bunch of 3 year old daredevils jumping up and down on a seesaw, occasionally diving onto the ground to scare the babies on the seats. Were those the unsafe kids of irresponsible Italian parents or just simply kids with their need for fun and freedom, as a modern Italian parent might put it? Here is my current dilemma: (1) would William turn into a different kid if he was raised in Italy? (2) would I have to turn into a different mother if I was raising William in Italy? Given my hyper conservative upbringing (sono una mamma all'antica), I can only think that the super safe American parenting style fits me perfectly, with one condition though. That I can change the rules, whenever the Italian kid inside me says so. As my husband often says "take the best out of both worlds and have a lot of fun as a parent!"

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