Bringing Up Bébé – A Review
**WARNING – Super long post**
So you can now officially add me to the list of the thousands of “mommy bloggers” who have reviewed Bringing Up Bébé by former Wall Street Journal writer Pamela Druckerman. Hey, I am not one to skip a good trend…I am still listening to Gotye on repeat, for god’s sake.
First, you should know this about me going in: I adore the French. I have only been to Paris once but I wholeheartedly believe I am meant to go back, hopefully for a prolonged period of time. I grew up in Montreal, which also gave me a decidedly more European-inspired upbringing than what my kids are enjoying in Southern California, so I tend to relate to the French a little more than most.
I like their language, their culture, their fashion, their food, how they can be rude and elitist without understanding (or caring) why you are offended. I like how they drink wine with every meal. And smoke like it’s a vitamin. And now…apparently, I like how they parent, too.
I think most people assume this book is Druckerman’s assault on American parenting and go into it prepared to defend themselves. In fact, she approaches the study of French vs. American parenting with a fairly open mind, not convinced either side has the perfect solution — does anyone?? — but instead highlighting some of the methods and beliefs she has witnessed during her time spent in France, raising at first just a young girl and then a pair of twin boys as well.
And le proof is kind of in le pudding.
Here are just some of the highlights:
- Le cadre (the frame). French parents believe you need to create a framework of boundaries for your children, but then give them freedom within that space. This was somewhat new to me, but resonated quickly. For instance, don’t bring them to the park and then stand over their every move. Let them be free, roam wildly, explore…as long as they stay within le cadre that you have determined. Keep a strict bedtime but hey, maybe let them go a little crazy in their room until they fall asleep. As long as they stay in their room, in le cadre…
- Le goûter (the snack). This one really struck a chord with me as well, as I spent another post-meal time with Kai picking food off the floor in a huff. French children, from a very young age, eat three meals per day and one snack, usually served around 4:30pm. C’est tout. They do not snack all day and therefore tend to be hungrier come meal time which leads to a) less wasted food on the floor and b) a more curious palate that is open to different tastes, textures and sensations. Kai is now on the same routine…and seriously, we saved a lot of peas this week.
- La pause (the pause). This is one we adopted early on with Little D, thanks to a very wise nanny and a video monitor. French babies sleep through the night practically right away, some as soon as a few weeks old. And it’s because their parents do not rush to them with every creak or cry. They pause. They give the babies a minute or two or five to sort themselves out. It’s important to note that they do not necessarily believe in letting them “cry it out” (though I do. To a certain degree. Sorry. There goes my 20 readers…), they just believe in giving them a chance to settle back down before they interject. And their kids sleep through the night very early on. Did I mention that? Sleep. Through. The. Night.
- Bonjour (good day). This is another thing that has stuck with me. While we in America focus so much on teaching our children to say “please” and “thank you,” (which is a must, don’t get me wrong…Kai is saying “thank you” at 16 months. It sounds more like “da dooooo,” but it’s the thought that counts) in France they place just as much emphasis on “bonjour” or hello and goodbye. Druckerman remarked on how so many of her American friends’ kids barely utter a word to her when they see her, instead shying away behind their parents or simply ignoring her altogether. And let’s be honest, that’s the truth, I see it every single day of my life and I can practically assure you that Little D is the only one that has to go and say a formal goodbye to her teachers on the play yard every day when we leave school. By encouraging their children to acknowledge others, particularly adults and strangers, with a simple “bonjour” they are not only teaching them manners but confidence and self-assurance. I approve.
- Solo play. I loved this one, too. It’s all about how we need to let our children learn to entertain themselves. Over the past few months with Kai, we have often looked across the room and found him completely immersed in a book or toy without any encouragement from us. And we leave him that way. The French don’t believe in constantly stimulating their children with “what’s that book you’re reading?” or “look at that blue bus in your hand” or “wow, you picked up a crayon, good boy!” Instead, they let them play. Without words of encouragement. Without a hovering eye. Without even putting down their glass of wine.
- Le chocolat. And the last highlight I would like to share with you goes back to le goûter. Turns out a lot of French kids enjoy warm baguette and chocolate spread for theirs. Or a fresh pain au chocolat. Or a warm cup of hot cocoa. It teaches them…hmm, I am not sure what exactly. But I bet it makes for some damn happy kids. And which American parent can possibly argue with that??
So, have you read the book? Loved it? Hated it?