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10 Reasons Children of Italians Need a Support Group
Discover why we're the only ones who understand each other.
As an American raised in a home with Italian parents, including my father, who was born in Ischia, Italy, I have always felt a little different than my peers. After spending nine months in my father's native Ischia (where my husband is also a native), I started to realize children of Italians the world over share a common experience that no one else can quite understand. You have to be in the trenches to know what the war is really like. Even though Italian mammas and papas love their children with all their heart, they are often downright, ding-dong crazy. Sometimes, I think, it's the love that brings on the insanity. Here are the 10 reasons children of Italians need a support group:
10. They make us sick of our favorite foods. We once mentioned that we like roasted red peppers on our sandwiches. So, our parents pack us a sandwich with roasted red peppers every single day (even when we're in our 20s and commuting to a full-time, post-graduate, real job in the city). They roast peppers at least once a day. Jar those babies. And feed them to you until you can't look at another roasted red pepper without gagging. Food is love but this is overkill.
9. They require too much checking in. They expect a phone call a day to ensure that you are safe and sound, even when you're married and 40. If you don't call, they start to worry and that can cause a scene. My late Nonno Giovanni was notorious for calling the police if any of us were the slightest bit late without calling (and this was in the era before cell phones). The local police don't really like it when you call to announce someone in her 30s is missing after she was 15 minutes late in calling you. That didn't stop Nonno. Not ever.
8. They have a feud with at least one relative. Every Italian I know has some family drama keeping him from speaking with a cousin, an aunt, an uncle, a sibling. etc. Your parents might tell you that you're not part of this, so you shouldn't feel compelled to join in the fight. But you know if you speak to the relative in question, your parents will be disowning you shortly thereafter. Sometimes, they won't even bother saying you could speak to the relative in question. They will just tell you to stand by them or get out. You know the drill.
7. They think they are your doctors. The colpa d'aria (literally translated to the fault of the air) or the chill in the air could give you pneumonia. Chamomile tea will cure any stomach ailment. Suppositories are the only way to give babies medicine. Drinking ice water on a hot day will kill you. These are some of the wild medical advice Italian parents have given to me. They don't care what the degree-carrying doctors have to say. They know better. Period.
6. They punish their oldest child for the mistakes of the babies. There's lots of pressure on the oldest to be a role model. So, when the younger children write on the wall as toddlers, jump on the bed as kids, and stay out way past curfew as teens, they ground the oldest. The oldest gets disciplined. The baby gets babied. Everybody's happy, right? Huh?
5. They lay the pressure on thick. Once you hit a certain age, Italian parents (not to mention other relatives) start pounding you with questions about the future, namely when are you going to get married. Once you say, “I do,” they start asking when you're going to have a baby. The cycle of pressure never really ends. So, get used to it.
4. They expect you to understand their language. Whether they live in a country that doesn't have Italian as its own or Italy itself, they still have their own words for certain things. When my uncle asks for pinoli, we know he means Pine-Sol. We didn't always but we do now. The sooner you can figure out your parents' language, they better off you'll be.
3. Guilt could be their middle name. You might say, "I don't think I can make it to Thanksgiving this year." And your parents will respond with, "That's all right. I'll try to hang onto life until after the holidays. Who knows? I might make it." This method is employed every time an Italian parent wants to get his way. It works.
2. Stubborn as mules isn't enough to describe how stubborn Italian parents are. You want to drive your car to the family party. Your father insists you let him drive you. You want to pay for your own groceries while you two are at the store together. After all, you are only 45. Silly you. You can't possibly make enough money to afford a head of lettuce, a whole chicken and some potatoes for you, your wife, and your kid no matter how prestigious the job, high the salary, or rich the bank account. Papa's money is always worth more.
And the No. 1 reason children of Italian parents could use a support group is…
1. They will love you to death. Nearly literally.
Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press Travel, 2012), which is available on Amazon, and you can follow her life and work at the Two Worlds Web site.
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