Or at least, that’s what the mother and grandparents of a 12-year-old Italian boy named Luca are being accused of by the boy’s estranged father:
…in an extreme case that has made headlines across the nation, a court has been asked to consider whether a mother’s love for her son — and that of his grandparents too — was so intense, it could be considered a form of child abuse.
The case centers on the overprotective mother and grandparents of a 12-year-old boy known only as Luca in the northern city of Ferrara. Prosecutors say the three built a wall of protection so high around the boy, it stunted his development. The boy’s mother and grandfather have already been convicted of child abuse and are appealing the verdict. The grandmother appeared before a criminal tribunal earlier this month to face a similar charge. All three defendants have denied any wrongdoing, and the child has remained in the mother’s custody while the case is being adjudicated.
According to the evidence presented by prosecutors, Luca was not allowed to play with other children, go to church, participate in sports or leave the house before or after school. The boy’s teachers said he was sent to school with his snacks already cut into bite-size portions for him. Investigators say the teachers noticed that he was both physically and psychologically stunted from such around-the-clock doting. “He didn’t know how to run. He had the motor skills of a 3-year-old child,” Andrew Marzola, the lawyer representing the boy, told the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The Time article intimates that overcoddling mamas (though not usually to this extent) are common in Italian society. In the US, however, the Jewish mother is similarly stereotyped, and here in Israel, the Polish (or rather, Polish-Jewish) mother has the same reputation. Recent trends in parenting – “Don’t push the kid, he’ll do it when he’s ready”, for example – tend to lend an air of legitimacy to this kind of mothering.
Luca’s example is obviously an extreme one, and I certainly am not suggesting that every overindulgent mother is abusing her child. But overindulgence doesn’t do a kid any favors, either. It can be hard to find a happy medium between loving your children and wanting to do for them, but also allowing them their space and set appropriate limits.
Nearly 12 years and 3 kids later, this Jewish mother is still searching for that balance…