Saturday, June 11, 2016

Non mettere in bocca! (aka: Don't put it in your mouth!)

Italians love babies. I mean, they really love babies. And since I have a baby, we are a hit anytime we are off base. Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Rome twice. And I think Maddie might just be the most loved baby in that historic city. The funny and endearing thing about Italians is that they have an opinion about everything when it comes to babies. There is no privacy. There is no belief like we have in America that the way you parent is your choice. They say it takes a village, and in Italy, they take that saying seriously. So here are my favorite baby moments from our trips!

- Lei è freddo. Translation: She's cold! Now first let me paint you a word picture. We're in Rome with about 3 million other people. It's in the 80s. Maddie is wearing a short sleeved onesie and no socks. And she's a chunker...the kind of baby that makes people count the rolls on her arms and thighs. And she does NOT like the heat. She turns red, gets a rash, and wails. I don't think she's ever been cold in her life. But over the course of those trips, I probably had a dozen random strangers stop me to point out that she wasn't wearing socks and must be FREEZING. They would tug her shade blanket down over her feet, rub her feet to show me how cold she was, or just repeat over and over, lei è freddo. There are now a bunch of italians that think I'm a terrible mother because I didn't put socks on my baby.

- Non mettere in bocca! Translation: Don't put it in your mouth! We took the train to and from Rome. Maddie was a hit on every trip. On our return to Naples, we sat across from an italian grandmother. She was very interested in Maddie, but spent most of the two hours scolding her (and us!) for putting things in her mouth...including her own fingers. She would reach across the seats, pull Maddie's hands out of her mouth, and say "Non mettere in bocca!" She was also completely appalled that I would let Maddie take toys that had fallen on the floor and put them back in her mouth. I went so far as to use google translate to communicate that germs are healthy for babies. It fell on deaf ears. She was also a bit upset that I wouldn't give Maddie water even though I told her that I was breastfeeding. In the end, after a very animated conversation with several other italian ladies sitting around us, they decided that Maddie was healthy but should probably be fed more italian food.

- The mystery of the nursing cover. On one of the train rides, I sat beside two very nice italian ladies. One spoke English and translated for the other as they coo'd over Maddie. When I took out my nursing cover, they stared. Finally, one of them asked me what I was using. I explained that the nursing cover was used in America for privacy and so that others would not be uncomfortable. They had never seen such a thing and spent a great deal of time discussing how prudish Americans are and how an italian would never cover while breastfeeding. I actually love this aspect of my current home! As a side note, they loved Maddie so much that before she left, one of the ladies told me that after meeting us, she now is thinking that she will have a baby this year :-)

- Indian photobomb. This favorite moment has less to do with italians and more to do with the eccentric moments of traveling. While we were in the Vatican, Maddie was hanging out on me in the carrier when an Indian couple walked up to us. They started touching her hair (which is red in the sunlight) and then asked for a photo. I'm not sure why we were an attraction...her red hair? Her very pale skin? The carrier? But somewhere on Indian facebook is a picture of Maddie and I in the Vatican!

- And finally, the Italian restauranteur. I think my favorite Italian on this trip was the restauranteur pictured below. This was a lovely lady who spent about 30 minutes with us while we waited to be seated for lunch. She loved Maddie and my nephew Jake and finally grabbed Maddie out of my arms to go show her around to all the other restaurant patrons.

Like in any culture, I have moments when things irritate me here in Italy. I roll my eyes or give a sigh and think about how much better things would be in some other place. Anyone who has lived overseas knows that this is just part of the cross-cultural experience. But these are the moments that make me love this life. And I am privileged to see this part of Italian culture!

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