Unsolicited Advice Book Report Edition: Bringing Up Bebe; One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

Before-you-read-further-caveat
Repeat this aloud: Lori is an imperfect human being. Therefore, Lori is an imperfect child of God, wife, mother, daughter, friend, and advisor. In some fashion, she messes up pretty much every day, so I must not read her words and think:
  1. She believes she is perfect.
  2. She believes she is superior to me.
  3. She believes she has no need to grow, change, and improve.
  4. She believes her advice will solve all my problems, clear up my skin condition, and perfect my golf swing.

Lori promises that she is well-aware of her shortcomings, although she welcomes your private, kindly feedback if you ever believe she needs admonishment, exhortation, instruction, or encouragement. You can contact her at writercook@gmail.com.
Ok. Did you really read that? Good, but maybe read it one more time just to be sure. It seems like it ought to go without saying, but every time I let myself think that everybody already understands all that when they read my stuff it turns out not to be true, so there it is.
Now, on to our regularly-scheduled blog posting:
Quick! Think of two of the most challenging tasks most Americans face in their lifetimes. Death? Taxes? Consuming enough fruits and vegetables to satisfy the Eat This, Not That folks?
Here are two that should surely make the top 25 list, if there is such a thing:
  1. Successfully raising children
  2. Stepping outside our own culture in order to see ourselves as others see us, and probably to see ourselves more accurately

Let me recommend a book to you that can help you do both: Bringing Up Bebe; One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman.
Sometimes when I observe parents interacting with their young children, I feel chagrined at what can feel like a nearly hopeless situation headed, if not for disaster, at least for a “hard row to hoe” for all parties concerned. Then I start thinking of the larger implications for society and I get downright depressed. Then I start thinking of what their choices may mean for the life beyond this one and I get near to despair.
I feel all that because I can see that the parents have nothing better to guide them than the advice touted on American morning “news” programs and the magazines littering pediatricians’ offices across the country, and it is my firm opinion that most of that advice is garbage. I see their frustration, I see their bewilderment, and I see that they sense their inadequacy, but I also see their resignation – there is no better way because, after all, they’ve read all the books and listened to all the experts and everybody else’s kids act like this anyway and that’s just the way it is. And there I am, the stranger observing them at the other end of the grocery aisle, wishing there was a way I could help, believing I could, but knowing the market isn’t the place and the middle of their child’s tantrum isn’t the time, and frankly, I’m not the person because of the stranger part.
What’s needed is a way to help parents take a giant step back to get some perspective outside of twenty-first century America. Wouldn’t it be helpful if today’s harried moms and dads could get a vision for an-entirely-doable-but-not-currently-average family life? How could that happen? I think of three possibilities:
  1. They can turn to ancient wisdom. This is actually the best answer for the long haul. The Bible, God’s word, is an owner’s manual for human beings authored by the one who designed them. For a variety of reasons (all overcome-able), though, many people have a hard time using this resource. Maybe we’ll talk more about that another time.
  2. They can turn to less-ancient wisdom. This can work pretty well for parenting advice, but many people find it difficult to separate the wisdom from the Victorian velvet knickers or the prohibitions against children speaking at table.
  3. They can learn to notice families around them who are getting it right, observe them, and ask questions.

 That’s what the author of Bringing Up Bebe did, although she had to move across an ocean before she found herself surrounded by enough families who were operating differently (and much better) than her own to capture her attention. The result of her awakening is an entertaining, thought-provoking read about cultural collective wisdom or folly and the practical results of each. I certainly didn’t agree with everything posited by the French parents and experts referenced in this book, but I found myself nodding my head again and again. I found myself silently thanking my parents, who brought me up much the same way, and I found myself wishing, in a few areas, that I had adhered more strictly to my parents’ and the French way in the parenting of my own brood.
Before you placate your child with a snack or beg her to go to sleep one more time, try to get your hands on a copy of Bringing Up Bebe. You can use the Amazon search box at the right of this post, or you can do what I did and check your local library.
“O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.” Amen, Mr. Burns.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Interesting, I’ll have to keep my eyes open for this book. Thanks, Lori!

  2. Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    One of the most challenging things for me as a parent has been that each of my children need different things from me as a parent. Jackson has always needed an explanation for things and once given he complies unless even the logic is unacceptable to him, i.e. school work. Audrey has to be reminded that she doesn’t have to like every job that is given to her, but she still has to do it. With William have to make sure I have his attention and if he doesn’t comply I have to discipline immediately. If I wait even 5 minutes he will not understand why he is being punished. Philip on the other hand is easy except for the whining. We have been working on that and are seeing some progress. The thing is that I’ve had to do different things with each of my children. There is no one way to raise ALL of my children. It is hard and exhausting at times. But I know I can leave my children with someone and they will not only behave respectfully, but will be helpful and considerate. This has been, I believe a direct result of empowering my children to self-discipline. Once Jackson learned that he can have all the power if he chooses to discipline himself instead of requiring me to do it, things began to change. My children aren’t silent, they aren’t always compliant, but they are movers and shakers. They will ask WHY does it have to be that way? They want to know and understand. They are thinkers. They don’t believe something just because it is what they are told. As Jackson said, “I want to grow up to be like Ben Franklin, minus all the women.”

  3. Posted March 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    I agree that every child is unique, but some “best practices” are probably universal, and that is the sort of idea addressed in this title. Like anything else, it isn’t a strict formula for producing perfect children; rather there are principles with some practical application examples to consider.

    Sam, I love the B. Franklin aspiration, esp. with the caveat! 🙂

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