My in-laws came over to my house the other night to bring their grandson, my nephew, over for a guitar lesson that my husband gives him every Wednesday evening. As soon as Mae, who is now 13 weeks old, made her appearance they both gawked and admired her mere presence. I handed Mae off to her grandma. My father-in-law noticed a book sitting on the arm of my couch, Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman. I had seen it on Amazon.com and thought that I would try it out as my first ever parenting book. My father-in-law asked about it, skeptical of its relevance as valuable information. I said that it read more like a novel, as he inferred it was a how-to manual. I decided to prove its worth by telling him that the book speaks about how in Fance (Paris really) they have a pretty good track record for getting their babies to sleep through the night at a really young age, just a few months old, if that. Then I told him that I read that chapter and the night before used those pieces of wisdom that Pamela, with much long-suffering finally figured out, and that night, Mae slept very well, (then the next few nights she didn’t take a late night feeding, so I would say by now “she is doing her nights”). Both my in-laws acting like that was nice, but wrote it off, that it may be a coincidence, since they knew Mae has for the most part been “a good sleeper”. At a family dinner before then, most of my in-laws were talking about how parents don’t hold accountability for the sleeping habits of their children, that they just come either as good sleepers and bad ones, so they were wishing my sister-in-law luck that her next baby would come to them a good sleeper.
That is really the overall message I got from Druckerman’s book- parental accountability. French children aren’t born with good manners, knowing how to wait patiently, sleeping habits that enable parents to spend quality time together, they aren’t born not throwing food and eating everything you give them- they are educated to do so. Druckerman, much to my enjoyment, spent a good deal of time and energy searching out how these kids are brought up, to explain their habits. Her writing is so encouraging and interesting. I found that I didn’t plow through the book, nor was a bored and left it alone. It was written in such a way that it read as a good story, and informative to those looking for it.
One of the most intriguing chapters was “doing her nights”. In it, the author talks about this idea of speaking to your baby, and whatever you say they will not only listen to it, but understand it. In the book, a nanny, Laurence, tells the author, “In the evening, you speak to him. You tell him that if he wakes up once, you’re going to give him his pacifier once. But after that, you’re not going to get up. It’s time to sleep. You’re not far away, so you’re going to come in a reassure him once. But not all night long.” This must be said with believability and confidence. I tried it, why not? The nanny said so. I started small; I would tell Mae to wait so I could put muffins in the oven or put my makeup on, and like magic, she would chew on the ears of her bear, listen to her noises, or kick her legs around, patiently waiting for me. So I did the opposite, to see if I was simply being silly- I would put her in her swing or activity mat, and be silent about my absence, and without a beat, Mae would cry. It is all I do now, speak to her. I tell her what is happening, where she is, what we are doing, how long we will be, I tell her to nap, to sleep through the night, and with only a few minor hiccups, the house runs so much smoother and the communication between the two of us is so much better.
Druckerman brought up another great point: respect. My brother-in-law once spoke to me about how his kid doesn’t respect him, and how it makes him so angry. Druckerman observed a mutual level of respect between adults and children in Paris, that French parents tend to listen and respect the opinion and thoughts of their child, but they don’t adhere to it, they just become aware of it. When the child knows that the parent is aware they are more apt to respect their parents and listen to their stern and powerful “no’s”. I took this into practice and have attempted to show respect for my little babe as a fellow person. I don’t take for granted that she can’t walk or crawl and just drag her from one place to the next as though her desires take no matter. I don’t do what she wants to do (mainly because I don’t know what that is), but I have attempted to respect the fact that we are doing all things my way. Respect and communication are pretty simple ideas, and Druckerman, like us, forget at times that they apply to our children as well.
Without a doubt her chapter on food titled “you just have to taste it” was my absolute favorite. She had discovered how French children are such good eaters and will eat just about anything. I loved when she described this hip couple in Park Slope, Brooklyn that excitedly tells their six year old son, “Here’s your parsley snack! Do you want your parsley snack?”, then hands the boy a sprig of parsley. Druckerman assumes this is some sort of attempt at instilling good eating habits and food choices on their son. This was one of the few times the author used strong language and for the ways people parent, “… They’re now asking how they can override basic sensory experiences.” I appreciated that one of the times she did this concerned food.
Druckerman does indeed take into account all sorts of opinions and viewpoints. She saw the fruits of the French parent’s labors, and saw that they were good, so attempted to understand them. She doesn’t say they are better or worse, but lays it out in front of the reader and we are all left with maybe the same inclinations. At the end of it all, a French child sounds like a happy, well-behaved, little human, and wouldn’t we all want a little bit more happiness and function in our homes?
Fabulous book. I recommend it highly to all my friends.