Raising kids the Italian way. Good, bad, indifferent? You be the judge.

I’ve been a mom for far longer than I care to admit. My three children have given me more joy than I can express, so much so that it often brings me to tears if I really begin to think about it. But even with all this joy, raising kids is hard. There is so much that can go wrong! I constantly have to remind myself to trust my instincts and to do as I was taught. I had pretty darn good parents and I was a darn good kid. Something worked out there.

For better or for worse. I recently read an article about raising kids in France. It was fascinating to me as the approach was completely different in how I was brought up. This got me thinking about the topic, and made me try to understand how my own upbringing has influenced, is influencing, how I am raising my kids today.

I like to term my upbringing as “classic Italian.” Big family, all about family, and more family. Did I mention family? Children were of utmost importance in the Petosa clan. We held a special place in everybody’s eyes. Our family made us feel important. Loved. And maybe a little spoiled. Actually, a lot spoiled. Not misbehaved, or ungrateful by any means, but spoiled by every means.

My parents did things for me that I am to this day – forever grateful for. Trip to New York to dance for the summer? No problem. $60 pointe shoes every other week? Sure thing. A car to drive when you turn 16? Well of course! Private horse-riding lessons and with your own horse in the backyard? You got it. Private school. Special meals. The pair of shoes in that magazine that you just had to have. The list goes on and on. My parents were not wealthy. Yet somehow, they managed. They sacrificed. They put my needs, my desires, and my wishes first. This extended way beyond material things. But you get the gist.

In Italian households, mine included, parents make profound sacrifices to do everything and anything to make sure their children are happy, successful, fulfilled. So what is the harm in that? Don’t all parents? Maybe. But in some families <insert French case study here> the same focus does not seem as extreme.

I’m still learning  (even 24 years into this parenting thing) that there is a careful balance between prioritizing your children and not letting them overtake and run your life. The two can and do coexist. But one slip in this special dance and you’ll find yourself spending $350 on shoes your kid does not need. You Italian parents out there will know exactly what I’m talking about. You French parents, not so much.

I need to do better at not spoiling my kids. At making sure they are grateful for all they do have, thankful for the lives and the love they receive, and that they know that they are and will always be my #1 priority, but that my needs are important too. Italian families have a way of making you feel like you are the most important person in the world. I want my kids to feel like that. But my hope is that with that gift comes an appreciation, love, respect and the ability to make others in their lives feel the same.  For me, that’s the Italian way. Or maybe it’s just my way.