My daughter granted permission to relate the following story:
I’m having dinner with the Italian Mama, and I explain how my daughter currently seems to enjoy disobeying me with emotional tantrums about everything.
“You need to compliment her for what’s really happening in that tantrum. Find something good about what she’s doing in that moment of frustration, and then redirect it.”
What? You want me to reward the tantrum by praising my daughter while she’s exploding at me? Won’t this enable her? Doesn’t this go against every parenting book? Doesn’t this contradict all the parenting techniques about punishment and my authority?
But it’s the Italian Mama speaking. I trust this woman.
The next morning, my daughter just screams at me. Instead of punishing her or sending her to her room, I say, “You know, you are really good at alerting me with a very loud voice when you want something. That could come in handy if the house is on fire or if you fall out of a tree or if someone were in danger. You actually have a fabulous screaming voice.”
She tilts her head, wide-eyed, and stares at me.
She hasn’t screamed or talked-back to me in 3 days. In fact, at breakfast, she leans over and whispers to her sister, “Mom told me I have the best alert scream, and I could save the family one day.”
Have you ever found something good within a tantrum?
Today, I host my first Italian Mama’s Luncheon.
I’ve been in training for over a year to learn the ways of a true Italian Mama.
I arrange the antipasto platter; I slice the crusty Italian bread; I spoon out the olives and roasted peppers. I’m nervous.
The Mamas arrive bearing gifts: chocolates, flowers, baked goods. We talk and dine and drink coffee and laugh. I learn that once you feast on the antipasto, you offer the pasta; in this case, I make fresh pesto and invent my own Italian pasta dish. I add Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and artichoke hearts. Pesto-baked chicken accompanies the pasta.
So far so good. But I’m not finished. A true Italian Mama brings out more.
I’ve made homemade raspberry sorbet from my fall raspberry harvest.
We cleanse our palettes, and, just when we cannot eat another bite, an Italian Mama must present the desserts: tiramisu, cannolis, and lemon cake.
Meanwhile, I’m realizing that Italian Motherhood means you always have more. You know how to offer even more love, warmth, nourishment, and community.
Just when you think you’re full, she brings out more. Italian Mama Training taught me the fine art of abundant living and giving. These lessons have helped me live with flair this year.
Journal: How can we live abundantly and give abundantly?
At the pool, my youngest begs me to go down the water slides with her.
I have that feeling that I’m too old to do this sort of thing. But then I see something that changes my mind.
The Italian Mama goes down the slides whether her children are with her or not. She does it for her own fun! I watch her climb the steep steps in her red bathing suit and then emerge in a great splash at the bottom of the slide.
I follow her to the slides, challenged and inspired. I remember her telling me that in any given day, 80% of life is work and only 20% is fun. We want to tip the balance in favor of more fun.
On this day, I think we did.
Journal: How are you going to increase the fun today?
Do you remember the Italian Mama? She taught me how to have a soundtrack to my life a year ago as I learned about sauce. Then I studied meatballs and how to clothe both them and my own children. In November, she instructed me in the fine art of relaxing and throwing those meatballs. In December (during that awful cold) she brought enough baked ziti, turkey noodle soup, bread, and chocolate to feed a village.
Today, just when I needed it most, she hosted an Italian Mama’s Lunch. Since I’m partly Italian (and studying how to be an Italian Mama), I skipped down the street like a little girl going to her first party. I couldn’t wait! I arrived to this:
Roasted peppers, tomatoes, basil, four types of cheeses, meats, olives, artichokes, fresh bread, cannoli desserts, and freshly ground espresso comprised this lunch. As we dined, I learned that Italian Mamas are always authentic, passionate, honest, generous, and so vibrant that they literally have to hug you, use hand gestures for every word, and talk about everything.
Italian Mamas live with a particular kind of flair. They can hold the whole neighborhood in their embrace. Whatever suffering–whatever hunger–they can soothe it. I know this: Everyone needs an Italian Mama for a neighbor. And even though I’m still learning how to be one, I know that I can also be that Italian Mama for someone else. I want to live that passionately and generously. I want to hug you and talk about everything.
Journal: Do you know a Mama like this? Are you one of them?
I’m frantic about my meatballs.
Extended family will dine next week on spaghetti and meatballs the day before Thanksgiving. I can’t remember what to do, and I want to do it right.
The Italian Mama advises me that I have choices. I can brown the meatballs in olive oil and then cook them in the sauce all day, or I can throw them directly in the sauce. The browning gives a little crunch, but it doesn’t ultimately matter. In her words, we’ll still reach the “goodness inside.”
I can throw them. I can relax and still reach the goodness inside.
For more Italian Mama: