After about 6 months and I’m sure at least 6 books in between, I’ve just finished reading the book “Bringing Up Bebe, One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” by Pamela Druckerman. I’m not one to get caught up in parenting books, as I don’t subscribe to any one parenting model but rather a mix up how I was brought up, a little common sense and what I pick up along the way…and so far its served me well. I honestly feel that we make things much too complicated. Like love and relationships, it shouldn’t be that difficult. However, I picked this book up because I was curious.
I am acquainted with a Parisian family here in Calgary and let me tell you, I have never come across children like theirs. The first time I met them a few years ago, we had been invited to a bbq at their house. The kids, 3 of them, all made an effort to introduce themselves (even if they were shy) and then stuck around while the adults visited. On the coffee table there was a plate of various cheeses and other actual hors d’oeuvres…nothing like pastry wrapped wieners or mozzarella sticks…but the classy kind…the Paris kind. ANYWAYS…what kid would ever eat anything besides Cheesestrings (is that even cheese???) and sample the array of cheeses on the table? These kids did. One of them kindly explained all the types of cheese and their flavours while preparing himself a cracker with some Camembert and goat cheese. What the…?! I was pretty surprised. It didn’t end there…throughout the night, the kids stayed with the adults, making polite and interesting conversation, they had prepared a trivia game for the adults (with questions like “When did Quebec become a province?” and “Was Hitler a vegetarian?”) (I KNOW!) and the prizes were…get this…they GAVE away their Easter candy. And it was good chocolate too…none of those foil wrapped eggs in the net bags…I’m talking gold-foil bunnies people. You know the kind.
We came away from the gathering wondering how did they get their kids to be so polite and friendly. Threats? Had they mastered “the look”? Was there another child tied up in the attic, held for ransom so the others behaved?? It was a mystery. If this book could show me how to get kids like that, then I’m all over it like a French kid on a slice of Gruyere cheese.
I’m not going to go over every chapter, but rather the things that I found most interesting. So this will possibly be disjointed but we’ll just go with it.
Early into the book she talks about being pregnant in Paris. She notices among other things that the pregnant women in Paris are tiny, like you can’t tell they’re pregnant from behind tiny. Here in North America, the trend is to see pregnancy as a free pass to eat whatever you want…”eating for 2, 3 or 10″ and then are surprised when you look like Octomom after the baby is born. French women don’t – in part because they haven’t been denying themselves the food that they love – or secretly binging on those foods – for most of their adult lives.
I really got into the book when the topic turned to babies sleeping and sleeping through the night. The French have termed it “doing her/his nights” and their babies start as early as 6 weeks! I jumped all over this, hoping I could glean some little pearl of wisdom that would help me with Sofia. Basically they closely observe their babies and pay close attention to their “rhythms”. Part of the observing is waiting a few minutes when baby cries (Le Pause), thereby teaching him to wait and at the same time letting him learn to self-soothe. Makes sense to me…
Further on, the author goes into how in North America, parents seem to always be in a hurry to hit the next milestone. Whether its about having a milestone to brag about “My little Eugene walked at 7 months…etc” or really just wanting them to be little adults, I find that there is a lot of pressure to get your kid to the next milestone. French parents believe in “awakening” and “discovery”, that children should be given space to let their development unfold naturally.
In France, raising your child to say “bonjour”, “s’il vous plait” etc, is stressed in all French families. In doing so, children learn to acknowledge a person and to accept that they are not the center of the universe, that there are others with feelings and needs too. Which explains in part, why those kids that I met were so polite and conversational!
The last mystery that I needed solved was how French families get their kids to eat all kinds of food from eggplant to escargot. Now that Sofia is into solids, I want to expose her to all kinds of food. But it takes practice. In France, everyone eats the same dinner. Nothing else is made if little Francois doesn’t care for the fois gras that is served. Also, kids take part in the prep of dinner, which gives them a larger role in the process. When they’re more invested, they’re more likely to eat what is served. Again, makes sense. It gave me some great “food” for thought (haha) and some tricks to try as Sofia gets a little older.
I enjoyed the book. There was so much more to share, but it’s probably better if you just read it yourself. The authors writing was easy to read, funny and light, perfect for the reader with a tiny human running around. While sometimes the French way seemed a little more harsh than how we might do things in North America, I did appreciate the perspective and explanation. And I do believe that I’ll keep this book around for reference…especially when it comes to cheese. Give the book a read, and let me know what you think!
Next up for review: Raising Your Spirited Child…as recommended to me by my health nurse after a visit with my wee one….eep!!