I’m sticking to my healthy eating so far as planned, it’s soo hard to resist ice creams and chocolate but I’m determined not to be a hippo for much longer. I took the kids on a three-hour walk today, which was totally unplanned, I was expecting a quick nip to the shops with the pushchair for half an hour and we ended up walking everywhere. It was lovely not to stress about the time or have to rush back for anything, I collected Millie from school then off on our adventure we went! It’s so gorgeous outside today, the sun is baking hot for the first time this year and the flowers are bright and the air smells fresh – just what the doctor ordered. And when we got home I was chuckling to myself like Mutley thinking Millie and Gabriele would be fast asleep from the fresh air and exercise, but instead they’re both full of beans and I’m sat here pinning my eyes open with match sticks and soothing my throbbing feet on the foot stool like a knackered old camel. Oh how the tables did turn! That’ll teach me for trying to get a quiet early night with the kids worn out. Oh, and now my skin is turning a nice shade of angry lobster red by the second like something off of Brit’s Abroad or Benidorm, pasty white meets glowing sunburn and strap marks – classy! Luca’s just rubbed some aloe vera after sun onto my sizzling shoulders and neck and I’m scared he might throw a raw egg on me, I could grill asparagus on my chest and shoulders and fish on my forearms, take a ticket and wait your turn please. What a silly sausage! It doesn’t help when I’m cuddling and winding Gabriele and he keeps slapping, gripping and pinching me, I’m like a cat on a hot tin roof right now tortured.
Gabriele is getting more alert by the day; he now follows us with his eyes and looks at different objects. If I stand with him near a mirror or picture on the wall and rock him, his eyes follow whatever he is looking at and he pulls the funniest faces as he stares and concentrates. He’s also holding my hand a lot more now, before it was almost accidental when he would flail his arms around and suddenly catch hold of my finger and lay gripping it, now when I feed him his milk straight away he tucks one hand up under his chin and the other onto my bottle holding hand. It’s so wonderful sitting with him in the early hours having our little hand holding moments, and I’m determined to make the most of them because it won’t be long until he’s too embarrassed to hold his Mummy’s hand in public!
He’s still up all hours at night; sometimes he goes two hours between feed and other times it’s sooner. He’s a very windy baby and is always popping off in his nappy or burping which usually means he wakes up in terrible pain with such a high pitched squeal until I pick him up and he can pass the wind on my shoulder. We don’t think it’s colic as he only wakes up that way and he’s not constantly like that throughout the day, but I did get some Infacol drops today so we’re going to try him on that tonight as it’s supposed to help stop tummy bubbles. Fingers crossed he won’t get too much wind tonight and may sleep a bit longer.
He’s still on his hungry baby milk and it’s had absolutely no bad effects on his nappies, he’s weeing and pooing very frequently and has never had a problem before or after so it just goes to show that all babies are different and sometimes midwives don’t always know best.
We’ve been busy trying to sort out Gabriele’s christening and it has been the most stressful headache ever I was seriously close to calling the whole thing off. Although Luca and I have been together almost five years somehow we’ve never arranged a party between us, and I’ve always arranged days out and birthday surprises by myself and all has gone swimmingly. But Gabriele’s christening is definitely a sore point for us both as it’s highlighted the issues between our cultures and values and I’m sure that it must affect many other families and couples who have had a baby too.
When I was pregnant Luca and I discussed having Gabriele christened after he was born and decided on what we would like and whom we would invite. We spoke to our local Priest and arranged the church some weeks before he was born and we were so excited to be able to plan such a special day for our baby boy. We wanted to make it unique and from our hearts, a day planned especially for Gabriele by his mummy, daddy and big sister that we could cherish and remember forever. From the cake down to the napkins, the balloons to his shoes, everything would be well thought of and considered until we created the perfect day and it is something I had day-dreamed about for the past nine months just like a little girl would over her dream wedding. But it soon became apparent that our ideas of what a christening is about are very different and led to quite a disagreement.
When I booked the church with our Priest he advised that the service would take place as part of the Sunday morning mass at 09:15 which I was expecting and so booked the village hall accordingly to start from ten so our guests could walk across the road after the service from the church to the hall and join us for tea and cake and a little natter. In my experience of weddings, birthdays, christenings etc. family and possibly close friends attend the ceremony and then head to the hall afterwards for nibbles and a light brunch where neighbours and other friends and colleagues arrive later and join in. Perhaps you put on a little music from a mix tape, tiny tots play chase and kick balloons across the floor, babies fall asleep in pushchairs, elderly relatives have a discreet afternoon nap in the corner of the room, and aunts and uncles serve the tea, coffee and fruit squash from a tiny badly stocked kitchen with only one teaspoon to share between every cup. And three or four hours later everyone gradually dwindles off and says goodbye just before late afternoon to get the kids in the bath and off to bed ready for work and school the following morning. I see a christening as a religious ceremony that is all about the child, welcoming them into a religion, protecting them with faith and celebrating their life and hopes of a bright future.
