I’m reading this great book right now titled Bringing Up Bebe. It is written by an American woman (Pamela Druckerman) who finds herself living in Paris after she marries a British guy. When I mean living in Paris, I mean long-term. Like she gets pregnant and has her babies there and her kids are being raised there and all that good stuff. She wrote the book because after she had a baby she noticed that American babies and children seemed to be vastly different from French children of the same age. She started investigating why this happens and ended up with this book.
I’m loving this book for many reasons, which is odd because normally parenting books make me want to gag up my lunch or sit in a corner and rock. Or they make me want to take a nap because they bore me to death. I guess my reading selections basically come down to the fact that I trust my instincts and I pretty much don’t care what anyone else has to say about child-rearing.
But this book is more like a fun story of this girl’s experiences in a different country, and at the same time it’s fascinating to learn about the French and the cultural norms in how they raise their kids. I like it because I find myself nodding in agreement with most of their ideas. I don’t care if they’re snobs; I SHOULD BE FRENCH.
The French have the right ideas when it comes to children and balancing life/adulthood. They firmly believe that even though we have kids, we are also adults with our own interests and professions and social needs. So unlike the American moms who become 99% consumed with cloth diapers and organic foods and soccer practice and ballet and tutoring and the Wiggles and early literacy and who run around in sloppy sweatpants for fifteen years, French women believe that you have to strike a balance between parenting your kids with lots of enthusiasm and love and still finding time to pursue your adult interests and career while wearing something flattering and sexy. Of course.
THIS MAKES SENSE TO ME.
I’m not saying that I wear a frigging pencil skirt and heels every day, but I generally try to make an effort to dress like an individual. An individual who cares and who thinks that clothes are a reflection of how I feel and who I am. Plus, I have a beret. And I am full of contradictions, because I’m sitting here typing these words in stinky pajama bottoms. SO THERE.
I would like to think that some of these Frenchie practices are things I do with my kids anyway. I try to teach my children to look adults in the eye and say “hello” and “goodbye”. I try to teach my children to
not scream wait while I am having a short phone conversation. Other concepts I’ve been reading about I would like to work on a little more so that my children grow up being fairly polite, aware of others, patient, comfortable entertaining themselves, and able to deal with the fact that sometimes life and people are frustrating and ambiguous.
After reading half this book, I like to imagine the French approach pregnancy this way:
I’m kidding, I guess. I doubt the average French woman even knows what a 16-ounce PBR is; I know from the book that most quit smoking or that they only smoke one cigarette a month while pregnant. Many American women will start clucking instantly about the cigarette thing, but hey, I’m not gonna judge. The French have way better statistics than the United States regarding healthy moms, babies, and birthing. And this conversation sort of reminds me of when my husband asked me in a very concerned and paternalistic way if it was OK that I was drinking an average of two Coca-Colas a day during my miserable pregnancy with Sloan. I shot him a death glare and hissed that it could be much worse. I COULD BE SMOKING CRACK, BUSTER. He didn’t say anything about the Coca-Cola habit again.
When it comes down to it, neither the French or I like being told what to do.
I’ve also decided from reading Bringing up Bebe that I’m going to teach my children the phrase “caca boudin“, pronounced kaka boo-dah in English. This is their equivalent of a children’s swear word in France. Correct me if I’m wrong, but American kids don’t have their own special swear word. This doesn’t seem fair. All the children in France learn caca boudin in the (amazing) state-run preschools and they use it for many reasons – to express dislike of something they are supposed to do or eat, to show pleasure about something gross, or they say it laughingly while chasing their friends.
The translation of “caca boudin” is roughly “poop sausage” or “shit pudding”. The words “shit pudding” alone make me laugh. That is some FUNNY SHIT. I suppose if you don’t think kids should know about poop, doo doo, or shit, then you wouldn’t want to teach them this phrase. But I think it’s pretty cute. It’s something that kids can feel is their own catchphrase. I think we should adopt this or perhaps something more American for our kids to scream at each other.
So when they’re feeling like this -
or this -
my kids can now get all Frenchie and make exclamations about poop sausage.
This new swear word might work in my favor in other ways, too. Just last week at the family wedding in Texas, my 7-year old son walked into the reception – which was held at a winery – and after taking one look at the huge wooden vats of wine lining the walls, he said,
“That’s a SHITLOAD of root beer!!”
I didn’t hear this myself, but my uncle and grandmother told me they both heard it. I got the impression Beatty was saying it more to himself than them. I ignored their raised eyebrows because I thought it was pretty funny.
I suppose that a seven-year old should not be shouting “shitload“, but in this case I will have to excuse the cursing. Because at least he wasn’t calling a person a shithead and at least he wasn’t insulting the food by saying it tasted like shit. He was swearing out of awe and excitement, and that’s strangely OK to me. I choose my battles, you see, and in this instance the swearing seems to be very socially appropriate. If I teach my kids how to say “caca boudin“, it will be even less important because no one else will understand what they’re saying and they can’t get all judgemental on me.
They will think my kids are just cute and cultured.
Note to self: pull out the child-sized berets.