Les Enfants Fantastiques!
This week, I got the chance to read Bébé Day by Day, the follow-up to Pamela Druckerman’s bestselling Bringing Up Bébé. My verdict: Vive la French parenting!
They say that those who fight the hardest are those who are the most alike, so perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised me that when it comes to parenting, the English and the French have quite a bit in common.
It took Pamela Druckerman, an American journalist and mother, to show me as much. Druckerman’s keen observations about the differences between European and American parenting styles were spot-on, and her writing style in Bringing Up Bébé was fun, flirty and accessible, rather than preachy or judgmental.
For parents interested in the ideas behind Bringing Up Bébé who couldn’t find time to read it all the way through, Day by Day is perfect. It’s divided into short chapters based on bite-sized parenting “keys” — a less laissez-faire author would have called them “rules” — designed to be picked up and read in spare moments.
I’ll admit: Not all of Druckerman’s keys appealed to my English sensibilities, but the majority of them did. Here’s my English take on some of her most interesting arguments:
• #11: Observe Your Baby
This one is fantastic, and so important. New parents often assume that when a baby moves around, makes noise or fusses, he needs something. But a lot of the time, babies are just experimenting, not asking for help. The only way to know what a baby is trying to convey — and be sure you’re not projecting a need onto him — is to actively watch him and learn which cry means “wet diaper” and which means “I like making this interesting noise!”
One of my favorite things to do with a baby this time of year is take him outside with a blanket and a book. I can watch him spend a half hour or so rolling around, and catch up on weekend reading while he’s engrossed in playing with grass or looking at rocks. Everyone gets some calm downtime, and you get the chance to watch and listen to your baby away from the toys and TV.
In fact, I would pair #11 with #20, Do the Pause, which advises parents to wait and listen when a sleeping baby starts to fuss or cry. Just like adults, children cycle through sleep phases, and scooping her up between cycles or during a light phase can interrupt her cycle and teach her to expect you to come in rather than learn to soothe herself.
• Chapter 4: Bébé Gourmet
I nearly laughed aloud at the entire food chapter, because I associate so many of these “French” recommendations with my very, very English mother and her compatriots. In fact, Druckerman arrived at many of the same conclusions I covered in my last article: serving vegetables as a first course, establishing a dinner table culture that embraces new foods, involving kids in cooking and rejecting separate “kid food.” Food and table manners may be where Americans have veered furthest from old-fashioned common sense, and where English and French parents find themselves most emphatically aligned.
To read my full review, follow this link to the original post on the Huff Post Parents blog.