Home expat life My Italian Family And Religion: To Be Or Not To Be, And Why Is Jesus Punching My Kids?

My Italian Family And Religion: To Be Or Not To Be, And Why Is Jesus Punching My Kids?

written by M.E. Evans May 28, 2014
Corcovado jesus

Corcovado jesus (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I woke up this morning with anxiety about babies. Wait. Let’s start again.

I’m a big fan of compromise. I like getting my way like everyone else but I’m also a guilt driven person and getting my way often makes me feel like shit later. Coming halfway, meeting in the middle, helps me feel like something has been resolved without making me feel like an asshole in the process. My friends and siblings are, for the most part, similar so I haven’t had to deal with too many “my way or the highway,” types. I avoid rigid people, or at least I did until I married F.

Our relationship has always been pretty fair. We both give and take and resolve our (many) arguments with compromise or with Rock, Paper, Scissors. It’s a pretty good system. We see eye to eye on almost most issues except for ones involving his parents. Now, most of you who have been reading for a while already know that my in-laws and I were in full on battle mode for the first few years my husband and I were together. There was a lot of pushing and pulling with zero compromise. According to them I was in Italy so I was no longer allowed to be what they view as “American.” Now, for those of you who aren’t expats you’re thinking right now, “It’s true. You’re in Italy so you should adapt to whatever they do.” Being respectful of someone’s culture is one thing, throwing your own culture and mannerisms out of the window and trying to be one of them is impossible. The truth is that culture impacts every single thing that you do from the way you say “hello” to the way you listen to someone who is speaking. For example, Americans usually watch someone quietly while the other person speaks. Italians kind of actively listen, they make matching facial expressions to accompany the story, or they nod the entire time as if they are urging the speaker to move forward. Simply “listening” to someone comes off as odd. Often while F’s parents are talking I’ll simply listen and then the mom will throw her hands up in the air and go, “She doesn’t understand anything I’m saying,” which is odd because I’d have been responding back to her  with words. I’ll look around and go, “The fuck!? Did I forget how to use words again!?” Then I’ll realize that I wasn’t making my listening face so I clearly didn’t get it. This is something I can’t change. It’s not possible. I’ve been listening like this since I was a child and at no point unless I force myself (in a really exaggerated and fake way) am I going to be a more visual listener. There are hundreds of these things that won’t change, so when you’re dealing with people who expect you to be exactly like them or else, life can get pretty shitty. They haven’t fully come to terms with the fact that I am “unfixable” because I’m from a different culture (a REALLY different one, not only am I American but my father is Iranian which brings another level of complication, too), but they’ve realized that they don’t have a choice really because MARRIAGE BITCHES! So we all deal with each other, for now.

So, if we deal with each other for now, what’s the fucking point of this post? Well, my husband and I have started talking about possibly having a baby at some point in the near future. Maybe next year, maybe the year after (my vagina is still afraid of babies, plus I’m worried that one day I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and my kid will be standing at my bedroom door but then it won’t be my kid it will be a zombie kid and the shitty zombie kid will eat my face off).  But I’m not only afraid of physical things like pregnancy-babies pee inside of you because they aren’t potty trained and have terrible manners-but also things that are relevant after the baby is born. The part where we have to be parents. I have the same concerns as most people, I’m sure, like what if Oliver eats my baby, or what if my baby doesn’t like The Last Unicorn, but lately I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about culture, mine versus his, and how difficult it might be for us to raise well-rounded children between two totally different worlds. Also, I’m honestly really freaked out about how the fuck I’ll raise a baby around his very rigid, uncompromising Italian family without murdering anyone. When I think, “baby,” I immediately see screaming, arguing, crying, and some talk about my baby burning in hell, you know, the usual.

The religion thing will be an enormous form of contention for us, enough that I’m already dreading it. I’m not religious. However, my MIL is a BIBLE TEACHER. You see where this is going. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for other people being religious. Weeeee! Whatever makes you happy, guys (unless it involves Kool-Aid, or child-brides). Religion just isn’t for me and if my kids are going to be religious I’d prefer they wait until they can read books and make their own decisions. Every family has it’s own level of religiosity but my in-laws take it to a kind of a terrifying level for me. Our niece has obsessively drawn crosses on things since she was four (at one point I actually worried her head might start spinning as she dug her crayon into the art paper like a maniac, followed by a picture of my husband who she had crucified). A few year later I asked our niece what happened to her leg and she replied, “Jesus pushed me down and hurt me because I told a lie.” Because, you know, Jesus is an asshole and has nothing better to do than bully seven year olds (WTF?). My first thought was, I cannot have children. If my own child said that to me I’d flip my shit and I would be forced to call Jesus’ dad because that’s just bad parenting and maybe he needs to spend less time governing other peoples kids and more time hugging Jesus who is clearly lashing out. Then God would get defensive and smite me and everyone would be like, “Thanks a lot for the locusts, M.E., YOU ASSHOLE.” What a sad, scary, horrible thing to believe that a deity would hurt a child for lying.

My family is a bizarre mix of muslim, catholic, Mormon, agnostic and atheist, so I was raised pretty big on religious freedom and making your own personal choices. Some of my family members are super religious, others aren’t, and we all gat along just fine as we respect each other’s differences. Francesco’s family has been Catholic since the Romans abandoned paganism to come on board the Christian movement. They won’t understand any concept of religious difference or children making decisions at a later age. Catholics baptize at only a few months old and the child is referred to as “catholic” from that point on until maybe they are adults and start saying they are not (which is everyone we know). I don’t really want that. I don’t want my kid to have a religious or spiritual identity until it’s something they choose for themselves. How do I do that with people pressuring, freaking out, crying, and throwing an epic meltdown over it? It’s also a sure thing that the minute my MIL gets near my kids she’ll start on them about how if they do something wrong Jesus will bite off their ear or punch his/her mom (me) in the face.

This is only one of many, many possible fights that I see coming my way. I can be sure that spanking, food choices (I am not a fan of sugar for breakfast), air conditioning, and playing will also be the cause for many fights. After-all, what kind of mother would let her kid go out into a field and roll in mud. ME! That’s who! Being dirty is fun and mud is badass when you’re a kid (or when you’re thirty-two and you’re all MUD! And you’re husband is all NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!). Except when you’re in Italy and the kids are dressed like they’re forty and ready for a fashion show and rolling in mud would be on par with throwing your kid from a balcony. Totally makes sense because dirty kids and thrown from balcony kids are both unloved.

This is not to say that my own parents won’t have their own shit to say. My father is muslim so he equates drinking in front of children with acute child abuse. A glass of wine at dinner? Your baby will be addicted to CRACK! Why don’t you just shoot your baby full of heroine!? This is why my sister and I fuel him by saying things over dinner like, “We need to buy some weed and vodka for when we take the kids to the beach this weekend.” The difference is that I have no problem telling my own parents to back off. My husband however was raised in that old southern tradition that your parents are always right and that questioning them is disrespectful. I mean, it’s awesome that he has so much respect for his parents, I love a man who respects his family, but once in a while I need some backup and a “no, mom, you can’t hang out with our baby Lasagne if you tell her that God will kill her parents if she doesn’t do her homework.” So…that’s where I’m at right now. If he lets his parents unpack and repack my luggage he’ll probably let them send my kids off to bible camp at three months old, too.

Advice? Xanax? Is anyone else worried about a zombie baby eating their face off?

 

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