So! The French. Better than us at bread and smoking and, apparently, child-rearing. (By ‘us’ I mean ‘North Americans’ [by which I mean ‘Canadians and Americans.’ Mexico, I won’t pretend to know your shit]. My ethnocentrism knows no bounds.)
So I read an article about this book that contained bits of this book which made reading the book a bit déjà-vu-ish and I can’t tell you how often I was like HAVE I ALREADY READ THIS DID I MISPLACE MY BOOKMARK (ok maybe twice) but it ALSO contained a bit about how, in North America, we’re always like Do you want to go for a nap? or Is it time to get our boots on? when what we mean is It’s nap time or Get your boots on, and CHILDREN DO NOT UNDERSTAND RHETORICAL QUESTIONS so they think they have a choice and then are (understandably) baffled when they are like, No thanks I do not want to get my boots on, and you are like DO NOT INSUBORDINATE ME.
But that bit wasn’t in the book? I don’t think? Which is unfortunate, because it resonated the most strongly with me and is sort of the reason I picked it up. BUT. So. Pamela Druckerman moved to France and had a baby and then realized that French children eat calmly in restaurants and was like, The hell? And I like tips and tricks, which is apparently the North American in me speaking, and in Druckerman as well, apparently, since she spends the entire book trying to dig tips out of a mindset.
Because the French (from France. Quebec, I am not talking about you) have a different mindset about childrearing. And I am going to keep saying ‘the French’ because even though Druckerman qualifies that she obviously doesn’t mean ALL French, she keeps saying things like ‘having a child in France doesn’t require choosing a parenting philosophy’ because everyone parents the same way. So as far as she is concerned, THE FRENCH.
What it boils down to is treating your children like tiny rational beings and teaching them to cope with frustration by allowing them to be occasionally frustrated and maintaining some semblance of your own personhood. Which, ok. On the one hand, Druckerman is bang-on about the underlying North American assumption that if you’re not suffering for your children, you’re not doing it right. Like, when I get up to feed the Tiny Tyrant at night and I have to pee and she has to eat, I definitely pee before I feed her but I definitely feel bad about making her wait. But on the other hand, France has free daycare. And, like, very excellent daycare where the staff is viewed as Experts In Their Field and not just Glorified Babysitters, which in turn draws better staff, which in turn etc. And even if you aren’t going back to work, it’s assumed you’ll put your child in daycare a few days a week once they’re a year old. You’d have to work really hard to develop that sort of slavish mom mentality in France, is what I’m saying. You’re basically peer-pressured into having your own life.
And the environment accounts for a lot of the Child-Rearing Awesome. French children don’t clamor for snacks at the playground because no other French children are clamoring for snacks at the playground. You try raising your kid to not eat between breakfast and lunch when all other parents are like ARE YOU PECKISH HERE ARE SOME CHEERIOS!
Ok but they DO have a different overall mindset, and if you can grab bits of it with your fingertips you can maybe relax a bit. Because if nothing else the French are MORE CHILL than we are. Like, they have a word for a ‘small act of naughtiness’ (a bêtise) which is not only linguistically useful – MOAR WORDZ – but helps distinguish between the action and the child (a small act of naughtiness does not a naughty child make) and helps the parent mentally reframe the behavior, like NBD.
So. It has its flaws as an anthropological study, but is trés interesante if you want to think a little differently about your parenting.