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Italian Notes, IV

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Jun-17-2003

One of the first things that I noticed when meeting up with Missy once again was the rather large, support-y looking bandage that she wore on her left wrist. Curious minds want to know and so I asked her what had happened.

It seems that she had sprained/ stretched / ripped/ wrecked the tendons in her left wrist by carrying The Little Prince around. ‘ Oh ‘, I may have said, possibly ‘ My ! ‘. She continued on, telling me that her Doctor had told her that 80% of all Italian mothers suffer from this sort of injury at one time or another. Again, I gave some nebulous response, ‘Oh ! ‘. And so, for the rest of the vacation, I watched how the Italian mothers that I saw were handling their young children ( say, under two years of age).

The first thing that I noticed was that everywhere you turn there are dozens of babies. Babies everywhere. The second thing that I noticed was that the mothers were always carrying, dangling, bouncing or holding the babies while the fathers pushed the empty deluxe strollers. And they never carried their babies on their hip as they stood or walked down the street, no, they carried the baby with it’s back to their stomach, left forearm across the baby’s chest.

I never saw a baby laying on it’s stomach on a blanket on the beach. I never saw a baby crawl- The Little Prince is 8 months old and can’t crawl, most likely because he is always being held and dangled. I wondered how many Italian babies never crawl.

I never saw a baby sitting in a Maxi-Cosi, just surveying the scene. In fact, I didn’t see one Maxi-Cosi. Every baby that I saw, when awake, had at least one adult entertaining it, holding it, bouncing it, devoting all of their attention to the wee treasure.

Major cultural difference. Needless to say, I never suffered from any wrist injuries as the result of my child-raising methods.

  1. Catherine Said,

    That’s what baby Callum needed – an Italian mother! He and I had a major cultural difference on the question of whether he should be held and dangled every moment of the day.

  2. sue Said,

    What I have to wonder, Catherine, is what happens to the 20% of the mothers who are not crippled by their children : are they seen as ‘bad’mothers, shunned in polite society, the reason given for any and all psychological complaints which their offspring might develop ?

    Are we, in short, dreadful mothers, since we did not emerge with scars proving our devotion? ( at least mine crawled, she said to herself)

  3. Catherine Said,

    Yes, quite dreadful!

    (Actually Callum won our culture clash and I spent most of his first 5 months holding him – sitting watching the world go by just wasn’t on Callum’s to-do list and being put on the floor on his tummy so he could learn to crawl, as all the books told me to, was good for about 30 seconds before the skies were split with his screams. I dare say he’d have learnt to crawl much later, if at all, had he not gone to nursery at 6 months. My wrists are fine, but I did develop a bad shoulder – perhaps I am a good mother after all!)

  4. sue Said,

    You don’t say.

    Oh dear, I begin to fear that I am going to discover first hand the isolation of the un-injured mother. I’m sure I shall be derided…mocked…shunned. I shortly expect Steph to post, mentioning her dreadful case of Álexa elbow’, caused, no doubt, by being unable to resist the look of joy on Alexa’s face when being pulled on a sled.

    Dorothy, perhaps, will have the wrist aches, Eliz a crick in her back from carrying Michael non-stop for three years on her hip and I’m sure that Marjan, Kathryn and Angel will cause me to simply hang my head in shame.

    What a can of worms I have opened up ! No secret handshakes in the near future for me !

  5. Gert Said,

    Various mothers of small children (and grandmothers) have looked at me strange as I hold a child the Italian way.

    The difference with me…I hand the child back :)

  6. sue Said,

    Gert : big secret- Julian is the first baby that I have ever held that is not my own. While I cluck, admire and coo over other people’s children, I really haven’t the faintest desire to hold them.

  7. lynn Said,

    mine crawled too (and got cuddled a lot, i must admit). and i also believe that an ample hip – or a stroller, or a maxi-cosi – is probably much more comfortable than being dangled by one’s armpits…

  8. sue Said,

    You know, Lynn, when we had our first, my Dad took me aside and said to me : here is my fatherly advice – raise a child that you can live with. Sounds rather simple, but I have found it to be very true. The first one, that we slathered our attention on, has difficulty amusing herself, whereas the next two ( whom I always held- what feels better than a little baby’s chubby leg, those tiny toes ?) can spend hours lost in their imaginations- writing ‘books’, telling stories. Sometimes, in fact, I feel sorry for the first born- she can’t seem to get lost in herself, she needs the stimulus of others.

    Eh, you can’t win-

  9. Edwinek Said,

    Makes you wonder how Italians ever learn to walk. Presumably they start crawling when they get too heavy to carry around or dangle. By the way, do read Tim Parks’ “An Italian Education” ( and discover things can get worse still. And while you’re at it, “Italian neighbours” ( Both great books.

  10. Catherine Said,

    I agree 200% with your dad, believe me, but unfortunately Callum did not. And yes, he still has difficulty amusing himself for anything more than a couple of minutes now – if Kevin or I am about it is his god-given right to have us play supporting male or female in the chosen drama of the day (it’s Star Wars today – Kevin just gave him his old light sabre. Callum is Dark Vaduss, apparantly).

    Meg on the matress sounds adorable!

  11. sue Said,

    Catherine- I have noticed that – in general- first-borns have a hard time amusing themselves. Which I find odd, as both Han and I were first borns !

    Say, heading off anywhere soon ?

  12. Catherine Said,

    (doing prenatal-class breathing excercises): the boat trip starts on 14 July… (and OUUUUUT)

    Oh – we are taking Callum on a plane! Just a short hop, over to stay with our lovely friends in Northern Ireland at the beginnning of September. I very am excited about it – it will be lovely to see them, and great if we can finally broaden our horizons a bit.

    I’ve been wondering about the possible meeting – are you around the weekend of the 26/27 July, or will you all be plucking banjos by then?

  13. sue Said,

    Catherine, in theory, we should be in Dixie by then. Han is contacting the travel agency- again- today. He is determined to find a cheap flight. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if we end up on a transport flight of goats coming in from Kathmandu-

    I haven’t heard from Jeannine, in any case ( although I’m more disorganized than usual at the moment). Have you ?

  14. Catherine Said,

    The last I heard was on 29 May wondering why we weren’t all celebrating 4 July with our families!

    She was thinking of coming to London, so I may catch her here if you lot all end up meeting while I’m away in July.

    Goats! Not cows, then – what a thoughtful man.

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