Monday, April 23, 2012

French Children Probably Throw Food, Sometimes.



I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I don't think I know of any parent who wouldn't benefit, even just a little, from reading this book (this book in America). 
It's fascinating from an anthropology point of view (I think that it might even be interesting to the No Babeeez crowd, but I could be wrong) but also hugely inspiring as a parent.  
I've read a lot of reviews, quite a number from people who haven't actually read the book, and they seem to fall into three camps: 'well, this seems very sensible' from people who don't have children and from people who do have children: 'yes, this is how we do it' from people who do have children (colour me sceptical) or (and this is mostly from Americans) 'how dare the French tell us how to raise our kids?'.   
Personally I don't understand the vitriol, but then I'm quite willing to contemplate the idea that I don't have a clue what I'm doing when it comes to parenting and admit that I don't have a plan, I'm just making it up as I go along. I can understand that people who do have a plan might not like being told that they're wrong.  
But that's the thing, the book doesn't tell you to do anything, it's just one woman's experience of being an American raising her kids in Paris and trying to figure out why her kids and the other English-speaking kids she knows don't behave like French ones. She's not a Francophile, in fact she seems distinctly unsettled by the notion of her daughter 'growing up French', which is why the blanket reaction of 'I'm not reading that book. The French smoke too much and they spank their kids, why should I listen to anything they have to say about parenting?' is a little puzzling, the French aren't telling you to do anything, they're too busy being French to give a damn what anyone else is doing.  (FYI, I've never seen a French kid being smacked and I've never seen a French parent smoking while looking after their kids. I predict we'll be spending a lot of time in French playgrounds in the future and I'm pretty excited about observing and taking notes. No, really.) 
I'm not going to tell you what I learned from it or in what ways it changed how Nye and I parent* I'm just going to ask that you think about reading it. I don't think it's too dramatic to say that I found it a game-changer.  

I would be really interested to hear what you thought of the book if you've read it, what you think about it if you haven't read it and why you think people are so resistant to it.

*Not in this post anyway. Depending on how the comments go I might write a follow up post in the future. and to talk about what I thought in more detail in the comments though.