The Philly Greek-Stake Blog

Justice and a Pandofla, And the Will to Use It – Surviving Greek Parents

Greek parents… just to say those two words could paralyze the most hardened individual. I’m talking about the Greek-born parents of children born here or who came to the USA at a young age.

Here is an example of a Greek parent: When I was a paperboy (for the Courier-Post in South Jersey), we were getting smashed by the tail-end of a hurricane. Rain was coming down in buckets and the wind blew the rain sideways, but I still had to deliver the papers. We didn’t have those nice, little plastic bags like today, so I had to run up to each house and put the paper in between the storm door and the front door. Since I couldn’t use my bike, my Mom drove me around. Coming down from a house, I slipped and fell 20 feet down a muddy hill. Getting into the car, I was all wet, muddy, scraped and bruised and I pleaded for my Mom to take me home to clean up.

She gave me that stern look only a Greek mother can give, and in her Greek accent said, “If you were in the Army, would they let you go home? When I was your age, I was running from the German Stuka dive bombers shooting at us. You don’t know what it’s like to suffer. When you finish your job, then you go home!” I didn’t cry or answer back. No use. How can you argue with someone who was dodging Nazi dive bombers when they were 10 years old!

Now you understand. Greek parents mean well, but they are tough.

Remember asking them for something or anything? You asked: Mom, can I sleep over Johnny’s house? Mom’s answer: No. What’s wrong with your bed? We are not like those other Amerikani. We don’t sleep over anyone’s house, except your cousins and Yiayias. You asked: Dad, can I go down the shore this weekend? Dad’s answer: No. I need you at the diner. You think money grows on the grapevines? You asked: Mom, do you think we can have ham for Easter instead of just lamb? Mom’s answer: What are you, Catholic? You don’t know how to eat. And, you asked: Dad, can we go somewhere else for vacation besides Greece? Dad’s answer: Shut up, idiot.

We all have stories that could fill the Library of Congress. I remember a time when my mother told me to stay home because relatives were coming over for a barbeque. I whined. I didn’t want to stay with my little cousins. I wanted to go with Pauley, Mikey, Kenny, and Fritz (my “American” friends) down to Stone Hill, where the creek was. So I did what every good, little Greek boy did. I snuck out. Did it work? Of course not! Mom somehow tracked me down through the fields, woods, and the creek, and in front of all my friends, pulled me by my ear all the way home – for about a mile! How did she find me? She probably used GMGPS (Greek Mother Global Positioning System) that is given to them when they give birth. Ah, good ol’ Mom.

Did you ever try asking your Greek parents for an allowance for doing chores, like your “American” friends got from their parents? That’s when the other dreaded word came into play… the “pandofla,” the slipper. To this day, the mere sight of a slipper horrifies me. It was not the light woman’s type slipper, but the dastardly heavy man’s slipper that my father use to wear. My mother wielded that slipper with precision moves that a samurai warrior would envy. She struck faster than Caine, a/k/a young “Grasshopper,” snatching the pea out of Master Po’s hand (my generation will understand that analogy!).

Of course, Greek parents, especially mothers, used other paraphernalia, besides the pandofla, to strike terror in their children. There was the “koutala” or spoon… usually a giant wooden salad spoon. My mother knew I was too old to hit when she broke the koutala on me! Also, any size stick was fair game… my mother preferred the small wooden sticks used for the American flags that you stuck in the ground. Or, merely the back of the hand when nothing else was available to grab. Think about trying this in today’s world. Children Youth Services would have a field day. The children would be distributed to foster homes throughout the State and the Greek parents, including all of their accomplices – Yiayias, Papous, Theas, Theos and all the neighbors, would be behind bars!

Finally, the Greek parents did have the ultimate weapon in disciplining their children – shame, or otherwise known as “dropie”. If you did something they were not happy about they would simply shake their heads and ask, “What would the neighbors think? What would your relatives say? What would Yiayia and Papou think of you if they found out?” And even worse, “How could you shame the family – dropie?” That is Greek parent justice.

