Living in Rome
It is well known that Italian men keep a close relationship with their mother throughout their adult life. For them, she is like a queen mother, quietly ruling his family, forever commenting on her daughter-in-law’s ability to raise her grand children, while perniciously criticizing her for her way of being. My friends married to Italian men always complain that la mamma seems to come first. He has to phone her every day before coming back home, he has to ask her advice for every important decision in his life and so on…
Now I feel I may have come to the root of the problem. My own son, who is three, is attending an Italian nursery school, and the other day I was informed by his teacher that she would take his class to see a circus. She literally asked me if I could come. When two days later, another mother asked me if I was going to the circus, I took it as a confirmation that I was to accompany the class.
So I booked the day and this morning I was ready, camera in hand, to go along with the children. Little did I understand…..parents were not welcome, it was kids only with their respective teacher! What I didn’t understand was the fact that when the teacher or other mothers ask me a question, they mean to ask my son, and I am to reply on his behalf, as if his identity and mine were merged together. So the question: can you go to the circus, actually means, can your son go to the circus? There is no individual identity, mother and children merge into one single unit. I just didn’t get it!! Is that an Italian cultural aspect which carries on later in life?…I ask the question.