Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Élever mes bébés

I recently wrote a post about the book Bringing Up Bebe here. I put myself on the list at the library, as there are apparently quite a few American Mamas interested in how the French are doing things. My copy came in a few days ago and I started reading... and haven't put it down.

The writing is good- just enough self deprecation from the author to make the experiences seem real and just enough skepticism about Parisians to make it endearing. She admits her hesitations, her failures, and her successes on the road of intercultural Motherhood. I got the sense that if I ran into her in some cafe we could sit and have a coffee and get along.

It is the first book on parenting that hasn't made me want to punch the author in the throat. Unlike another book I foolishly purchased two weeks ago because it was recommended on a blog I read... the first chapter was all about the metaphor of God chipping away at a piece of marble to "release" the beautiful sculpture underneath. I get it, I appreciate it.... but I don't need more metaphor in my life. I need 3 bullet points, preferably all starting with the same letter, a few minutes of direct application or "what to do" and a coffee and donut hour afterwords would be great.

The chapter I am reading right now is about the "awakening" of childhood. The first three years of life, French parents believe the child is just taking it all in. Discovering the world, experiencing different things, absorbing colors and tastes and smells. The author talks about signing her 18 month old daughter up for swimming lessons and the first two classes, watching the parents just let their children splash and jump and play. She was expecting some different strokes and actual swimming- the instructor chided her that children at this age just need to experience the water in order to prevent any fears and to instill confidence. Then, when they are ready for more, the strokes are just an extension of moving through the water. Thus, most French children are great swimmers and parents aren't standing at the side of the pool trying to encourage their tot dressed in arm floaties and inner tubes to "trust me!".

She talks about not really knowing what to do with the permission not to meet some developmental marker. She says parents in France don't really sit around and talk about when their child started talking or sitting up or reading. They are more concerned with this idea of awakening- discovery, exploration, soaking it all up. This lasts until around 3 when all French children start pre-K.

I thought about Library Moms and wondered what would happen if I hit the downtown library this morning and did not hover over Pursy while she played at the train table. If I didn't give her a speech about sharing when she swiped a train or if I ignored the stink eye after she accidentally tripped over the tot lying on the floor reading his Little Einstein book. What would happen if I just let her play? For those of you who have never experienced the Library Moms, they are a tough crowd. There is a lot of pressure to have the child who somehow has magically mastered the art of sharing at age 2, or at least you as a Mom are RIGHT THERE the moment they upset another child to explain the rules of the universe.

One of the ways that French parents encourage their children to awaken is by cooking together. As the author says, not just to occasionally stir some flour and sugar together while wearing a neck to ankle apron but actually cracking eggs, measuring vanilla and frosting cupcakes. So I followed their suggestion and Pursy and I made a raspberry cake together yesterday. C'était très amusant.

Best part of baking...

See these blackberries?...

Mood Shot

Adding the Berries

One for the Cake... one for Me...

P's version of the "thumbs up"

Our Buttermilk Blackberry cake

I made a CAAAAAKE!!


  1. Gosh, it sounds like I'm not even well behaved enough for the library moms. :) Baking is more fun anyway.

    1. Jules- I alternate between desperately wanting them to like me and hoping for their disapproval. Last week one of the Moms took a toy out of Pursy's hand because her kid wanted it. Haha. I should have told Pursy to ask her to share... :)