My mum has been a doting nonna from day dot. Photo / Supplied 220221zssup2
My sister and I grew up with what you would call a quintessential immigrant mother.
When other Kiwi kids were being brought up on meat and three veg, we had pastas, lentils and risottos.
Instead of ice cream after dinner, we'd have cheese and, at Christmas time, we forewent the Christmas pud for tiramasu and panettone.
Most people struggled to pronounce our middle names and, when our mum called us by our Italian first name, we knew we were really in trouble.
There was no such thing as having an "inside voice" and our mum could go from calm and collected to a yelling banshee in a matter of seconds.
Mum's fiery Italian passion (which my sister and I both inherited) came in handy when we needed her to go in and bat for us, but it also meant she overreacted to almost everything.
During one of our more memorable teenage spats, I said something I shouldn't have and mum pinned me down and tried to put ground pepper in my mouth - it got in my eye and all these years later I still bring it up to torment her.
Mum was also zealous in her expectations of our schooling, driving home the need for us kids to do better and go further than she did.
This was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I always loved school and revelled in the praise heaped on me for every gold star and high grade I achieved.
But a curse because the one time I got caught skipping school, I got an hour-long lecture about how - despite being a straight-A student - I was throwing my life down the drain.
Being raised by an Italian mother who had immigrated to New Zealand only seven years before I was born meant she could often be strict, unyielding and pulled no punches.
Presents were given only on birthdays and Christmases and, if there was food in the fridge, the chances of getting takeaways for dinner were nil.
If we didn't want to eat what was on our plate, we could go to bed hungry and you had little chance of pulling the wool over her eyes, thanks to her uncanny sixth sense.
Well, imagine my surprise when this tough-loving mother of ours became the softest, most indulgent nonna in the world!
My mum had been telling me to give her a grandchild for years so imagine her delight when my sister and I fell pregnant seven months apart.
Even before the kids were born they wanted for nothing. Mum and dad kitted out their nurseries and, every time I visited, mum would slip me another shopping bag laden with clothes.
Now the kids are older, I barely recognise my mum.
She picks them up the minute they start crying, they get whatever they want when they go out shopping, they're given treats at all hours of the day and, if they don't want their dinner, nonna will make them something else ("I'm not sending my grandbabies to bed hungry!")
By my and my sister's assessment, Ma's lost the plot!
But she insists this is simply the job of a doting nonna.
When I recently told her off for the umpteenth time for picking up my son while he was having a tantrum, she explained that, while she had to raise my sister and me to be resilient, self-sufficient critical thinkers, with her grandchildren, she just gets to spoil them with wild abandon, leaving all the hard lessons to us - the parents!
I suppose she's right but I'm a bit envious our kids are the ones to benefit from this new, always soft side of our mum.
Some things haven't changed though - she still our biggest cheerleader in everything we do, her hugs are the snuggliest, and her red sauce pasta is unbeatable.