Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bringing Up Bébé

So I just read this book.

And honest to goodness, it changed my life.
Or...
is changing my life.

I've been "writing" this post in my head for a week now.

But I can't get anywhere,
because
well,
I don't know how to sum up this book well enough for you.
If I were to try and quickly convey the ideas, it wouldn't really explain what needs to be said to get the real idea across.

I also can't get anywhere in my head-writing because...
Well,
as much as I LOVE the book,
I've come across online reviews basically hating this book,
and...
it covers parenting issues,
and we all know how parenting issues are treated online -
like piñatas.

So I don't want to offend anyone, 
and I don't want to imply this is the only way to parent,
when I write this post.


The cool thing about this book is...
that's basically the author's stance too.

The author,
Pamela Druckerman,
is an American women, who marries an English man, 
they live in Paris together and start their family there.
She notices the French seem to have this particular way of parenting, but she doesn't quite know what they are doing. They just seem to have really well behaved kids and the parents seem to have a general calm that she isn't used to seeing. So she investigates. And she writes about about what she finds.

Its written very well.
Funny,
intriguing,
relatable,
thorough.

So,
in my opinion,
I don't see how really anyone could hate the book itself.
If they don't think the parenting ideas are good for their family,
they would then be opposed to the French parenting generalities she discusses,
but not the book.
Even the author says she doesn't adhere to all of it herself, even while living in Paris.
She's just reporting on what she uncovers.

That said:
I wish everyone could read this book.
Well... if it does for them, what it did for me.
It brought me this gust of fresh air.
Like the chilly air off of a great lake, wrapping my hair up in its fingers and whispering secrets and dreams, calling my lungs to open up wider than they remember they can.
{If you know me and how much I love Lake Michigan, then you will know this is an enormous compliment.}

{From here on out, I'm not gonna try and write in specifically non-offensive-to-all-parent terms, but I think what I say will remain rather un-offensive because I'm just going to write about me, not anyone else.}

I started out motherhood, terrified.

It was me and a computer screen full of crazy strong words.
Even before that tiny little life was in my belly, facebook, blogs and links were shouting at me.

I felt like I was about to join a war, not expect great joy.

I did my best to choose my best.

But I never felt like I really could, because "what if?"

My life for the past 3 (almost 4) years (since pregnancy, and perhaps even ever since thinking of motherhood) has felt like this swirling chaotic, land-mine laden maze I needed to master to "get it right", all while dodging that ever wheedled piñata bat all the other parents seem to be navigating their way through their maze with.

The shocking realization of hearing this author, Pamela, confess something of a very similar nature, and her telling me how that experience is rather "American," and how the French just don't have that same thing going on, sold me immediately on this book.
"My craziness is not mine? It's my culture?
Are you serious?"
The possibility of that is enormous!

If I can step out of what I've always know,
I can be something else.

And if I've always known
a terrifying what-if-I-fail chaos...
and there is another option....
let me at it!

After she introduces herself, her story and how she got to Paris,
she gets into her discoveries.

Immediately she notes French women do pregnancy different than American women.

I loved that chapter.
Already so peaceful and smart.

I also thought it was pretty interesting to hear that French women are so strict about their weight gain during pregnancy and weight loss post pregnancy.
I guess I find this intriguing on a very personal level because I had two very different pregnancies,in regards to weight gain. My first pregnancy being one where I let it all out food wise and ate to my hearts content. (Yes, I gained a lot.) My second, I ate healthily and not only gained less, but felt phenomenally better all around.


Now I do need to say, the French standard of birthing did not excite me. But hey, that's ok. Its more perspective. I didn't mind reading it. Same with the general view of breastfeeding there. But... you know what one of the cool parts of this book is? It can take away some of that big heavy pile of guilt we live under as moms. If you have more of a French view, or experience, of birth and breastfeeding, but you live in America, its exhausting hearing (or reading) what you "should" have done from all the moms who did it "the right way" here. But if you get to read this book, and hear that basically an entire country does what you did, and generally speaking those kids are just fine, it could be a HUGE sigh of relief! It might take you out of some isolation.


Then she talks about how apparently the average age for French babies to sleep through the night is 3 months.
UHHH...can I get me some of that?
Maybe I could have if I had read this book oh about 4 months ago, or sooner. (Apparently after 4 months baby's sleep habits are already made. Crap! How bout next time?)

I've always leaned more towards the attachment parenting sleep style -- not that I've ever claimed to be "attachmenty" (I'm not one to claim labels.) Its just kinda what my insides bent towards when left to itself, but I don't have deep convictions about it.
Personally, I think what the French do is GENIUS, and it does not offend my general sense of what I am comfortable with for babies. I can definitely see myself using this basic French idea if we have more babies. I see it as a very smart way to work with your baby to allow them their best chance at awesome sleep.
And even though babies have apparently already learned their sleep habits by 4 months old (and mine is currently 7 months old, and not sleeping terrible by any means, but is still waking up about three times a night from 6:30 - 6:30 to nurse really quick), occasionally when I do the French thing, my baby sleeps a bit more.
I seriously wish I could have read this book before having babies! (Not that it was written then.)

Well lets see, what else.

I just loved VERY, VERY much being allowed the chance to get out of my own head, my own life, and my own little bubble of America (which I didn't even realize affected me so much) and think about raising kids in a new {to me} way.
I honestly don't see how that could ever be a bad thing to do. Even if the entire new outlook you just looked at isn't for you -- at least then you know you like what you are doing, at least more than what you are not doing.

