The French Way

I just ordered a whole bunch of books. Not sure why, because I promised myself that I would read what I have in my house before ordering anymore…so I’ve got about 20 books waiting to be read. That should take me a while….

But, I have to add one more to my “must read list”: ” Bringing Up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman.

There have been a few reviews of it lately in the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post and they caught my eye.

I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s parenting attention grabber – “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother ” by Amy Chua which I talked about here and here. It gave me so much to think about!

However, when I read the reviews for Chua’s book, I knew there would be many parts that I would disagree with – she was pretty extreme.

But what I have read so far about this book “Bringing Up Bebe”, I like. I like a lot.

But first, I need to state the obvious: Whether we parent our children the same way, or parent them differently, we are all simply human beings trying to figure it out. We will all make mistakes, we will all have challenges, regrets, strengths and weaknesses. No one culture does anything right; no one person does everything right. We need not get depressed when reading books and articles like this. We can just open ourselves up and learn from each other. Try different things. Try what works with our family. Try to do a little bit better. Just needed to say this as I know people go down the “woe is me the French parent better than me too”. That’s not the point I’m trying to make. I just think, with a little humility, we can all maybe learn something from the French, like we did from the Chinese, like we can from the Canadian, eh?

Back to the fabulous French parents:)

The few excerpts from the book have already resonated with me.

She talks about the French parents’ ability to set boundaries; “Boundaries, are good, particualrly in protecting the sanctity of parents’ private life”.

She talks about how they say no, and don’t feel guilty about it.

She talks about how French families keep involved with their families without becoming obsessive, and that parents aren’t at the constant service of their children. Parents are the authority figure – not the other way around.

She relates a story of a French couple’s reaction to their American friends and their interaction with their children: “American kids frequently interrupted the adults in midsentence; and there were no fixed mealtimes; the American kids just went to the refridgerator and took food whenever they wanted”.

That part made me laugh.

One of the “step family/divorce perks” you get when you divorce and then later on remarry – and kids are involved – is you get a pretty objective (at first) set of eyes. You know, someone to scrutinize your every move and evaluate how you parent. Bear in mind, you are being evaluated at the height of usually indulging your children since you are racked with guilt from the divorce and trying to overcompensate (while being completely overwhelmed with doing it all on your own). So, you need to have some thick skin, because “objective eyes” about your parenting skills are sometimes really hard to take.

I remember one day Rob (sweetly, nicely and gently) mentioned to me that my kids constantly interrupted me when I was having an adult conversation.

I had actually never even noticed. But, it was true.

I mentioned (I wish I could say sweetly, nicely and gently) to Rob that I didn’t think his kids should be able to eat 6 pop tarts or a bag of cookies whenever they felt like it. He had actually never noticed. But, it was true too.

Our lists went back and forth (sweetly and nicely and gently – at least on his part…) until we settled on some of the “acceptable standards for us”.

And it appears, we have settled on trying to parent the French way.

Firm, but loving.

I love how she talks about the French ideal of the “cadre”, or frame that French parents often talk about. “Cadre means that kids have very firm limits about certain things – that’s the frame – and that the parents strictly enforce these. But inside the cadre, French parents entrust their kids with quite a lot of freedom and autonomy”.

That certainly is my goal. I want my kids to have independence and freedom. But with that comes the responsibility – and consequences. You can’t have one side without the other.

I want them to have respect, manners, empathy and patience. But overindulgence, entitlement and lack of limits will rob them from those qualities and values. I want them to feel loved and adored, but I want them to understand the importance of a marriage and adult time too.

I’m excited to read how the French do it. Again, not because I think they are doing everything right – (afterall, they do have a reputation of being snooty (just saying) and I don’t want to raise snooty kids either). I just think every view adds value. I learned so much from Amy Chua, even though I disagreed with some things, I wholeheartedly agreed with other things.

Parenting is hard – and any little insight I can get, hopefully can help me be a better parent. Not make me feel bad, or inadequate, or guilty. Just help me do better.

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