The pursuit of pride and approval from the Italian immigrant parents

by Dosi Cotroneo

For over a decade, this reporter immersed herself in chasing after the latest breaking news stories throughout Ottawa South’s rural communities. My beat was from Manotick to Metcalfe and every small town in between. From barn fires to broken water mains, to contaminated wells and shootings in a corn field, I had my ear to the ground and camera around my neck ready to scoop th¬¬e next big headline. Chasing sirens down a winding country road was not out of the ordinary, as was photographing livestock gone astray along a busy highway.

It was one heck of a great ride, and when it came to an end, as most great rides do, this 40-something Italian mother had to reinvent herself, but into what? A few months of pondering, reflecting, discussing, comparing, and researching, I finally made a decision. Yes, I was going to go back to school and begin my new career as a real estate sales person. I had spent years running around at all hours of the day and night, weekends, etc., so real estate seemed like a perfect fit.

Showing up to a classroom with most students young enough to be my children was somewhat daunting. Relearning how to do math that I had not seen in decades, was somewhat daunting. Early mornings and long days in class, followed by homework and studying for exams, was somewhat daunting. Nine months later, the hard work and perseverance paid off and I got my real estate license. The only other times it took me nine months of hard work and perseverance to receive something was when I gave birth to my three kids!

Looking back, it wasn’t all the learning, studying and exam jitters that was the most challenging, it was explaining over and over again to my Italian parents that I was not, I repeat, was not, for the millionth time, being paid to go back to school. To this they would reply, “if a you no get money, why a you go den?” I shouldn’t have expected anything different. They share the identical view on volunteering, participation in any organized sport, and giving blood.

By the time this paper goes to press, I hope to have sold my first house. At last, maybe Mom and Pop will finally be proud of me; maybe the barrage of phone calls that begin with, “allo? You sella the house yet?” will come to an end. It’s quite amazing what high expectations my immigrant parents have set for their daughters. Not even two days into celebrating the arrival by post of my license, and the phone calls began. Suddenly I began to find myself jabbering on justifying that I had only just begun and these things take time. Their reply, “mayabe tomorrow!” I soon came to view these phone calls as a kind of telemarketing, annoying, and at times, harassing, followed by a long pause, and the ever familiar, deep sigh of disappointment, and then the grand finale to the conversation, “okay, Italiana newsa now. Ciao!”

As always I am left with the usual knee-jerk reaction – mouth dropped open, dial tone in left ear, and pain in left side of my chest. I have said this before and I will say it again, “it is not easy being the offspring of Italian immigrants.” That being said, I have decided to take on a new approach to their 1950’s Southern Italy parenting style: my parents are now my motivational life coaches. They have no idea, but because of my impermeable iron will to earn that proud pat on the back, I will persevere, I will be patient, all while remaining as polite as possible during those dreaded question periods. I will pave this trail, not only for myself, but for the children of all Italian immigrants who share this struggle! Yes, Mom and Pop, I will gain your approval, your respect, and finally, your recognition. And if this fails, I will put your house on the market and arrange your moves to the nearest Italian retirement centre.

Dosi Cotroneo
Royal Lepage Gale Realty Manotick
The Jarvis Team
(613) 692-2555