Pamela Druckerman entered my life at just the right time. Let me explain why.
I’ve reached a new all-time low in knowing how to manage the toddler. He has entered a stage of outright rebellion, whether it’s a raging tantrum about not being allowed to have a quilt in his bed on a hot summer night or completely ignoring whatever I have to say. I take pride in considering myself a strict parent, but enforcing the rules are becoming a truly exhausting job.
When I got Druckerman’s book “Bringing Up Bébé” out of the library, I was expecting an entertaining read. (I blogged about an article in the Wall Street Journal that reviewed her book back in the winter.) Instead, within the first few pages, I found validation and encouragement.
Druckerman is an American mom living in Paris. She writes about the differences between American and French parenting styles. Of course there are many, none of which can be deemed ‘correct,’ but the one that jumps out at me is the American “child-king” approach, in which everything revolves around the kids, and the French approach where kids are expected to submit fully to parents’ authority.
As I read, I realized that certain aspects of Canadian/American parenting that absolutely drive me nuts are, in fact, unique to this area of the world. I could very easily move to France.
For instance, I hate snack time. My kids eat a lot at mealtime and very little in between. When we go to play group and my son gets stuffed to the gills with a gigantic snack at 11 a.m., he never eats his lunch. No wonder North Americans have so many weight problems if we’re programmed to eat all the time as kids.
Also frustrating is the expectation that buying into mini van culture is inevitable. My husband’s coworkers are always saying, “Just wait and see! You’ll need it to drive your kids and their friends to hockey practice.” #1 – I won’t be a maman-taxi, the derogatory term that Druckerman encounters in Paris, and #2 – My kids won’t be playing competitive hockey for a number of reasons unrelated to mini vans. So, problem solved, and stop telling me otherwise.
I agree with the French approach of giving kids more free time and fewer extra-curricular activities. I grew up with one music lesson a week, and that was it. The rest of the time I played. Not only is it healthy for the kid, it’s even healthier for the parent. One French mom describes feeling “constrained” by driving her kids around and waiting for all their practices; she has better things to do with her time.
I intend to enjoy these child-raising years wholeheartedly, and that requires a lot of limits and structure to make it enjoyable for everyone. “Bringing Up Bébé” has given me renewed strength to enforce the rules at home and create that happy, relaxed atmosphere that one has when a child knows his limits, respects them, and the parents are not stressed out.