Of course, in the end, they love you more than life itself. Greek parents wanted us to turn out to be good descent people and used a little discipline (okay, a lot of discipline), common sense, shame, and a pandofla to instill this in us. God Bless them all!

 

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26 thoughts on “Justice and a Pandofla, And the Will to Use It – Surviving Greek Parents

  1. John Anastasiadis

    July 14, 2012

    The stealth pandofla was to be feared! You didn’t realize it was coming until it was too late.

  2. Christina

    July 20, 2012

    you forgot about the death stare that mothers give….i know that stare all too well. How about writing an article about all the toys that parents promised their children to bring back from the north pole (like the red sled.) When really they shipped their child off to yiayia’s for a couple of weeks while they were tanning themselves in Greece!! Thanks!

  3. Christina from Texas

    August 14, 2012

    OMG…My mother and my aunts all would get us with the pandofla! I had no idea that was a Greek thing, I just thought it was my family. That is crazy!

  4. Anna K. from Maryland

    January 4, 2013

    So well put! I enjoyed reading this . . . we are the way we are for many beautiful reasons! Even though my dad was born in the US and I had the best of both worlds, I still don’t understand the point of sleepovers and allowance!!!!

  5. Valerie D from Canada

    January 4, 2013

    Lovely put, even though my grandparents never used either or, just the talk, and the guilt trip, we had a neighbour and she would chase her children with the padofla around the block, and heaven forbid should you try to stop her she would wack you instead of her children……and we had another italian family lol and their mother used the wooden spoon …… you brought back funny memories of our childhoood.. thank you so much

  6. NICK ARGYROS

    January 4, 2013

    WE WERE ELEVEN KIDS IN MY FAMILY.IF YIAYIA DID NOT GET YOU WITH THE BROOMSTICK,OUR FATHER HAD THE QUICKEST ZONNIE THIS SIDE OF THE MISSISSIPPI.WE LEARNED TO BE VERY LIGHT ON OUR FEET AND OUT THE DOOR.

    1. dora sullivan

      January 4, 2013

      In our home it was the wooden spoon. My son is a marine and he still remembers the wooden spoon that was handed down from his yiayia to his mother, me.

    2. KATERINA ARGYROS

      January 4, 2013

      AS THE FIRST OF THE ELEVEN AND A KORITSI, I GOT TO BE THE CHEERLEADER RIGHT BEHIND THE ZONNIE… NOT TO BE LEFT TOTALLY OUT OF THE GAME, I ONCE GOT THE BACK OF THE HAND THAT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE. :))))))

    3. gloria konstantinidis

      February 22, 2014

      LOL..LOL..my dad also had the quickest draw of the zoni!! i never seen a ,man unbuckle and whip the belt of his pants so fast~~

  7. I was born in Greece and immigrated to Chicago in August of ’78 along with my family. My parents did everything you mention and did it with conviction. I was raised tough! But with the ever present feeling of total love! There’s a reason why Greeks in America have generally done well. To them it wasn’t punishment but lessons; hard lessons taught early and often by any means necessary. We all survived and are better off for it. Their job was to prepare us for the world and what better tool is there than the venerable pandofla.

  8. Rebecca Galanis Wall

    January 4, 2013

    This brings back many memories for me and my brothers growing up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was a different time: comical, loving and a little sad all at once. It’s nice to know that Greek children of immigrant parents have a lot in common and can relate to these stories. One thing for sure, wrong or right, they sure were not wishy-washy parents and somehow instilled a lot of self-confidence in us.

  9. Tommy Naxos

    January 4, 2013

    What a great article! We were an Amerikani family that got transferred to Greece in November 1966. My three younger brothers all graduated from the American School in Halandri. Dad was later called Papou and Yiayia is still with us at 86. Long before we moved to Greece, she used a slotted wooden spoon on all four of us…less wind resistance, more sting. She was obviously way ahead of her time. Papou used the stare with memorable results.

