Who knew the French and Mexicans could be so alike?
I could not put this book down!!! I loved Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman. Now, I know that there isn’t anything wrong with American parenting , but as a Latina mother, I sometimes find myself parenting a little differently than my all-American mommy friends.
There are tons of parenting books out there and some of us are obsessed in trying to figure out what philosophy is best for child rearing (this is very American of me). I loved Bringing Up Bébé because it compares French parenting to American parenting with a lot of funny snippets and an inside look to Druckerman’s personal family life. Pamela Druckerman is an American woman, married to a British man and living and raising their kids in Paris! Having lived and delivering a baby in Japan, the book also resonated with me because I watched “perfect” Japanese moms transport toddlers on their bicycles in high heels, just as Druckerman witnessed thin, relaxed and very stylish French mommies on the playground. I always felt frumpy and I always felt super uptight compared to the Japanese mothers. Druckerman points out that French women never use their children as an excuse on why “they have let themselves go”. There is no such thing. It isn’t acceptable for the Japanese women living in Tokyo either. They all simply get back in shape, look amazing and never complain about how they feel or how they look…after having children.
So now that we know we should try to put some effort in our appearance, let’s get to the actual parenting: I felt that the French and Latino cultures have a lot in common when it comes to the éducation of the children. The French don’t say “discipline” and I don’t think Latinos say it either. Educando, as we say in Spanish as well, means to educate and I like how the word makes it sound as “educating” is the first step before you have to get to actual discipline. It’s like training your child so you don’t ever really have to punish. For example, Druckerman explains that the French find it super offensive when people don’t say, “hello”, “goodbye”, “please” and “thank you” so they teach their children early that they must always say these “four magic words” and say it with confidence. My friend Ivan (who is not a dad yet) once mentioned to us that he found it ridiculous that his American friends excused their child from saying “hello” because he was not “developmentally ready” at 3. A lot of people in the Latino cultures would agree with Ivan. The French make it a point (and Mexicans too) that kids should acknowledge and respect everyone…especially their elders. Otherwise, your kid “no tiene educación“.
Okay, so I think my children are “educated” but I am a bad mommy because I refuse to go up and down the slide with my kids or play soccer in the middle of the park. I carry my coffee, wear my cute shoes (not all the time), have my make-up on and sorry kiddos but I am planting myself right on this park bench. Druckerman quickly noticed that unlike her American friends, she witnessed French mothers quietly sipping lattes and not sitting in the sandbox with their kids. I was not always like this. Other American moms and I sat in the Japanese playgrounds totally digging it up in the sandbox and giving the child the play-by-play…the whole time, “Yay Diego! You scooped sand in the truck! Good job!” By the time I arrived in New York City-no more, thank you very much. I felt that kids should learn to play on their own and noticed that Diego was starting to make friends and playing with them. We “helicopter” parent so much compared to the French!
Here’s another difference: some American parents have toys in every room!!!!!!!!! I grew up with a mother who refused to child-proof her home even though she once had eight children in the house (she was a babysitter). She collected and displayed porcelain and ceramic figurines on the end tables and we lived in a apartment in Chicago! Glass tables? Check. Slippery wooden floors? Check. No one got hurt and no one was allowed to bring toys to that room of the house. Toys were in the bedroom and in the basement. Apparently the French do the same. Druckerman writes, “French parents see doing this as a healthy separation and a chance to clear their minds when the kids go to bed.” I was going a bit crazy by the time we left the city, I could not stand seeing toys in every room. Jose and I need our own space and certain rooms are off limits to the boys. BUT, our boys still have toys in four rooms of our house (yikes).
And finally, the power of saying “no”. The French and Mexicans are not afraid to say no. Actually, my dad didn’t say any other word to me when I was a teenager! A few weeks ago I witnessed a child about four or five hitting his mom at Target because she wouldn’t buy him candy. Santi, who is 16 months, couldn’t take his eyes off the child (we were behind them at the check out line, I couldn’t leave). I know every situation is different, I don’t know this mom and I don’t know this child. But the mother didn’t ever say to the child, “stop” or “no”. I would have held my child by the shoulders, bend down to look him in the eyes and very sternly say “no”. Druckerman was taught by French mothers to be assertive without being abusive or militant. No one has to beat a child, but a child needs to know that certain behavior is not okay. It took the woman working behind the counter at Target to say something to the child and she threatened the child with the police! Really? Do we want someone else teaching our children or should we be assertive and say “no” more often than not?
There are so many ways I parent a lo Americano. Druckerman talks about how our kids snack and eat all day is very American (yup, that’s us), sleep training is a constant topic of conversation for new mommies (even if you are on your third), we have breastfeeding guilt (so surprised many French women don’t), and the need for our children to always be “advanced” or have a “head-start” is so typical American. The French are super relaxed and they have confident, well-behaved, and calm children who also have great taste in food. I learned so much about letting little things go and little tricks the French practice. To them, it’s common sense…very similar to the way my Mexican mother raised us…without any of the parenting books.
Click on the Bringing Up Bébé image to order! And if you end up reading the book, notice the doctor Druckerman interviews during a visit to NYC (Tribeca)… Dr. Michel Cohen (very French) was our pediatrician!
Would love to hear your thoughts!! Happy Weekend!
P.s. Sorry for the goofy and weird layout…notice my right side bar is missing some info. The designer had a little problem, fixed it and is now waiting for WordPress to approve. Please ignore for now!! Thanks!