I’ve spent the past week immersed in the book Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, and like the friends who recommended it to me I’m intrigued. I’m something of a Francophile as it is, so it’s not much of a stretch for me to be so interested in a book on French parenting. Like all of those other things that the French do better than us (cheese, wine, baguettes), they apparently know something we don’t in the parenting arena as well. The book’s author, Pamela Druckerman, is an American ex-pat living in Paris who observed that most of the French children she met were mysteriously well-behaved. Very few tantrums, sleeping through the night by the time they were two months old, and behaving like angels when taken out to dinner. She decided to investigate and discovered that the French take a very different attitude toward child-rearing than Americans do, being both stricter and more relaxed. It’s a fascinating book, and worth a read whether you’re struggling with a willful toddler or just interested in cultural differences.
Next on my reading list is a book that, in a happy coincidence, arrived on my holdshelf at the same time as Druckerman’s: The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, by the French feminist Elisabeth Badinter. As you can probably tell from the title alone it’s a little more of a provacative read. I don’t agree with everything Badinter writes about, but it’s definitely food for thought, and although I’m only a chapter in I’m noticing some of the same attitudes towards motherhood and parenting that are discussed in Bringing up Bébé. Pretty fascinating stuff all around.
*Sois sage is what French parents say to their children instead of “be good.” Although it means something similar, it’s more of an admonishment to be “wise”– giving the child some control over judging how to act appropriately in the situation. Such a nice way to tell a child to behave, non?