Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bebe Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting (And Why Every Parent Should Read Them)

"Hi, is this Jenny?"


"This is Pamela Druckerman. I'm so sorry to do this to you, but my schedule got shuffled around and I was wondering if we could move our interview up a bit."


"Sure, no problem. What time were you thinking?"

" you think you could be at my hotel in fifteen minutes?"

And that is how I ended up meeting one of my favorite authors in an absolutely embarrassing state of dishevelment (dirty hair, ancient Levis tucked into UGG boots, my ratty Boston University sweatshirt), without my carefully prepared list of fan-girl interview questions or so much as a pencil to record our conversation. There may have even been a Cheerio or two stuck to the leg of my jeans. Basically, I looked like the poster mom for the messy, confused, overwhelmed American parenting style Pamela's books are trying to teach all of us to ditch for good.

I bummed a scratch pad and a pen from the guy at the car rental kiosk in the lobby and prayed Pamela had retained at least a little bit of her American-ness after so many years living what I could  only imagine was a Paris-fabulous life. Which did not include UGG boots.

Photo credit: Benjamin Barda
If flying in from Paris on a whirlwind US book tour for Bebe Day by Day had left Pamela jet-lagged, overwhelmed or cranky, she didn't show it. Slim and dainty, with cropped Parisian hair and clad head to toe in sophisticated Parisian black, she looked exactly as I'd pictured her. I became instantly tongue-tied, tripping over apologies about my hair, my clothes, my unprofessional note-taking set up. But however French Pamela may have become in her years as an American in Paris, she still retains every bit of her down-to-earth, self-deprecating US-bred humility. She couldn't have been lovelier or more gracious as SHE apologized to ME a hundred times, bought me a cup of coffee, and spent the next half hour answering my questions, asking many of her own, and letting me drool all over her marked-up author's copy of Bebe Day by Day (she was on her way to a reading.)

Pamela Druckerman is the author of Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. I'd read practically every parenting book out there before I stumbled across Bringing Up Bebe. Both a memoir and an in-depth exploration of French parenting (and, by contrast, American parenting, too) Bringing up Bebe spoke to me on the deepest, truest level. Finally, there was a parenting book that was less about rules for "training" your children to do what you wanted, and more about listening to your instincts in order to raise children you both love...and love to be with. With her newest book, Bebe Day by Day, Pamela brings her Parisian-learned parenting wisdom to the sleep-deprived, too-busy-to-shower masses in an accessible, just-hit-the-high-points Cliffs Notes kind of way. It's the perfect tool for busy parents with limited time on their hands. Bebe Day by Day's 100 simple "keys" deliver all the brilliance of Bringing Up Bebe without a single lesson getting lost in translation.

The key principles Pamela discusses in Bebe Day by Day aren't groundbreaking, outlandish or elaborate. They are simple and concrete...and many of them are firmly rooted in good old-fashioned common sense. Some of my favorites:

On Eating: 
28. Don't Solve a Crisis with a Cookie
41. Dinner Shouldn't Involve Hand-to-Hand Combat

On Responding: 
60. View Coping With Frustration as a Crucial Life Skill

On Identity:
74. Guilt is a Trap

On Appearance:
78. Don't Dress Like a Mom (hence my anxiety about my UGG-sweatshirt combo. Although, in hindsight, that might have been more "unemployed college student" than standard suburban mom gear, but still...)

On Relationships:
81. Your Baby Doesn't Replace Your Husband

On Discipline:
91. Say "No" With Conviction
93. Explain the Reason Behind the Rule

Almost every single one of Pamela's 100 keys had me nodding my head in agreement (and highlighting like crazy.) Never before has a book aimed at teaching me how to be a better mom actually inspired me with the confidence to do just that.

What should American parents know about French parenting? Most importantly, Pamela says, "Slow down your response time. Too many parents become valets for their children. Wait a minute. Empower them to take more responsibility."

Pamela is a big believer in the French "pause"...waiting just a moment before reacting to a child's requests. A relationship based on mutual respect is a big part of successful parenting and enjoyable family life, Pamela says.

"Sit down and breathe, "she told me when I asked her what I could do to bring more of that French calm into our daily chaos. "Don't let your kids interrupt you, and don't interrupt them. Gradually teach them patience by being patient yourself." Pamela admitted this one of the hardest lesson she herself had to learn when she had children.

Being a family is about adapting to each others' needs, and to acknowledging each family member's role as both an individual, and as part of a whole. "Even when they are babies, we can start showing our kids we expect them to adapt to the rhythm of the family."

Bebe Day by Day is a step-by-step guide to being exactly the kind of parent I want to be: firm, calm, respectful, in control...and HAPPY. Too many moms out there today spend too much time complaining about what a frustrating disaster raising children is. And maybe our "American" parenting style of over-indulging, over-stimulating and over-praising our kids is the true cause of such widespread dissatisfaction. If being a French-style mom means raising respectful, confident and flexible children, loving the time I spend with my family and feeling confident in my abilities as a parent without sacrificing my identity as a woman or a wife, I say...Oui, merci!

For more information on Pamela Druckerman and Bebe Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting, visit her website or click here to buy the book!

Disclosure: I was provided a review copy of Bebe Day by Day from the publisher free of charge. I would have gladly bought it myself and have gifted countless copies to friends. All opinions are my own; I love love love this book and can't recommend it more. If you have kids, check it out! You won't be sorry :)

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