Friday, May 25, 2007

On the verge of complacency

This Sunday is my nephew’s cresima, his Catholic confirmation. This site defines confirmation as “A sacrament in which the Holy Ghost is given to those already baptized in order to make them strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.” In fact, when my total, 100% and closely guarded ignorance about the Catholic Church spurred me to ask my husband what confirmation was all about, he did mention something about Soldati di Dio. That’s right- Soldiers of God. That’s all he could remember from his own confirmation ceremony. Oh yeah, and the gifts. There were a lot of gifts.

Coming from a society as multi-religious as America and a family as intellectually a million miles away from any organized religion as mine, raising my children in Italy has been a learning experience at best, and a challenge always. The traditional life of a child in Italy has a very definite and mapped out path, with the same rigid stops along the way. This may also be true in the US. After all, what on earth do I really know about that, anyway? I’ve only been there as a visitor since having my children. But here in Italy, my husband and I have a parenting style that has been non-conformist and confusing for most of the general population. Parenting is the ultimate learn as you go experience, and the results of your labor my never really become clear. But I can say that we’ve fought tooth and nail to try to give our children an open mind, and a view of the world that goes beyond their own noses.

Choosing not to baptize, march to catechism and confirm our children in my small town hasn’t always been a piece of cake. It also hasn’t been easy to instill a sense of independence in my children, and a desire to spread their wings, even if it means falling down some of the time. The prevalent parenting style here is akin to smothering, in my opinion, both at an emotional and practical level. Some of my children’s classmates turn in homework done by their parents for the fear of getting a bad grade.

And packing up our little family and moving to the other side of the ocean isn’t a piece of cake, either. Through my excitement and anticipation, I’m scared as shit. Are we doing the right thing? Will my kids hate their new school? Will they make friends? Will they pine for Italy? Will the slutty evil American girls chew up my Jonah and spit him out heartbroken? (I don’t consider this option for my younger son, Dana, as he will certainly do the chewing up and spitting out) Will the dog get eaten by a bear? Will my husband make decent money?
What the hell was I thinking when I decided to do this?

What's so bad about complacency, anyway?

This is the view of the valley behind our house in Colorado, put here today to battle my urge for complacency.


Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Ciao! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I think all of your doubts are totally valid, but there's probably no question that this decision didn't happen overnight and a lot of thinking has gone into it, so now it's just a matter of walking through it, which inevitably will make you question if you're doing the right thing. I don't have any experience in this but I would imagine that the school system is going to be the biggest shock.

byjane said...

Complacency is the kiss of death, it seems to me. Or--let's try another, more original (!) metaphor--it's the siren song luring you into quicksand. Hey, I didn't know all those esses were going to happen. Cool. I think.

Brillig said...

I have a sister, oddly enough named Jennifer, who married an Italian man and they lived in Northern Italy for the first ten years of their marriage and had two little boys. At some point they both felt it was time to go back to America. You can understand how your blog is a little trippy for me!

Anyway, your concerns are all valid and I totally understand the desire for complacency! Still, as I read your blog, "complacency" really doesn't seem to be who you are at all! Good luck in the big leap across the ocean!!!

sognatrice said...

My OH's nephew's first communion is on Sunday! Woohoo! I was brought up Catholic, but I'm certainly not anymore; I've been thinking more seriously lately about how it would go over if we didn't get any future children baptized (the OH isn't religious either, but of course la Mamma is). I don't know. I've been to baptisms, I've been the godmother--I can't see myself standing up and pledging to raise my child in a certain way when I know damn well I'm not going to. I have more respect for religion than that...but that's certainly not going to be an easy idea to get past la famiglia. Mah.

I didn't realize you were moving--congratulations! As Shelley wrote, you've thought and thought, and doubts are normal, but you never really know until you do it, and even then, most of us still aren't sure ;)

In bocca al lupo!

Jill said...

Gorgeous view!

Unfortunately, there's plenty of parental smothering over here too. I've even been known to do a bit of it myself from time-to-time.

jennifer said...

Brillig- are you serious? I would love to hear all about it and how it turned out!
Sognatrice- Yes, we're moving to Colorado in a month, after years of mulling over such a big decision. I wrote about it in some of my earlier posts.
Hi Jill- well, I've been tempted to smothering, too. But at least somewhere in my mind I know I shouldn't...

Jenn in Holland said...

Parenting in Holland has to be as opposite of Italy as can be possible. Kids here are so NOT parented, it has seriously scary repercussions. Makes me in my relatively laid back style look positively strict. Maybe Italian?

For my part, I was raised in a deeply indocrinated way religiously and have recently walked away from all of that, and am not raising the children within it either. I am always interested to talk with people who grew up without religion per se, since mine was central to everything, I find it fascinating to know that others formed a personality NOT based in guilt and fear.
Italy would be a hard place to NOT conform to that religious line.

Colorado will be a lovely place to be.

We've only been expats for a couple of years, and already I worry about the adjustment to returning to the US. I think it's a conundrum, and you write about it well.
The packing to go has got to be keeping you on the verge, yes?

Jennifer said...

Your posts always hit home with me. We are attempting to take a similar approach to parenting Jack, and I find myself having to defend our decisions all the time. Not to my husband's family, but the rest of the town.

Your decision to move must be scary, and then some if no one in your community understands and supports the decision. It will work out though. Lots of kids grow up in the States and turn out fine.

jennifer said...

Hi Jenn- Yes, the packing is keeping me on the verge of panic. I wrote about that in my post A Showdown with the Keeper. It's really hard to lighten up and streamline everything.
And Jennifer- I know it's hard. You can surely imagine the comments I receive from people whose ideas about America come from television. And there are also many people who are envious, I must admit. My husband and I find that many of our contemporaries here feel trapped by some kind of invisible, but very stealthy cage. They feel so stuck. Our apparent freedom doesn't go down well with them at heart, and we spend a lot of time dodging barbs.

anno said...

In the late 1960s, we spent a year in the Netherlands followed by a year in Germany. When we returned, I was just past 10 years old.

After spending two years in a fairly rigorous academic environment, the American school system--and the shockingly cavalier attitude of my schoolmates to their studies--was hard to adjust to. Plus, I was way out of synch with American culture (TV shows! movies! music!). It took me a couple of years to find my place. But then, I was always kind of quiet and reserved.

Other friends who had similar experiences said that living abroad taught them to be adaptable, and how to make friends quickly, so my experience is by no means definitive.

I suspect that the Internet and the much greater level of cultural connectivity today will make the transition easier for your kids (if not for yourselves!). Plus having parents who are aware of the need to plan for the transition.

Good luck with your return home. I've enjoyed reading about your life in Italy and the changes you are on the verge of making.