Monday, 12 January 2015

Media Reflection: Bringing Up Bébé

New Year's Resolution: Add to the parenting toolbox.

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

Pamela Druckerman

Hardcover, 304 pages

Penguin Press, 2012

ISBN 13: 9781594203336

This book came out when I was working at a large book store chain down town Toronto, and it seemed to be in the basket of every hip, well-read parent. I immediately added it to the to-read pile in my head but only remembered it when I got pregnant. After a few failed trips to the library, I finally snagged a copy, and I'm very glad I persevered.

I absolutely loved this book. Druckerman struck a beautiful balance between her own experiences, what she has observed as an expatriate in France, feedback from French parents, and expert testimony. While I'm not sure I can incorporate everything presented in the book (either because it would feel too unnatural or because I don't fully agree with the principle) I was awed by her findings. She is clear that French parenting is not a philosophy in the way that Attachment Parenting is, and does not suggest that all French parents are the same in an overarching stereotype, while she praises the culture for rearing polite, autonomous children with adventurous palettes.

I'm glad I read it so early, because there are things that can be put into action right away. I've started to do The Pause with Eloise; taking a minute to observe her as she fusses to make sure she needs me to intervene before sweeping her up into my arms. Half of the time, she settles back down as her small vocalizations were part of her sleep and picking her up would disturb her and make her cry for real. I have also started putting her to bed while awake and letting her put herself to sleep, rather than waiting until she's in a deep slumber to put her into her bassinet. As a result, she sleeps longer (and so do I).

I feel like I will come back to this book as she ages, as so many of the tips made sense to me. While I'm not keen on being so laissez faire with her at the park or so stingy with praise, I do want to give her time to be alone and a sense of true accomplishment when she actually does something exceptional. Too much attention can alter a child's understanding of entitlement, but it strikes me as a difficult thing to handle. Luckily, I have time to ruminate on how I can find my own balance in these matters.

I would definitely recommend that parents give this book a read. In North America, we may be guilty of underestimating what children are capable of, and of overestimating how much stimulation they need. As an American in Paris, Druckerman does a great job of comparing the two cultures and describing one way in which they can be mixed together. As I've said before, I really appreciate personal parenting accounts, and this is one worth checking out. If nothing else, read the chapter on eating habits and be prepared to get back your dinner time sanity!

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