The New You

brand-new-you1

image credit purefunfit.com

Dearest Daughter,

I love that you so clearly wrote your feelings in response to my spontaneous comment about not liking the New You.  I am equally unhappy that your email was written at 1:00 a.m.!  Why? Because that is very late and I worry, as mothers do.

I try hard not to share my worries because I want to project confidence for you.  Deep down, I believe that you’ll be fine, even when you make poor choices or even good choices that I don’t like.  I believe in fate and God and the goodness of Life.  But my human-ness and my mom-ness continue to plague me with what-if scenarios.

When you were a clumsy toddler, I watched with fear as you climbed a playground structure.  My hands were never far from your body, waiting – expecting – to have to catch you.  My mothering instinct is to protect.  Over the years, I’ve learned to subdue the urge to rescue you, even when you begged me.  Case in point: making you call the orthodontist to let him know that, again, you need to replace your retainer.  And that you will be paying for it.

While punishing me as a child, my mother told me, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”  I didn’t believe her.  I do now.  It hurts me to see you struggle, even when I know it will result in your favor.

As the first-born you bear the task of paving roads.  All along the way, my parental inexperience has been your guide.  You are my first child to leave the nest and I am learning how to reconcile my heartbreak with my pride.  Both emotions are strong and are battling for victory.

Last night, you captured a heartfelt but selfish comment from me.  When I said that I don’t like the new you, I misspoke.  I love all versions of you.  What I dislike is the feeling that my world is changing so drastically and so quickly.  You are living life your way, not my way, as it should be.  I envision myself grasping for the rope that tethers your boat to the dock.  But your ship is ready to sail.

You are branching out toward unfamiliar experiences, taking advantage of the bounty of youth, and it’s difficult for me to watch.  But my skepticism is not an indication of the rightness or wrongness of your choices.  As you pointed out in defense, you are consciously taking risks and risks are essential to growth.

Principessa, I trust in your core values.  I believe your intentions are pure.  You don’t disappoint me.  And I could never think less of you.

Thank you for pointing out that it’s also hard for you to see yourself changing.  We know that change is essential and beneficial but it’s often scary.  Now that we’ve exposed our mutual fear and shined a light on it, it looks less daunting.  Let’s agree that we won’t let fear get the best of us.

You worry that you’ll become someone you don’t recognize.  It’s true that you’ll stray from the person you’ve been, but you can’t lose yourself.  There is a part in each of us that is connected to our source. It cannot be severed. You are, and always will be, uniquely you by divine design.

If you forget who you are, how special and precious, just ask me.  I will pour my love into your heart and remind you of your value. As always, I will be here, with arms outstretched, ready to catch you if you fall.

Loving you more than you can imagine,

Mom

dr seuss you

The Watered-Down Italian

italian heartOne can’t be Italian everywhere. I hadn’t realized this until it came out of my mouth as a disclaimer for my fire-y personality.

At an after-work gathering, I let my hair down and began to tell animated stories, sans censorship with plenty of wild gesticulations. I was rewarded with a circle of wide eyes, dropped jaws, and robust laughter. The collective response was one of surprise. ‘We had no idea about you,’ they remarked, and I hoped it was well-intentioned.

Being raised in a purebred family in a homogeneous environment, I was steeped in Italian culture. It was a generation during which travel or relocation outside of a 20-mile radius was unheard of. When I grew up and married a non-Italian, or ‘mutt,’ as he is affectionately referred to, it was a bit of shock to the system.

My first dinner with husband’s family in their dimly lit dining room with china place settings and soft music was a stark contrast to my own house with bright lights and multiple concurrent conversations. I distinctly recall the indigestion I suffered as a result of the undivided attention I received when speaking. Why did everyone stare at me? Attention felt like scrutiny, not respect. Thus we blended cultures, and to this day, struggle with our opposing communication styles.

Growing up Italian was a gift I took for granted. There is sense of security when one is enfolded in an expansive culture. Absent is the pressure to be anything other than oneself. Unlike some of my classmates who struggled to identify with a certain group during heritage week, I knew exactly who I was and where I came from. There was no ambiguity in my ancestry.

But as I aged and became self-conscious, the dilemma of trying to be acceptable in the world took over. I surrendered some of my passion in the name of political correctness. I tried not to scare people with opinions that had always flowed freely and without inhibition. I cut and pasted myself like a paper doll in order to ready myself for the world.

The arrival of children renewed my desire for cultural connection. I wanted to pass on the sense of security that comes from inclusion in a like-minded group. It hasn’t always been easy in a modern and blended family. My kids are watered-down Italians who, gasp, refuse to make homemade pasta with me. But they are proud of it none-the-less and eat it with enthusiasm.

We all look forward to our annual family reunion. It’s a time and place where Italians can be fully Italian and those that aren’t, (we call them wannabes), do their best to survive the level of intensity that radiates from a very passionate people.

I love my blended country in which cultural dividing lines are blurred enough to allow for inter-racial marriage. We combine the best and worst of many worlds and end up with a whole new set of people who are, hopefully, a little less exclusive and prejudiced. But I also love that I have a pedigree – even if it gets me into trouble once in a while.

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