  10. Greek Yia yia

    January 5, 2013

    pou pou ta tha thosa mia stou golou me tou pandofla paliou pethou

  11. Sorry yia yia. lol

  12. Katerina Mertikas

    January 5, 2013

    Way back when I went to my first grade 7 dance, dress hidden in my coat sleeve, got dragged back home by dad and my mom used the phone to hit me as I passed by her while she was talking to someone on the phone…and the famous line wait till we get home…

  13. Georgia Pentakis Pagiavlas

    January 5, 2013

    So true, we dreaded that pandofla! I especially like, can I go to the shore? No I need you at the diner, classic!

  14. Harry Karapalides

    January 5, 2013

    Thank you everyone for your great comments. I know when I wrote the blog I would hit a nerve (a good nerve) with the Greek-American/Canadian/Australian/Etc. crowd but I didn’t expect such an outpouring. I guess we’re not too different and I love the comments. Some were great. For those of you who did not like the blog, it is what it is. Thanks to CosmosPhilly.com for putting up my blogs and to MyParea.com for re-posting. Please support both of them…they are community based and bring all of from around the world together. Look for my next blog and I hop3e you enjoy. Hronia Polla to all!!!

  15. Ellie Sakoutis

    January 6, 2013

    I enjoyed this so much,I read it twice!I use the stare on my kids but it doesn’t work…I guess one must go through the pandofla phase first.

  16. Chrys Roboras

    January 7, 2013

    I laughed so hard that I cried! Bravo Harry you made my day!!

  17. Ha ha, awesome! I think we went to Greek school ( Sunday school?) together in cherry hill!

  18. My father used to raise his right hand, point to it and ask me xeris ti graphi eki?….. graphi, E Eleni tha fai ksilo……..( do you know what is written here?…… it is written that Eleni is going to eat the stick ( get a whipping ) ), that was enough for me to stop whatever it was that was displeasing him!

  19. My Yiayia could have played in the major leagues….She perfected her windup to the point that she could throw that pandofla aroud corners!!

  20. Loved it like always Harry!

  21. John Pogas

    January 15, 2013

    While the pandofla and koutali can no longer be used, I HAVE become the zen master of Dropi and The Stare. Just ask my teenage daughters.

  22. You are so true. I’ve really enjoyed this.
    I was born in greece but i have 44 years now living in england. I have so lovely memories from my mum running after my young children with a skoupa in her hand trying to stop them playing on the veranda one summer afternoon around 3 o’clock. She was saying Dropi ti tha pi i gitonia pou kanoun tosi fasaria!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Growing up in Canada and Australia I always heard people around me talking about their terrifying experiences with the ”padofla” or the kitchen spoon, but I myself have experienced a very different upbringing to the one described above. My parents would give me the stern look, and occasionally Id get the ”history lessons” too, but seeing as my parents were born in the 1960s, Id say that Ive been raised by a different generation of Greeks. (Just to be clear, both my parents grew up in Athens, and due to my mothers job we’ve been travelling a lot.) Ok, fair enough, say I compare the above descriptions to my grandparents then! But even then, I still cannot describe them being the type of people that would raise a spoon to hit me, or simply deny my something without explaining why, and making sure I thoroughly understood. The above article talks about Greek parents, but the mistake it makes is that things have changed a lot in Greece! Especially the way the majority of people raise their kids. Sure there are still pass on to their kids the upbringing they received from their own parents, but most choose to question it and follow a different path instead! Not saying that the article isnt true, especially for those that have lived and experienced the above. All Im saying is that the ”image” given above about Greek parents is no longer valid for the 21st century. Ive had people come up to me who have watching the big fat greek wedding, and read articles like these, and they tell me ” Maaaaan! You poor Greek kids must have it bad! Your parents are so mean!” In Australia, a lot young people my age thought Greeks was everything Yiayia and Papou were! In other words eccentric, loud and passionate people whose sole purpose in life was to be bossy, and embarrassing…. and that isnt fair!

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