How to discipline your child when old Italian ladies are watching

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to discipline our children while traveling in Europe. Every country has its own ideas and customs and acceptable ways of handling naughty little ones. You might think that our parenting methods shouldn’t vary, but you’ve also never dealt with a sassy five-year-old in front of a benchful of old Italian grandmothers.

My daughter, June, is brilliant and delightful. As long as she stays busy our house is a relatively happy place. When she gets bossy, I give her a stack of glueable objects and a bottle of Elmer’s. When she irritates her brothers, I let her to peel a bag of potatoes. When she sasses me, she gets a needle and thread and I try not cackle when she pokes herself.

But on long road trips there is very little we can do with her; activity books will only take us so far. Give us four or five hours in the car with her and we start looking for orphanages and vacant parking lots.

On our last vacation June started out with a loose tooth, one of the middle bottom teeth. I hate loose teeth and am officially the world’s worst Tooth Fairy. Our kids usually make big bucks for missing teeth because by the time I remember to check their pillow it’s usually been waiting for a solid week accruing Tooth interest.

At the beginning of the vacation June’s tooth was mostly ready to come out. By day twelve of our vacation her tooth was hanging from her mouth in a disturbingly loose fashion. You know it’s bad when she can shake her head and her tooth wobbles. Harrison was making big plans that included dental floss and door knobs, ever the thoughtful older brother.

We stopped the car for a break in northern Italy and let the prisoners out to breath some fresh mountain air before restraining them for the additional six-hour trip home. There was a small shopping center with a grocery store and I decided it would be the best way to get everyone a french-fry-free lunch and snag a moment of peace to myself.

June disagreed.

“June,” I said as we stood at the store entrance and argued, “Please, just stay out here by Dad so I can go in and get groceries, it will only take a moment–”

“No!” she said, “I don’t want to stay by Dad! I hate staying by Dad! I want to come with you!”

I looked over her shoulder and realized that we were standing ten feet away from a bench stacked with old Italian grandmothers. They might not have understood English but they certainly all spoke Mother. My daughter had sassed me and they were all giving me the You Gonna Let Her Talk To You That Way? stare, waiting for my response.

“June! Do not speak to me that way! You can apologize right now for being rude or go sit over there on the Repentance Bench–” right next to the scary old ladies.

“No!” she yelled back, “I won’t! YOU go sit on the Repentance Bench!”

And that was it. She had pushed me too long and too far. For twelve days I had been in close quarters with her, carefully picking my very public battles while holding tight to my curtain of patience, but she had played her last hand.

I did exactly what my mother had so graciously done when I back-talked as a child: I lightly, barely, gently popped her in the mouth.

And then the blood started to run down her face and all over her white shirt.

Yes, I had knocked her tooth out.

Somehow I managed to salvage it and convince her that we should clap and celebrate her loss, thinking her joy might blot out the method. But she has spent the last week getting me back. She shows every single person we meet her missing tooth, then sweetly says, “See? My mommy hit me in the face knocked my tooth out!”


  1. Kendra says:

    Hahahahaha! What did the old ladies think? That is hilarious, and good for you! When Kamrin was two and a half I was exercising, she lay behind me without me knowing, and I stepped on her collar bone, fracturing it. She had to be in a sling for several weeks and yes, of course she would always tell people, “Mommy broke my bone because she stepped on me!” Kids these days…:)

  2. My mom and I were playing a game one day and she accidentally knocked me in the mouth and cut my gums, I had a dentist appointment the next morning and when they asked what happened, I very innocently replied “Oh, my mom hit me.” My mom was like “NO! No nonono no! Tell them what really happened!” hahaha

    My oldest had one of her teeth knocked out by a frisbee at school one day. These things happen! I don’t blame you for popping her in the mouth, I bet those old italian grandma’s were super intimidating!! Dude. 😀

  3. sues2u2 says:

    At least you got to leave those old ladies behind! When my son was about 18 months he threw his sippy cup down the stairs to me & me being the world’s worst catch I caught it with my eye. That in turn led me to fall down the stars & bruise my legs which bruised every color known to man, I kid you not. Try explaining that when you live in military housing & your husband works in some large white house on Pennsylvania Ave! I had the housing office personal tell me that there were places I could go if my husband was abusing me. They would Not believe that my sweet, innocent baby could actually hurt me. Sigh, 14.5 yrs later it’s pretty darn funny but oh my back then I lived in fear that my husband would be called in for counseling!

    But, old European ladies can be scary! Just try the German ones if they think you’re not reacting fast enough to your baby’s crying 😉

  4. I’m laughing so hard. This is a great story!

  5. Best. Blog. Post. Ever. lol I could not stop laughing! I would have given money to see the little old Italian ladies’ faces. 🙂 Thanks for totally cracking me up!

  6. Catherine Carlson says:

    Best tooth fairy trick I got from my dentist. “You know,” he says to my kids “the tooth fairy sometimes leaves you double the money if you put the tooth under your dad’s pillow instead of yours.” Brilliant!!!!!!!!!!! It may cost a bit more money, but she never forgets anymore.

  7. A priceless story!!!!!