When Pamela Druckerman becomes pregnant while in Paris, she starts noticing things about French children and their parents. What she sees is so different that parents and children in America, she sets out research it and see if she can determine what is causing this difference, and Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parentingis born.
There are many differences and she addresses them one at a time. Being pregnant, one that she notices right away is that French babies sleep through the night much earlier than American babies. The French assume that after about three months, the baby will begin sleeping through the night, and when the mother goes back to work (French maternity leave is 3 months), everyone will be well rested. What she discovered is “the pause” “the wait” – when a French baby awakens in the night, the parents don’t immediately rush to the baby. They wait and see. They give the baby the opportunity to lull itself back to sleep. We all wake up many times through the night and we’ve learned to fall back asleep, the French begin teaching this to their babies early.
Another big difference is food. Like French adults, French children don’t snack. Well, they do; they have one afternoon snack at about 4:30, but other than that, it is breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner. There are no bags of cheerios, no juice boxes. They don’t feel that babies and children need to be fed constantly to be kept happy. They are teaching the children to wait, to be truly hungry when you sit down to eat. And eat they do. There are no children’s meals, they eat what adults eat…no chicken fingers. At the daycare the format for the lunch menu is: a four course meal beginning with a cold vegetable starter, a main dish with a side of grains or cooked vegetables, a different cheese each day, and a dessert of fresh fruit or fruit puree. She has her doubts about 2 year olds eating such a menu, so she visits her daughter’s daycare. On the day she visits she sees two year olds sitting at a table for 4, waiting for lunch to be served. The teacher shows them each menu item, explains what it is, and waits for them to say thank you as she hands it to them. On that day they are having: a tomato salad in vinaigrette, a fish in a light butter sauce with a side of peas, carrots and onions, a crumbly bleu cheese for the cheese course, and a fresh apple to be sliced at the table for dessert.
There are other differences, I’m not going to cover them all here. I found this book really interesting. When I mentioned to someone about what the 2 year olds were eating, she replied, “my child would starve.” When I mentioned to someone else about 4 year olds going on a week long field trip, she replied, “no way would I let me four year old do something like that.” So, I know that a lot of what she says may be too extreme for some, but I do think that there is a lot of useful information here. You can take what you want and ignore what you don’t want to use. I think that possibly the best place to be would be somewhere in the middle, not so American and not so French.
I highly recommend this to anyone curious about the French and how they raise their children.
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Usual disclaimer: I received no compensation for this review other than a copy of the book.