Maybe you’ve heard of the Italian word “Mammoni,” which means “Mamma’s boy” in Italy. It refers to men in their twenties and thirties who live at home with their parents and are lavishly tended to by their adoring mothers. Some of the recent statistics about the Italian economy will tell you that it’s all about unemployment, lack of affordable housing, and the collapse of the social safety net. Blah, blah, blah. I am trying to turn my sons into Daddoni, because I don’t want them to leave.
I miss my sons terribly when they are away. When we are together, they seem perfectly happy to listen to my keen insights on topics including the proper ranking of Jimmy Page guitar solos, (“Heartbreaker” takes the top spot), snow shoveling strategies, and the primacy of thin crust pizza. These are all topics we agree on—happily debating them for the 10,000th time—which, in my book, is a good thing.
So, while they are home, either on school break or visiting from the city, I spoil them mercilessly, in hopes that they realize the sweet life is found right here at home sweet home. Their laundry barely hits the floor before it’s washed and folded. Let me iron that shirt for you. How ‘bout a turkey sandwich, the way you like it with lots of pepper and mayo? Chips? They protest, knowing it’s a trap.
It’s said that kids leaving home is “the natural order of things.” But until fairly recently, it used to be natural for all the generations of a family to live together. We have replaced those family members with electronics, trying to alleviate the loneliness we feel. Alexa has replaced Nonna, and Facetime, real time.
We were meant to live like the Neapolitan families in Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, crowded into an apartment building surrounded by other families, everybody within screaming distance. Nobody lonely there, but they did want to kill each other a lot of the time. Okay, maybe there’s something in between. Like a big, roomy apartment in Rome overlooking the Trevi Fountain, with a restaurant down below where you can sit outside and have a plate of Spaghetti alla Carbonara and a nice Chianti. If we lived there, I can assure you our kids would not move out. I wouldn’t even have to do their laundry.
Being a Daddoni would be simpler in Italy, and more accepted. “Jim does such a good job with the boys’ laundry—their shirts smell like a fresh spring day—how could they ever leave?” My example might even spur other fathers to join my Daddoni movement, relieving the unfair burden of pampering our offspring from the moms.
But who knows. Maybe it’s best they do leave and experience new things before they learn that it’s better to find one good thing—in movies, that would be Mad Max: Fury Road—and stick with it. These are lessons they have to find out for themselves, like Lenù and Lila in My Brilliant Friend, who learn that the old neighborhood is best, and there’s no reason to ever leave it.
Well, that was my reading of it.
Illustration by Isabella Bannerman