I was expecting to take a trip to the wholesalers and pick up some catering platters, at ten in the morning to serve some nice sandwiches, meats, salad, a few nibbles, cupcakes and a sweetie bowl for the little ones as part of a nice civilised brunch, very much cucumber sandwiches and afternoon tea and cake on a sunny July afternoon. Perhaps some champagne and orange juice for everyone to toast Gabriele when we got to the hall. And after coffee, to cut the cake and hand out napkins and forks followed by a few cuddles and well wishes before heading home for the afternoon. In my mind that would be my perfect way to celebrate a three-month-old baby’s first steps into life and religion with him being the centre of attention and no distraction from anyone or anything else.
But as I say, we didn’t exactly see eye to eye, more eye to kneecap! I understand different cultures celebrate in different ways and I have no problem with that at all, I believe that culture is important to sustain in order to raise children with important values and beliefs that have been passed on from generation to generation. With Luca being Italian and myself being English I guess straight away we’re singing from a completely different hymn sheet. It helps that we’re both Catholic but aside from that we couldn’t be more far apart with our expectations and ideas, which caused an afternoon of cross words and tantrums to say the least!
Luca’s idea of a babies christening is to have the ceremony in the morning at the church with a handful of relatives but not all of the family, and afterwards to wait six hours before going to the hall where the rest of the family and friends join in late afternoon. Instead of a light brunch there is enough food to feed the five thousand breakfast, lunch and dinner, instead of afternoon tea everybody must have alcohol – aside from the children of course, and instead of the hall across the road from the church we must ask our guests to travel to the next village to a different hall that has an alcohol license. And the icing on the cake, instead of popping to the caterers to get a few trays of chef prepared delicacies we must expect our poor mothers to do all of the food for us, for over one hundred guests, baking and buttering away in their domestic kitchens all hours and to arrive with it prepped and presented on the day! How rude!
I’m too stubborn, independent and hormonal to think that any of that is at all normal!? Firstly when I’ve ever done anything, whether it is washing my socks, throwing a party or buying a car I would never expect somebody else to do it for me. I know in the twenty-something years I have been on this earth that I have probably put my parents through enough stress and trouble to last a lifetime without needing to drop the bomb-shell of telling them to cook for one hundred guests at their grandson’s christening, surely by now they deserve a nice bit of tea and cake in the afternoon. I would never expect anything of our guests at a party for our children other than to turn up and have a lovely afternoon relaxing with the family. If I was a selfish thirteen year old and didn’t know any better I would probably expect my mum to pay for it and do it all for me and then drive all of my friends from school back home afterwards; but as a grown mother of two I think I’m just about capable of standing on my own two feet and buttering my own sandwiches for my son’s brunch and driving myself to the caterers to collect his cake.
But in Italian culture love is expressed through food, helping and sharing and parents almost expect to have to do everything for their grown children unless otherwise instructed. If anything I’d say bring a bottle of wine if you wish, not build me a banquet to feed the five thousand please! I don’t see the need for alcohol at a children’s party, if anything there should be a bar stocked solely with a hundred different flavour fruit juices for the children and maybe a bottle of lemonade for the toast. But for Italian’s it’s seen as essential to have access to alcohol, wine or beer from a bar at a party or else the guests would be offended. If anybody came to my home or a party I was holding and said they were offended by my food or decor I would be gobsmacked. You wouldn’t walk into somebody elses house and say, “Oh, I was expecting it to be tidier/bigger/better” you shouldn’t have rigid expectations of other people’s personal space or opinions. If you go to a party you are a guest, you should be grateful for being invited and included in a meaningful event, and kind and considerate to the surroundings you are in and the food and drink that has been catered for. It isn’t about showing off what you have and getting everyone drunk, it’s about a little boy being welcomed into our faith and he is the only important factor of the entire day.
I find it hard to see how not catering a certain food or the choice of an alcoholic beverage could offend a guest coming to a party that you have put on. It isn’t about the money you spend or the time it takes to make all of the food, I don’t mind how many people come or don’t come, and I don’t mind what the church looks like. All I ask is for Gabriele to be christened, our family and friends to be invited, and everybody to have a nice brunch and chinwag before going our separate ways a few hours later. I see it as a straight-cut stress-free day, but we are completely poles apart!
So I’m hoping that my somewhat boring English tradition can meet sympathetically with Luca’s all singing and dancing Italian tradition so that neither of our families are left out nor offended. I don’t want it all to be my decision, nor all Luca’s, I want us to marry our hopes and ideas together to make something that we both genuinely love and are happy with as a gift to our beautiful son. But if we continue to argue I will smash the cake over Luca’s head and go and drown my sorrows at the bottom of a bottle of red and sing tragic love songs by myself in the kitchen! Luca you have been warned buddy! x x x