For me this book (which I will say I am not implementing AS IS -- I have not become French, I'm still Lydia) anyway, this book gave me the courage and the kick in the pants I needed to be a parent in specific areas.

Food in particular.
I LOVE the way the French treat food.
My favorite thing said about how they teach kids to eat food is that they don't ask "Do you like it?" They ask: "Is it salty? Is it sweet? Is it crunchy?..." Basically asking: "What does it taste like?" In somewhat of a group lead excises.
Is that not phenomenal?
I would never have thought of that. But its so basic. And appeals so much to me as a person who once did coffee tastings as a barista -- and truth be told those lessons have drastically changed how I taste anything in general -- I have a whole new appreciation for tastes, and can totally impress my husband by calling out  special ingredients in a dish. I just never thought that a kid could learn that.
(That's something I really liked about this book, the French give kids a lot of credit in regards to what they are capable of.)

 I came out of these food chapters differently than most people would. My oldest (2.5 yrs old) has food allergies. (Which are not considered in the slightest by this book.) So I went into this book pretty hesitant about the food aspect of it. And well, to be honest, I had to take some deep calming breaths when listening to all the amazing food the French kids are eating, because about half of it is off limits to my daughter, and that made my heart ache. (And I am currently facing down some pretty immense food-fears which did get brought out more so when reading this book. But I will say that I would need to be facing these fears anyway.)  But I actually came out of the my experience with this book really empowered.

For us, a combination of allergy fears, weary pregnant mom/ new mom syndrome, a general apathetic view of meal time, and complacency had built up into a food situation that was starting to feel yucky for us as a family. I just had not enforced any sort of meal time routine. It just kind of evolved into whatever happened. (Which was, most recently: her eating meals any time of day, at her own little table, usually in front of PBS. And snacks whenever she asked.) And I was telling myself "Well at least she is eating, and she is eating safe food." She never wanted to eat with me and Blake. And our evening routine felt like this horrible chaos of non-commincation until we got both kids to bed.

I can't implement straight-out the entire French meal time thing (which for the record, I am totally all for outside of allergies!) just because I don't have all of our food allergies accounted for yet with her being so young. So I don't feel safe asking her to eat bites of new things yet.

BUT, once I read this book, it dawned on me that I have more control over meal times than I had been telling myself I did. I realized that regardless of allergies I could have "normal" meals: set times, at the table, with us, and no TV on. I also realized that there are foods I know are safe for her to eat, so I can ask her to take bites of those.
It sounds silly, but I'm honestly not sure I would have come to that realization outside of this book.

Its been a rough on us, switching up our meal times over the past couple weeks.
Actually the meal times themselves have gone pretty great (outside the first shocking"what-do-mean-sit-at-the-table?" meal, which was a disaster.)
So its not really the meal times that are trying for us, but our two year old has been trying to find places for freedom in other areas through out the day, by attempting to assert  her "authority" (aka tantrums) over ours.
 So, yeah, in honesty the switch itself hasn't been fun. But I am glad we are doing it. Our morning and nights together do seem much more cohesive, and we seem more family-like, less hang-on-for-your-life...save-yourself.

A lot of different parts of this book have given me the courage to "be the parent".
I think up until this point I hadn't really been able to see myself as an authority figure. And this book gave me the shot in the arm I needed.

I really liked hearing about how the French really put a priority on marriage ("You chose your husband") and how the wives really don't tend to gripe about where husbands aren't doing their "fair share" because they just really don't view "fair share" in the terms many an american peer does. It seems like it keeps a bigger spark alive for couples over there. It made tons of sense to me. I felt convicted to change my mentality and do more appreciating.

There's also a lot of discussion about helping kids to become independent, as well as aware that the world does not revolve around them-self. Which stated so briefly may sound harsh, but those are two things I have hoped to be able to convey to my kids, because I do think that makes for a less shocking transition into adulthood if those two things are already understood.

There are a whole bunch of other things it covers that I found either really helpful for me personally or just really a nice counterweight for my mental stance on many issues.

There are tons of things in it that I cannot possibly implement into our lives just because of the circumstances of our lives here and now. But there are bunches of ideas I really liked, and hope I can use in varying degrees.

Anyway,
I hope you will read it.
I just found it totally fascinating!

P.S. I didn't actually "read" this book  --- I listened to it! So much easier to accomplish w/ little ones! And the audio book version is so fun -- the reader puts on all the different accents! I wouldn't have had any of that going on if I had read it in my head! :) I'm not that international. :)


4 comments:

  1. Thanks Lydia - I will check this book out. I just finished reading _French Kids Eat Everything_ by Karen Le Billon and was intrigued with the cultural differences. You might like that one too!

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  2. Sounds super intriguing! I have strongly relied on the Babywise book for surviving the first year of parenting, and this book sounds like it hold some similar ideas (helping babies sleep through the night, putting marriage as a priority, etc.) Thanks for the review! I'm on my way to see if the local library happens to have a copy of it.

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  3. I have to say I read a few books while pregnant. I was in a way petrified! What am I going to do with a baby!! I really learned a few good tips which helped me along the way! It is so interesting to be able to see how other cultures deal with similar situations.
    Great post! The book sounds very good!
    Zoe xxx

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