As my daughter chased a rubber ball with a two-year-old boy we often see at the park, I got talking to his father. A news photographer, he told me he looks after his son every morning until midday and works the afternoon shift.
"Lucky kid," I exclaimed, "Not many get to spend half a day every day with their daddies." Not so lucky, according to the man's family. They criticize him for spending too much time with the child, saying the boy is too attached to him and that it's not good for the kid's independence.
I was floored. What's going on? What is it about Italian society that makes people disapprove of little children who simply spend time with their parents?
"Mammone!" was the admonishment fired at 16-month-old Mark by a set of Italian grandparents (not his own) every time he wanted to be held by his mother. Mummy's Boy at 16 months? Heck, yes. And so it should be. Why aren't babies allowed to be babies anymore? Why are they made to feel that seeking the comfort of mummy is something to be ashamed of and scoffed at?
People here are a little less harsh on baby girls. I presume that's because the fear of them growing up to be effeminate is mitigated by their gender. Yet, when my daughter was just 12 months old, I remember people wagging their fingers at her and insisting: "Basta! Enough! You can't always be held by your mamma." 12 months!
Message to the Daddy in the park and to all parents who are made to feel guilty or inadequate because they give their children too much love and attention: keep it up...kids are spoiled by too many things, not by too much affection.
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