Friday, August 22


We sat in the sun, watching our children play happily together on the beach.
"Do you think they'll always be friends?" I wondered aloud, remembering how the two children had become almost inseperable since they started playgroup three years ago.
The mother shot me a candid look and bent down to scoop up some pebbles, which she jiggled around in her hands.

" Well, to tell you the truth Nicki, I don't really know," she said, avoiding my eyes. "I think you made a grave mistake in not baptizing Skye as a Catholic."
I stiffened and turned to look at her to see if she was joking or being serious. Young, pretty, sociable and a bit of a gossip, she was waiting for my reaction with serious eyes.

"What do you mean a mistake?" I said carefully.
"Well, I can understand that you were brought up differently from us but it's not fair on your child. She won't fit in with the other children here, she'll be left out and will...well, just be different."
"Oh," I said, a bit lost for words, having expected to have this conversation at some point, but with some old Aunt or someone, not with a young mother. I had presumed that nowadays people here were more open to differences and 'foreign' ways, there being at leasts 100 foreigners living in the town.

I asked the mother if she had to go and live in Israel, for example, whether she would bring her children up Jewish so that they fitted in with the other children there. Of course she was shocked at the idea, but couldnt see it as a comparison.
"But this is here!Your child won't be the same as the others!"

At that point I decided it was best to leave.


  1. I say don't worry Nikki. Only 15% of Italians are observant and they are all over 65 or in convents. Poppy will differ only in that she doesn't go to a different church than the other kids don't go to.
    Sure, they celebrate their first Communion, but Poppy can have a similar celebration at the same age if it helps. Yes, they like to marry in the church, but Poppy is not forbidden to do so.
    Italians in general are not believers, so using religion as a stick to herd up the kids is more hypocritical than the norm. Positano is smaller, I know, but my town has loads of Protestants, Muslims (the city just built a cultural center/mosque for them) Jews, etc., and the difference is they actually attend services.
    Like it or not, Italy is changing. I think she's really wrong to think that prejudice can keep Positano the same forever. And just maybe Poppy's horizons might need to be a bit wider than hers, anyway.

  2. oh my gosh! I can't believe the gall of this lady! And so sad. When you were first pondering whether Poppy and the little girl would be friends forever, I had the idea you were thinking a bit of you and C.

    I would have been absolutely SHOCKED had someone said this to me, I don't know HOW I would have responded. Good for you for bringing up the Jerusalem analogy.

    This sounds like something someone back in my small hometown would say , except in that case it would be why aren't you a Baptist?

    I'm really sorry that this woman said such a nasty thing, and I just can't imagine it will make that much of a different to Poppy. She won't be part of the communion class or whatever at the church, but there are probably plenty of non-observant families there anyway! And there will be some kids who won't want to take dance lessons (or whatever) like Poppy will. Kids learn and grow from their differences!

    I'm not articulating any of this very well, but I'm just horribly offended on your part and sorry for this lady. Hang in there, you are doing what's right for YOUR child and that is all that matters.

  3. Nell in Ajax said....For most Italian Catholic's being baptized in the church is done for the grandparents not for religious reasons.You shouldn't' take the baby out till its baptized and made a person etc. My opinion you are raising a lovely healthy beautiful daughter who is being taught what is right and what is wrong. When she is grown she can decide for herself.

  4. I'm not surprised at all by this woman's forward speech. It's a shame she is a bit close-minded on the subject.

    I am a Catholic schoolteacher so of course, I recognize my bias in this situation but I think you know what you are doing as the parent. I would encourage Poppy to attend church services, however, so that she is exposed to the faith and in time, she will make her own choices. The important thing is to allow her the freedom and resources to choose.

    Will Poppy be different? Of course; she is already with an English mother and Italian father. Is that necessarily a handicap? Not at all. No one, anywhere, is meant to be like anyone else.

