Pamela Druckerman is an American journalist married to an Englishman. They are living in Paris, both writing books, when they have their first child.
This is the mother’s story of what she learns from French families, where she finds the children sleep all night, eat regular healthy meals and the parents remain relaxed. Druckerman has a funny, honest way of describing all this, which makes for a very amusing book, made funnier when her twin boys arrive.
She watches the French mothers set out a “cadre”, or framework, within which the children must be obedient to certain rules, but after that are free to play as they like, making up their own games without supervision. At meal times great attention is given to regular four meals a day, with the grown-ups, and including a four-o’clock afternoon snack. Apart from that there is no snacking during the day, unlike American families. The result, Druckerman notes, is no obese children in France, unlike her own country. This also meant much more fresh vegetables and fruit and less pasta and hotdogs.
At the “creche”, which is state-funded, the children had the same system of basic obedience but also much free time to explore on their own. When the children did join their parents, they did not grab all the attention but allowed parents and their friends to continue their conversations uninterrupted.
Druckerman shares her efforts at learning to say “non”, and the book gives a fascinating picture of the two cultures, French and American. It may be a bit repetitive – but what book on Bringing up Bebe could not be?
Review by Anne McDougall