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parlez-vous french?

February 15, 2013

bebedaybydayBecause it was recommended to me, I read a parenting book today. I don’t have anything against books on being a parent, and I’m certainly no expert in the field, but I usually stay away from such things. It’s easy to get wrapped up in this philosophy or that, without paying attention to your child or your family and doing what works best for your child or your family. This one struck me, though. Besides, it is somewhat controversial. Count me in.

After I quickly skimmed the book, my first thought was, “If this is so freakin’ revolutionary and controversial, I must be a revolutionary and controversial parent.”

My second thought was, “What the HELL are the rest of the parents out there doing, if this seemingly normal and rational parenting style makes them so very upset?”

Maybe I am abnormal and controversial.

The book is called Bebe Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting. The author, Pamela Druckerman, caught a lot of criticism for her first book, Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother
Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. I didn’t read it, but all sorts of moms (and probably dads I guess) tore her apart for the ideas she shared. When I heard about Bébé Day by Day, I was intrigued.

Druckerman goes through a list of French parenting techniques that she found useful during her time in France. One hundred, to be exact. She breaks them up in to chapters like “A Croissant in the Oven” and “Just Say Non.” I wish I could comment on every one. Fortunately for you, my space is limited.

Some of my favorites:

“Pregnancy is Not an Independent Research Project.” Seriously. A little mystery isn’t a bad thing. A lot of joy is pretty amazing. As soon as I got the plus sign on the pee stick, I ran out to buy What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Once I started to read it, though, it seemed like too much info. Don’t get me wrong, I like answers. I ask a lot of questions. You can ask my OB. He fielded an index card’s worth at every visit. There is such a thing as too much info. In this chapter she also mentions that a calm mama is a better mama, men don’t absolutely have to see everything during labor (though if they want to that’s totally cool), and epidurals aren’t evil. As a matter of fact French women believe in the ultimate goal of safely getting the kid from the womb and into its mama’s arms. It’s up to her (and the daddy or doula or midwife or doctor or all) to facilitate the process in the way best suited to them and their needs.

I love the next chapter. Entitled “Bébé Einstein,” it addresses the forced education, competition, and participation that so many American parents impart on their bebes. Everyone is constantly worrying that their child isn’t reading yet, can’t spell, or doesn’t know his addition tables. Do we worry as much about the fact that our kids are kind and compassionate and know how to relax when the time comes?  I know we’ve been careful about putting our kids in to activities that they really enjoy. As a matter of fact, we recently had The Boy rank his five involvements that take place throughout the year. We were surprised by the order, but it helped us eliminate the things that he didn’t care about as much.

She talks about the French way of feeding children, which includes enforcing the Just a Bite to be Polite rule, which we have always employed, and being sure the kids fit in to the family eating schedule. Never get in the habit of cooking “kid foods” for the kids. The kids aren’t in charge.

I laughed out loud when she brought up the fact that French parents don’t let their kids interrupt. WHO HERE LETS THEIR KIDS INTERRUPT THEM? Sorry, I don’t mean to yell. French parents (and the book’s author) make a really good point. Kids shouldn’t interrupt their parents. Hell, I was taught that kids never interrupt any adults. Which of you out there are trying to change that? Someone must be, or this wouldn’t be a novel idea, and this book wouldn’t have gotten so much criticism. Kids aren’t in charge.

The French recognize that kids can and will learn to soothe themselves and fall asleep on their own. Man, I should’ve been French. Baby formula isn’t poison. I was raised solely on formula. Most of my friends were, too. I chose to nurse my babies, but I’m not gonna tell my neighbor that she’s poisoning her sweet, newborn nearly six pounder with Similac. That’s because she isn’t. Sure, breast milk is important. I totally agree. Sometimes, it isn’t an option.

So maybe what Druckerman is pointing out isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. I think we should listen, though. It’s simple. Love your kids. Listen to them. Teach them respect. Remember that they’re people, too, and give them the credit they deserve. I’m not telling you to move to France. Maybe drinking a bunch of French wine would be good for all of us. Cheese is good, too. I’m not talking about the processed American “cheese” either.

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