  5. If she's ignorant enough not to see the point made by your perfectly clear comparison, she's ignorant enough to think that other children will shun your child because she wasn't baptized. Another point you could make to her, which will go right over her head too, is that children will shun your daughter only if they've been taught to by their parents.

    UGH I hate ignorance, sorry.

  6. Wowza... But I'm with Judith, too. The very fact that you *are* different is what makes you guys a good influence on people like this woman.

    In fact, I'll bet Poppy's differences will help to open a lot of narrow minds as she grows.

    Here in Napoli, on the other hand, I've yet to meet an actual practicing Catholic!


  7. When you become Catholic, I'll be your godfather...let's do you and Poppy at the same time...we might get a break on the hall.

  8. Wow. What a hypocritical thing to say - most Italians I know are not practicing Catholics, even if they are baptized. So why should she care if Poppy is baptized - is it some sort of brand that kids are expected to have or something? I highly doubt your friend is even all that observant. I say just ignore her.

  9. I think it does not matter if you are baptized catholic or protestant it doesn't mold you for future relationships, friendships even business partnerships...I agree with Nell my sister. Life and being taught right and wrong, being taught morals, compassion and understanding is what matters. Poppy's friends will love Poppy for who she is not what she was baptized!

  10. I'd say you'd be a hypocrit if you raise your child based on beliefs that aren't yours, and that you don't believe in. So bravo for you, for being truthful to yourself. Poppy is different because she has sincere parents that care for her and love her.

  11. Wow-what are they going to do-make Poppy wear some sort of sign around that says she isn't baptized? I'm sorry that this woman had the nerve to comment on a very personal decision that you made. Poppy will be fine!

  12. Wow. She sounds like a woman not worth arguing with as she'll never be able to see both sides of things.

    whatever! and I can't BELIEVE that she turned your Jewish analogy around and say "but this is here..."

    don't let it phase you, it's because of people like that that everyone else has to work that much harder to become stronger people!

  13. that's a tough situation...although it shouldn't be. If the parents didn't force that way of thinking on the children, the kids would have no way of thinking Poppy was "different" and would love her just the same.

  14. I think your Israeli analogy says it all. This lady is a bit of a twit.

  15. you broke the mold when leaving the life you knew to move so why stop now? strength in your individual character is just as valuable a gift as a bible...

  16. Let it be your daughters choice, if and when it comes to her attention.

  17. It seems as though she was just waiting to pounce on you with that type of comment. Her clarity of thought on this subject makes me think she had quite the lively discussions about this with others (you did say she was a bit of a gossip).

    So there. It is out of the bag and you know what she thinks. You should be happy for the heads up. She is a small thinker with no original ideas or thoughts for herself. People like that lead very scared and self righteous lives. Too bad for her and good for you!!

    I am of Italian descent and I am not Catholic. I was presented with many religions and have relatives of different faiths. And guess what? I like to take a bit from each one and make it my own, while respectig others.

    Your daughter is lucky to have a mom and dad who are giving their a wonderful and colorful childhood.

    She will have tolerence of others' beliefs and customs when she is older and not scorn differences.

    Being "the same" as everyone else has it comforts for some, but it's not much fun or

  18. ...cont'd from above post..... interesting as having differences.

  19. I don´t choose my friends for the religion that they belongs to, and nowbody do that!!. I really dont care and the most of the people thinks like me, I want to suposse. Is not important and the children are wide opend mind (not like that lady) so they are going to choose your daugther for what she is. Being a good person is the only thing that relly worth!!!!!!!

  20. I guess I'll be the one to have the different opinion here... I grew up in the U.S. My mom came from another country and spoke a language that I was never encouraged to learn or speak so I would assimilate into the American melting pot as the generations before me and be an American.

    But, Italy is not the same as the U.S. In the U.S., children are encouraged to be different and not to follow the crowd (within boundaries, of course).

