|(photo from Amazon.com)|
Bringing Up Bébé, by Pamela Druckerman. I think there was some very good parenting advice in here. And the author's writing style was amusing and easy to read (after I skipped the intro, which I was finding irritating)---like reading a blog rather than a manual. And I liked that she, too, notices how often United States mothers call themselves "bad mothers" in a tic-like, not-having-anything-to-do-with-being-a-bad-mother way: "I gave him a sandwich for lunch---I'm such a bad mother." "I know I'm a bad mother, but I wanted to go to the grocery store on my own." "I'm such a bad mother: I let him watch television so I could read my book."
But I have five major objections:
1. I am tired of hearing about how superior the French are, even if they are. I think cultures are wise to learn from each other---and now I would like to learn from a DIFFERENT culture for awhile. How about India? Scandinavia? Russia? Nigeria?
2. I already feel enough natural annoyance at parenting styles other than mine, and I've noticed others feeling that kind of annoyance as well, so I suspect none of us are in need of something to SUPPLEMENT that annoyance. After reading this book, I feel like everyone including me is an idiot making things hard for themselves on purpose while simultaneously being show-offs and bringing up children to be beasts. Since I can't make everyone read the book and start doing things in the superior French way, this seems like a bad feeling to cultivate.
3. It's TOO LATE: I have already reared my children past this age. (The book mostly addresses from babyhood up to the start of elementary school---and some methods are too late after 4 months.)
4. I didn't really...BELIEVE her. I felt like her sample was too small and too anecdotal. There were things that didn't make sense: everyone in France does daycare! but there aren't enough spaces for everyone! It's like if someone visited Mississippi in the United States and then wrote a book about how all United States children say "Yes, sir" and "Yes, ma'am." And some of the French child-rearing ideas she praises are EXACTLY what I've heard here in the U.S., such as offering a child a vegetable again and again, having the child cook with you, making the child try one bite. THAT IS NOT EXCLUSIVELY FRENCH. And most telling to me: she tells how great these child-rearing principles are, but then doesn't really apply them to her own kids, even though she's living in France. She has excuses, but they sound exactly like the Typical American excuses she just finished saying had no merit. She throws herself so deeply into getting her Parental Suffering Merit Badge, she's almost losing her mind and almost losing her marriage and almost going bankrupt hiring nearly round-the-clock help---but she still delays putting the children in the subsidized flexible care she just finished telling us was so excellent and so crucial.
5. A major section covers how great it is that French mothers don't eat much. This seems off-topic, and I already read that book.
This isn't an objection, but I also felt depressed reading about her marriage. A memorable line is where she tries to talk to her husband as they're getting ready for bed, and he cuts her off by telling her that nothing she could possibly say to him could be as interesting as the articles in the magazine he's reading. Another memorable tale is where she finds he's brushing the teeth of a child who still has a mouthful of food, and he says he can't handle her picky and arbitrary demands.
But my mom and I both read the book, we both laughed all the way through it, we both found things we considered very good advice and/or very thought-provoking, and we're both glad we read it. Well, I THINK I'm glad I read it. Let's see if the Increased Annoyance wears off a bit.