31 May 2012

Review: Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

I read about this book over at Janssen's back in February, and I put it in my mental list of books to read. (Yes, I'm on GoodReads, but mostly I just use it to document what I've read rather than to find new books to read. I find new books by perusing the available audiobooks on the library's website. I haven't stepped in a library in months. I have a sad life. And I'm only about 200 pages away from being finished with Truman, so maybe I'll go back to the library again when I finally finish it.)

In short, this book is about an American woman who raises a few kids in Paris. While she's there she realizes that French parents do things a lot differently than we do. Her book is not really a parenting manual but instead just a series of observations about what works and doesn't work between the two societies.

I loved this book so much. I just could not stop talking about it. (Show of hands if you have talked to me in real life and I have blabbed endlessly about this book. Exactly my point.)

There were a number of things about the French parenting model that I could never see working in the States, mostly because our societies are just too different. (Nearly-universal daycare and preschool being the main one.) But there were just so many things where I thought, "Wait a second. Aren't most Americans already doing that? Why not? Americans are dumb!) I think that is because I have quite a hands-off approach to parenting. (Which is probably why my child has fallen down at least three different sets of stairs and fell out of a windowsill and broke his arm. In America I am negligent. In France, I am letting him explore and learn for himself.)

My main takeaway from this book was about how French parents get their kids to eat everything. Ike's a decent eater, but he definitely prefers breads to anything else. Now, I offer him vegetables first, then fruits, then some kind of bread. If he's really hungry, he'll eat the first thing he has and get some nutrients before I give him the stuff he naturally prefers.

Also, we aren't doing snacks anymore. And you know what? He actually eats his food at meals. Because he's hungry. Because he hasn't been snacking all day. I've also begun to notice how horribly pervasive our feed-the-toddlers-constantly parenting is. When I traveled with Ike to Sacramento people's natural instinct when he was bored was to give him a snack. Yep, that will work to pacify him, but at what cost? I don't want him to grow up seeking food as an outlet for his boredom. (Oh, hello American obesity epidemic! Now that you mention it, this blog post is boring. Go get a brownie.)

As to what to do at church, I'm not sure. When we are surrounded with families who are having snacks all during sacrament meeting, it's really hard to not give a snack to our kid. In fact, when he sees other children eating (especially because they are usually eating fruit snacks (which I refer to as gummy bears shaped as fruit)), he turns to us and asks us for food. If we don't have the food, he goes to the other families and asks them. That is the real drawback. If we don't provide our child with food, he'll demand it from other parents. It's a little embarrassing, so we usually just come stocked with an arsenal of snacks. Last week we attended a 9 o'clock church service. (Recall that our ward normally meets at 1.) I figured we were in the clear because, hey, it's 9 o'clock. Kids don't need a snack at 9! Au contraire! Snacks, snacks, everywhere! (And this wasn't even a very young congregation. Imagine ours next year where nearly every single row has at least one child under 4.)

This book review turned into a tirade against snacks in church. Sorry about that. Read the book. Be amused. Roll your eyes at the French. Crave good cheese. Determine not to have a whiny, tantrum-throwing, demanding child.


Jenn said...

I read this book recently and agree that the biggest takeaway for me was the no-snacks policy. I definitely notice that on days Libby doesn't snack, she does eat her meals better. BUT, I have a hard time denying her snacks when I'm hungry and snacking myself! Even when I'm not pregnant, I get woozy if I don't snack a little between meals and I can't help but sympathize with Libby when she goes to the fridge and begs to "eat! eat!" That said, I recognize that snacks, when given, should be given as nutrition, not as distractions or boredom-relievers. Unless you're on a plane. Then shove food into that child's mouth to keep them quiet.

Janssen said...

So happy you liked this book!

We don't struggle with church snacking (we happen to sit by people who don't snack), but the library time snacks? Makes me crazy.

Erin Gong said...

I'm on the fence about snacks. I get hungry frequently through the day, and grazing helps me maintain a good energy level. I can't help but think the same is true for kids. I think it's more about making good choices about what you eat and less about when you eat. So if my kids want to eat yogurt and green peppers at 3pm and then don't eat a lot at dinner, I'm okay with that.

I do think that I fall too easily in the habit of offering snacks for boredom, behavior, or bribery. Probably something I should think about changing.

Jana said...

You would hate sitting by us in church. We have church at 1pm, so we usually eat a late-ish breakfast around ten and then I purposefully deny my children lunch so that string cheese and peanut butter crackers and fruit snacks keep them occupied during sacrament meeting. Works like a charm, albeit an apparently detrimental-to-their-health-and-general-well-being one :).