    A really good book on how important Italians feel about fitting in is Tim Parks' book, An Italian Education. Mr. Parks is a Brit expatriate and his book describes the cultural differences of his British upbringing and that of his Italian children, for no matter what Poppi's passport or heritage may say or be, isn't she Italian just as I am an American?

    And, you're friend, is still your friend. She is just being honest in her opinion, and obviously, she feels comfortable enough with you to tell you her opinion.

  21. All religions should be wiped out.

    Ziggy Marley.

  22. Erm... I can't believe someone would act this way. Each to their own. And isn't baptism a symbol of beliefs and a dedication? I don't think its something someone should do to "fit in".

  23. I'm with Homebody at heart. Italy is a small country where the majority of the population is Catholic. Who's to say which is right or wrong? Just because they don't practice going to church doesn't mean you can't follow traditions. Basically, the baptism, first communion are part of traditions and memory making.
    I'd like to know if it was your decision and what your husband thought. It wouldn't be fair to him if he wanted to bring her up in the Catholic faith. I've seen it done too many times that the mothers make the decision just because they're not catholic but the fathers are. They can still follow a different religion when they're adults. Which is better no religion at all?
    It is a tough decision and your friend shouldn't have brought it up that way, but at least now you know how she thinks.

  24. Love the Israel comeback. sorry that the woman was so rude to you. If the clod brings it up again just ask her if she practices being Catholic. If she say yes, tell her you don't think being so rude to your neighbors is part of the religion!

  25. I'm with Gil on this one. The Jewish point was so clever and appropriate. She's a dunce but hopefully one day, um probably when she's 85, she'll realize the stupidity of her comment and failure to realize how offensive she was. Let us bow our heads and pray. Ha!


  26. Bloody hell...I’m more used to racism than religionism!

    This is a fantastic opportunity for you to get clear about how you will handle the ‘next time’ (which in Pos seems inevitable) as gracefully as you did this one, but without it throwing you. Practice your response with Carlo; I’m sure he can come up with every angle that this can come at you, including the old Aunt!

  27. Wow. So she'd like you to pretend to Poppy that you believe in something you don't, basically, by having her baptised.

    You'd think she'd have more respect for her own religion, wouldn't you! The fact that she doesn't, and that she can't follow your Israel analogy, says all that needs to be about how religion handicaps some people's ability to reason or think clearly. Kudos to Silvia above for taking a broader view - but in my considerable experience of religious folk, that's exceptional.

    You, and Poppy, are well off out of it all - and Poppy is blessed to have parents who are able to show her the value of real qualities like integrity and kindness, and make her own decisions when she's old enough to.

  28. Hi Nikki,
    I live in Sicily which is even more traditional, narrow minded and well, insular than the Campania area. I think that Italians are very conventional and are just now wrapping their minds around the fact that their society is not homogenous.
    65% of them are non practicing catholics and yet its an issue if your pre-schooler or elementary schl age child is not baptized. Puleeze...I think you were very diplomatic, gracious and wise not engaging this lady into a discussion. Your child will be fine, please do not worry.
    Ciao bella xo Dea

  29. Nikki, the woman meant well, but personally I don't think "fitting in" is a reason to change/adopt religions. As everyone else has said, Poppy can always choose to change her life if she wishes to when she is older, as her mother did!

  30. After reading your blog for quite a while now, it sounds to me like you have done a wonderful job raising your daughter. It is your right to choose how you raise your daughter. Don't let others pressure you.

    Children are innocent and seem to easily accept anyone. Sadly it is the adults that always seem to have problems with differences.

  31. But children grow up and become adults....that's when they can make their own choices like you have Nikki. In the meantime the parents have to decide what's best for them and that includes to allow them to assimilate in the country they're living.

