So, there’s this book. Bringing Up Bebe. I listened to the author on an NPR podcast a few weeks ago and it peaked my curiosity. The book is good: thought-provoking, promoting self-reflection, gives me some good ideas…. But it’s also annoying. I’ll explain.
So, the high-level goes like this: In France, they do things differently. You know this debate we like to have in America about everything (breastfeed/formula, SAHM/work, organic babyfood?, cry-it-out, etc etc ad nauseum)? Well, in France, there’s sort of a consensus on how to do things. There’s a very regimented way to make their tiny humans a part of the family in a loving but not-very-disruptive way. French parents (who I respect but also come to hate in reading this book…blah) just expect to pretty much get their lives back. And then they do. You know that saying “You get the baby you expect,” … because that’s how you treat them? In a lot of ways that makes sense to me, and I think that also sort of comes into play in the way the French deal w/ their kids.
There are some important things that are different, such as state run daycare (can you even IMAGINE what a game changer that is? Free Daycare? For all? That alone blows my mind.) They have a different attitude toward foods their kids will eat and how to get them to sleep through the night. They are more strict in enforcing their house rules, but yet more open and understanding on some level. The author referenced a few French parenting experts and I found it fascinating that many of them sounded like philosophy textbooks. They conceive of childhood and parenthood differently than we do.
So, in short, informative, interesting. BUT, where I encountered issues was when things were not going perfeclty with my own tiny human? I *really* didn’t give a shit what the book had to say, to put it kindly. Oh, isn’t it fantastic how French toddlers play quietly alone while their parents have a conversation? And eat foie gras and escargot at daycare? I’m just so happy for them, as my own kid throws her chicken nuggets onto the floor and whines the whole way home from school because she
dropped threw her sunglasses and now she wants them. So yeah, some days I wasn’t really, um, open to the message.
She also talked about what it’s like raising children in a foreign country (she’s American and her husband’s British), how the French relate to their spouses differently, and a few small things to do to incorporate some of the things they do into your life. Making my child wait, for instance. That one is sort of a pain but it makes sense that if you satisfy her every need the second she requests it, she’ll be a brat, right? Also, there was an interesting section about how the French are big on teaching their children to say bonjour when the arrive somewhere. I never thought about it, but Margo doesn’t so I have been prompting her to. The theory is that it gives them autonomy and independence, something they can do to join society. Also, it’s polite! I’ve also been saying the mantra “It is I who decides,” when she gives me pushback. Mainly for me. It sort of makes me laugh, but also is empowering at the same time.
One thing that resonated was the concept that parents should say yes more than they say no. I believe this, but I’m also pretty sure that anyone who’s ever parented a toddler can attest to this not always being how things play out.
In a lot of ways, the culture Druckerman depicts reminded me of the message Free Range Kids… pretty much “RELAX. You’re way overthinking this, parents.” (This was my favorite message of the book.) We don’t benefit our kids by taking care of every little thing for them, by enabling them to only have bananas that are *cut just so* or stopping the car to get said sunglasses off the floor. Giving them freedom, letting them cope with consequences of their choices and actions… that’s part of the growing experience.
Bringing Up Bebe isn’t a drinking the KoolAid book, to me. This book doesn’t make me want to move to France and change Margo to Margaux. It doesn’t make the French endearing at all to me. Sometimes they come off downright cold, pretty much like the popular stereotypes. But I do love the societal ideal they all seem to share. I don’t often debate or feel conflicted on my parenting choices. (Like this Mommy Wars business? I feel completely unaffected. I made my decision and I’m 100% happy with it, don’t care to rehash!) To have it just be a societal thing that we’re all laid back? That’d be pretty fun.
What it seems like this book is best known for is the Yogurt Cake. I am going to post about that soon, because it’s a really fun toddler activity! Stay tuned.