Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bringing Up Bebe

I was originally pretty turned off by the thought of reading this book. I just hate the way everyone always feels the need to rank/compare/judge all things parent (from the biggies like bottle/breast, to the asinine like child leashes and toddler pedicures). I mean, can't some things just be different? And don't some things need to be judged in a greater context of practices, patterns, and personalities? Does every thing have to be deemed superior or inferior to every alternative? I own lots of different shoes. I have a few that are favorites. I don't feel the need to rank them from best to worst. I feel like some are more comfortable, others more fashionable, and some more versatile. But none of these things make one generally better/worse than another. I mean, can you even compare your winter boots to your summer sandals? And is it just me, or is that a stupid waste of time? I think some parts of parenting are like that. They are just different, with their own unique pros and cons.





So you are saying we are gross? 
I don't think the intention of this book was to imply anyone (French or Americans) is parenting all wrong. But I think Bringing Up Bebe did, at times, make parenting look like some kind of cultural contest. And I'll give you a hint: America had their (fat) rear ends handed to them in the bathing suit competition. {Apparently our doctors tell us it is OK to gain way more weight during pregnancy than the French doctors do. And we put no pressure on ourselves to get that weight back off asap. And our family members don't peer pressure us to not "let ourselves go," like theirs do. Yick. That sounds miserable.}

And we are bad wives?
Also, Druckerman says we let our marriages go (along with our figures). The French believe that the partnership trumps the parenting. I don't think Americans disagree with this, they just seem to take the long view on this topic. They just accept that things will be sort of unromantic, spit-up covered, sleep-deprived, and baby-centered for a bit. Maybe the French are on to something? Maybe we are unnecessarily damaging our marriages by allowing (enabling?) kid stuff to get out of hand and not prioritizing couple time and romance? And they don't mean "date nights." They think these sound stupidly unromantic. Like every moment for them is apparently a date night, or something. In fact, every night {from 8 P.M. on} is "adult time," and kids are sent to their rooms (to sleep or do whatever they wish, as long as they don't disturb the parents). That sounds kind of awesome. Kids also never disturb their parents in the mornings. They don't come into the parent's room without being invited. Huh. {How nice/unrealistic? to live in a country where everyone is so homogeneous you can generalize like this. Also, I'll admit, your fancy kids sound so much more convenient than ours.}



Also, we're helicopter moms to our infants/toddlers?
The French are much more hands off. She says she can always tell an Anglophone mom from a mile away because they are all hovering over their kids on the playground and talking incessantly to the little ones, while the French moms sit on the benches and read. French moms don't feel the need to narrate their kids every move, like we do. {Ok, that accusation annoyed me, because yes, American moms talk to their kids a lot to encourage language development. Because that is what we were told to do. But it's not like we are in their face, 24-7 like the French pediatrician who practices in NYC seems to think when he basically rolls his eyes at this practice.} It sort of sounds like American parents are (compared to the French parents) helicopter parents to our neonates. We are all up in our babies' business trying to solve all their sleep problems and catering to their every hunger whim instead of letting those babies pull themselves up by their tiny booty straps and take care of it themselves. 

OK, fine, whatever
Bottom line, I think it is worth the read to just get a different perspective on what kids are capable of, versus what we (as Americans) assume they are capable of. And it begs some interesting questions: where is the line that separates helping a child from hindering a child? nurturing a child's growth from stifling their independence? Also, there are lots of interesting discussions of subtle cultural differences and their possible significance. But as I mentioned before, some of the research is sort of oversimplified and dumbed down. But still, very fascinating.
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6 comments:

  1. My neighbor is French and she has French friends. She says some of them totally sit back and ignore their kids and the playground but she thinks you should play and interact with your kids. She says the French are more negative too.

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    1. It is crazy because they seem to do all this stuff that I'm like, whoa, that is the opposite of what we are told to do!? It makes me feel better (in some hard to explain kind of way) that some French people are sort of uncomfortable with it too.

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  2. For about one week I tried to start a recipe blog with my family, lol.

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    1. I like your style, that totally sounds like something I'd do

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  3. I must start by saying, I've really enjoyed your parenting book reviews! I just spent two years living in France with my husband and young son. I didn't read Bringing Up Bebe until returning home but many of the things she highlighted in the book rang true. I often admired how French moms balanced children, work and marriage effortlessly. I noticed children are quite respectful, greet with a hello and kiss on the cheek, know their vous and tu (formal and informal) but are still encouraged to be kids and at a young age socialization holds a greater value over abc. I did however see quite a few mom's on the playground (but they were always wearing heels - so schlepping around in sweats or running shoes). Have you read "Kids Are Worth It! : Giving Your Child The Gift Of Inner Discipline" yet? I would recommend it. (I also have a background in education and her work often cropped-up in my teacher training).

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment. The more I've read (since this book) and thought about it, the more I think they are really on to something and I'd like to find a way to combine what I like about their style and priorities with what I like about mine. And I haven't read "Kids are Worth it!" I'm going to go check it out right now! Thanks!!

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