Monday, November 12, 2012

Bringing Up Bebe

French women already had quite a bit for those of us on the other side of the Atlantic to envy. The image of the effortlessly lovely French woman sipping Sancerre and nibbling gruyere without "getting fat" or smearing their perfect-shade of red lipstick was bad enough. But now, according to the parenting book Bringing Up Bebe, one can add a toddler or two to the picture and the image of the woman remains virtually unchanged. Her hair is still perfectly coiffed, lipstick and tres chic scarf still in place, and the overall air of perfect calm remains, leaving their harried, sleep-deprived American counterparts wondering How do they do it?
Thankfully, one American journalist and mother decided to find out. Armed with a double stroller, notebook, and pen, Pamela Druckerman took to the parks, playgrounds and creches (French versions of daycares) of Paris to uncover the phenomena that is French parenting. What she discovered is a world where children quietly enjoy four course meals (without anything in nugget form), sleep through the night by four months old, and evening adult time is sacred. While some of what makes French parenting so different is difficult to reproduce here (government sponsored day cares with highly- trained staff? Oui!), we can still incorporate much of their philosophy.

According to Druckerman,that philosophy is largely based on the works of two people, philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and pediatrician and psychoanalyst Francoise Dolto. Dolto emphasized the inner life of the baby and child, and the value of treating them as "tiny little humans" while Rousseau championed the idea of allowing children to freely discover the world and gradually "awaken". French parents don’t push their children to succeed or tout their busy schedules as evidence of what great parents they are as we often do. This contrast is well illustrated by Druckerman's story of The American Question. ".. psychologist Jean Piaget came to America to share his theories on the stages of children's development. After each talk, someone in the audience typically asked him...How can we speed these stages up? Piaget's answer was: Why would you want to do that?"

Bringing Up Bebe is well-researched and written. Druckerman avoids the subtle condescension that is so prevalent in many parenting books and assumes an easy, conversational tone with her reader. It is, at the least, an interesting read and, for some, a life-changing exploration of how to raise your kids.

For some other out-of-the-box parenting books, check out The Modern Girl's Guide to Motherhood by Jane Buckingham or Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay and Other Things I Had to Learn As a New Mom by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor. Feel like a little light-hearted fiction with a struggling mom as the heroine? Goodnight, Nobody by Jennifer Weiner is a funny, suburbia-based mystery. All of these titles are available for check out at VBPL.

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