  32. Unbelievably short sighted is the way I would sum it up. AND you have the right to do as you want as a parent. Poppy not being baptized makes her no less the vibrant and wonderful child that she is. Obviously someone who would treat you (and see your child in this way) really isn't a friend. Lascia stare...M xo

  33. Well, I recently had a conversation with italian friend of mine and he told me since I was protestant I wouldn't be able to find an italian man who would marry me.... and that I would have to convert. Rather choose being protestant or italy. ahah...

  34. Well, I recently had a conversation with italian friend of mine and he told me since I was protestant I wouldn't be able to find an italian man who would marry me.... and that I would have to convert. Rather choose being protestant or italy. ahah...

  35. Yikes, that is not normal. Don't worry about it too much.

    I was loving the kitty pics, by the way!

  36. I hope your friend's daughter does not inherit her mothers narrow mind and bad manners.

    I hope the two girls stay friends because they enjoy each others company and not because they have been baptized or attend the same church.

    Such thinking belongs in the Dark Ages and I will comfort myself with the thought that not all Italian's share such a warped view of the rest of us non Catholics.

    Rise above it and raise your daughter as you see fit.

    Kind regards to you all

  37. I think everyone is getting off track here and attacking the woman instead of being open minded yourselves. I'm not on her side, but being Italian myself I understand the message she's giving out here. She's speaking for the majority of the citizens.
    I have come across many prejudices in the States against Catholics.
    Sometimes you have to make decisions in your life that not everyone agrees to, punto e basta!

  38. I have an 8 year old niece here in the US and one day she was at my house and today I was reading your blog- she saw Poppy's pictures and was very excited to know about another little girl living in a different place in away new to her. She says hi to Poppy!

    I think this women was speaking openly as a person afflicted with the pressures of a small town life. That can happen to many people.

    She gave you a bit of insight into the fact that there may be some people in town who will feel the way she does. But not everyone will, of course not.

    You are such a great Mom in the way you are providing your daughter with all the tools she needs to meet the world with an open heart. That's the most important thing. If you and her father are comfortable with the way you are raising her, then she'll be able to work out those kinds of challenges as they come up, IF they come up.

  39. When i married my husband (in Sicily, catholic church) i had to sign something along the lines of any kids we had would be brought up catholic. At first i was SHOCKED at this archaic rule, but then i discussed with my husband and said i don't mind if future kids are baptised etc since we are living here and that is what you and your family are and most others too. However, i will not have ANY part in her 'catholic education' and i will NOT change mine! I am (non practising) C of E.

    Since then we've had a daughter (now 2) who has been baptised. So far no one in my husband's family (apart from my MIL who goes on religious pilgrimages to pray to saints) has stepped foot inside a church. I played no part in any of the organising for the baptism (didn't want to) but i'm OK with the fact she was baptised. I would not have ever suggested it if it wasn't practically shoved in my face, but my feeling is my daughter can be exposed to the 'church culture' here and chose for herself when she gets older if she wishes to continue.

    I am not surprised at what that woman said to you. Something i think is totally rude but totally normal for people here. Just like they make comments about your age or weight or other very personal things.

    I'm sure your daughter can chose when she is older to become catholic, jewish , muslim or whatever she wants when she is old enough to decide and still be friends with the little catholic girl from Positano!! Vanessa in Sicily

  40. Thank you for joining in this debate. Every person is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs. I will politely decline from answering personal questions about my family and extended familys beliefs. I was surprised how many people actually agreed with me on this subject and would now likle to move on to different subjects before it all goes pear-shaped.

  41. The decision of whether or not to baptise a child is strictly a decision of the parents.
    I can't believe the gall of that lady. It's not er business!
    I personally think it is an insult to the Catholic church to baptise a child i.e. promise that the child will be raised as a practicing Catholic when that is not the intention at all-as most Italians do.

  42. What's so great about everyone being the same anyway?

  43. Sigh. I have had a couple of people tell my children last year that they were going to burn in hell because they eat pork. Frankly, I find the level of intolerance horrifying. I am absolutely tired of organized religion.


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