Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bringing Up Bebe - Pamela Druckerman

One of the quickest lessons I learned as a new parent was that no one knows my child better than I do, and while I listen to advice and ask questions of others about how they raise their children quite often, in the end, I have (to this point) followed my instincts with my son and things seem to be going ok.  In doing this, I have contradicted many of the absolutes I was sure of before I had a child.  I never thought I'd be the kind of parents to share a bed with my child, or carry him around for hours on end, or do many of the things that are associated with attachment parenting.  But, after only a few days of life, it became clear that these methods were what worked the best for my son (and for me). As a result, it took a long time for my son to sleep through the night (he still doesn't always do it), but he is not a picky eater and he is sometimes well behaved and other times defiant.  I am indulgent and I am strict, but hopefully in a way that is predictable and consistent.  That being said, I am always open to how other people do things - so when I heard about this book, I thought I'd check it out.  Bringing Up Bebe is written by an American mother living in Paris.  While her child exhibits many of the "American" ways of waking up often, snacking throughout the day, throwing tantrums, the author marvels at how well behaved the French children seem to be - sleeping through the night after only a couple weeks, eating in 5-star restaurants with the patience of a Buddhist monk, and in general being the angels to the American child's devil.  While American parents are stereotyped throughout this book as overbearing hoverers who martyr themselves for their children, the French are praised for their ability to hang on to their identities as people, while still enjoying their role as parents.  I am hesitant to buy into any system that people claim works for "all" children - but I did think there was much about this book that could be applied to my own parenting style.  I liked the chapter about French women working outside the home - and the value that gave to their relationships with their husbands.  I didn't like that there seemed to be a definite expectation that men did not participate as fully in the lives of their children as the mothers.  I liked the idea of couples focusing on their relationship, but not sure that would (for me) include shipping my three-year old child off to camp for weeks at a time in the summer.  So, as with all advice, I pick and choose the things that I like and think would work for my child.  I do like any "system" that advocates not being a martyr and retaining one's own identity while still being an active parent.  But, again, I think that all children are different and while they probably all need consistency and boundaries, some of the methods advocated in this book seemed too harsh for my tastes.  Druckerman is, at times, too hard on herself - and her children - any parent who thinks this much about the best way to raise her children is probably doing a great job - but in the end if seems like she finds the right American/French balance, and is doing just fine raising her bebes.  And we'll see which of these methods that I haven't chosen for my first-born will in fact find be perfectly suitable for the next ones that come along.

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