Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bringing up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman

When Ms. Druckerman moved across the pond with her husband, she was a bride, her heart set on beginning a family. "Bringing Up Bebe" begins here, with Druckerman ambivalently navigating foreign soil and infertility treatments. Luckily, children were in the cards, and it wasn't long before the we see the author, still living Paris, raising two small children.

A journalist, Druckerman couldn't help but notice subtle, yet pervasive, differences between American-style parenting and the way French parents relate to their charges. While the overriding sentiment behind much of American parenting seems to be anxiety, the French--perhaps due, in part, to the availability of subsidized childcare--take a more relaxed approach. Druckerman writes about the Pause, the French way of waiting for a moment or two before responding to a child's cries. Using this simple, common sense technique allows for the possibility of self-regulation by the child. But whether discussing sleeping through the night or dining with children in restaurants, Druckerman purports that the French are better at communicating that they have clear expectations for their children. When teaching them how to behave, the French don't flinch in the face of tantrums. When a child shows his or her unhappiness, the French don't rush to make the child happy, but react with restraint.

A book like this can't help but paint parents on either side of the Atlantic with broad strokes---how else to make its point? Druckerman's stereotypes didn't bother me. After all, I WAS the stereotypical nervous mother. What did become wearying was the extent to which the author paraded her roster of experts, the myriad doctors and caregivers whose proclamations supported her thesis. Still, "Bringing Up Bebe" is a fun, thought provoking read that won't keep you from sleeping through the night.

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