When I lived in Italy with my then 19 month old, I spent time observing and learning from the way the Italians lived, ate and played. It was the most influential time in my life as a parent. Something in me changed, and I can attribute it to these five short life lessons.
1. Family Comes First (no matter what): We all put family first, right? I think when it comes down to it, most of us at least want to put our family before anything. But do we cherish our family every day? Are we present with our kids and not trying to juggle 700 things at once? I am not sure we do. But, we most certainly could. Being a present and mindful parent but also person, in whatever we do, can bring happiness that I think the Italians have down pat. One thing that helped me get there is Dr. Shefali’s book Conscious Parenting. It’s a favorite of mine and I know you will love it and find it life changing.
2. Food: While I was living in Italy, I consumed some of the most pure and delicious food. I ate SO much, as in I didn’t hold back from eating, at all, ever. The Italians took such pride in their food, as they should, but what stuck out more to me was how mindful they were about eating. What I mean is that they carefully and mindfully went to buy each ingredient. They went to the market to get fruits and veggies, to the butcher to get the meat, and to another specialty shop for fresh cheese. They weren’t in a rush, the best ingredients mattered to them! They cook all day and slow. I used to whip up a red sauce in 30 minutes, but why?! If you buy fresh plum tomatoes and slow cook it all day, it is SO divine. Love was shown with food. Everyone comes together, it’s scrumptious family time. I learned to appreciate good ingredients and to teach my kids how wonderful that can truly be!
3. Siesta: YES the famous siesta! Take a breather! The whole city just stopped in the middle of the day, shut down, and everyone went home to rest. It sounds unrealistic right? At first I thought this was annoying! I love a spontaneous wine and cheese platter in the afternoon, but nothing was open. So guess what? I got up earlier and enjoyed a cappuccino, then hit the markets. Eventually, even I stopped, slowed down, and napped with Luke in the afternoons. There was NO reason to hustle bustle all day. I could get plenty of work done at night. If your a working mom, this can be hard to do but it is possible. If you live close to work, go home for your lunch break. If you don’t, find a quiet spot nearby and eat your lunch then rest quietly (no phone!) for 30 minutes. Maybe even promise yourself once a week you will leave work early and do something relaxing. I promise, taking a siesta is, and will be for you, life changing.
4. Travel: Europeans are well traveled. They live just a train or short plane ride away from the next amazing European country. Their children are well traveled as well. These are not extravagant vacations, keep in mind. They may be a few days—or even the whole month of August (everyone disappears!), but they travel and their kids travel too. There is nothing like going to a new place to open your eyes and humble you. It even makes me more grateful for home which leads me to…
5. HOME is Where the Heart is: Above all I learned that, because travel is so easily accessible to the Italians, they really appreciated their home, where ever that was. They didn’t complain about being stuffed in a tiny city apartment or living in the middle of nowhere in the countryside. They are humbled by everything they have and are grateful for where they live. Whenever I travel, I begin to appreciate my little town as well. After all, there is no place like home!
Photo by Jocelyn Filley