Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Minutes before another presidential debate, I find myself lost in metaphysical ruminations. (Okay, maybe not, but I wanted to try that phrase out.)

I've been reading "Bringing up Bebe" by Pamela Druckerman. Aside: does anyone else find it hard to say the title out loud without feeling completely self-conscious of trying to pronounce "bebe"? It's basically a book that compares American parenting culture with French parenting culture and, surprisingly, finds American-style woefully misguided. There's a lot about the book that rubs me wrong, but I do agree with many of the parenting principles addressed. For example, pausing for a few minutes when a baby starts to cry instead of jumping immediately to intervene. Or feeding children on a routine (and diet) similar to adults, almost from the beginning. And establishing firm limits but allowing children free exploration and discovery within those limits.

But there's a contradiction throughout the book. The author talks about how American parents read and develop an arsenal of parenting theories, intensively try to implement them to accelerate kids' growth and potential, and then suffer from "mom guilt" when we and our children don't live up to expectation.

And yet, while reading this book, I am tempted to do exactly that. To read about theories or principles of French parenting, and immediately decide that I have being doing the wrong thing and need to change, to make our family better.

In some ways, I don't think that's a bad thing. I would hate to think that what I know and do now is the best I can ever know and do. I don't ever want to stop growing. Ideas - from books, from conversations, from quiet reflection - are good to chase after, to evaluate, to allow to change who we are.

At the same time, I like the idea of taking a stand on who I am, what I value, and what I do. To be comfortable with what I am right now. To relax and savor a moment, without worrying about improvement.

So when do you accept a good idea because it will change your life?
And when do you reject even a good idea because it complicates life?


Megan said...

I recently finished that book and it was definitely not my favorite. I find it tiresome when people accuse Americans of being fat, lazy, and rowdy. I did like the discussion about "betises" and it has caused me to reflect on how I respond in different situations.

Erin Gong said...

That was my feeling, too - the comparison to American parenting was grossly generalized. Many of her examples of American parenting I thought were totally crazy and not what I see myself and friends doing. Of course, she was comparing to the semi-elite parenting culture in New York City.

Maybe they are fat, lazy and rowdy?