In the wake of the Tiger Mother‘s monstrous success, it would seem there’s yet another twisting of the knife for anxious American parents: Bringing up Bebe. This book, written by an American woman raising her son in France, outlines the relaxed but authoritative approach French parents take to raising their children, and how the Parisian parent and child are both happier for it. No Mandarin tutors or math drills here; French parents sip coffee and socialize while their toddlers peacefully “discover the world at their own pace.” But when it’s time to sleep through the night or eat highbrow food (no dino nuggets, Mme.?), their children are expected to behave like adults. French children, according to the author, are generally polite (they are taught to make eye contact with and greet adults), quiet, and able to entertain themselves amongst adults, knowing that Mom is nearby–but not hovering over–them. Unlike their helicopter-parenting American counterparts, French mothers maintain their own identities as women, adults, and professionals, rather than molding every corner of their lives around their children.
So it would seem, based on the polarity of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Bringing up Bebe, that we mothers are confronted with the merits of overparenting and underparenting. And as I take a good look around, it would seem that my own mothering has failed on both counts. I’m not demanding enough to be a Tiger Mother, but I’m far too high-strung to be Poodle Mom. It would seem that I am about as typical an overworrying, overindulgent, overthinking, underdisciplining American Mom as they come. Oopsie.
I have not read Bringing up Bebe, but I have to admit that I probably will. For all the controversy around Tiger Mother it was, in the end, a terrific read and I’m guessing Bebe will be, too. The funny thing is this: I’m really not jealous of the fabulous children these women raise; fabulous children I have. It’s these women’s fabulous lives that I covet. I want to live in Paris, hang out in bistros, and then write a bestseller about it. Then I want to live in New Haven, teach law at Yale, vacation around the globe, and write a bestseller about that, too. Oh, and if I could produce flawlessly manicured children along the way–you know, just to succeed in that little area–perhaps I’d write about that, too. And dang if I wouldn’t be stylish, thin and pretty while doing it all. I’d look good while making you look bad. (That’s what we good mothers do best.)
So with all this wistfulness raging through me, I’m thinking it’s time to put up or shut up. Therefore, I’ve decided to write a memoir of my own, based on my own dramatic parenting journey. I’ll give it a snappy title, something like: Bringing Up Brattie: Why American Mothers are Less Successful but Much Cooler than Foreign Ones. I’ll fill the book with warm and witty anecdotes pulled from my real-life experiences, such as:
- How, during the long, dark toddler years, our Wii saved my life and my marriage.
- How the fact that my seven-year old son avoids eye contact with, and refuses to speak to, adults is a good thing. (No, really. For everybody.)
- How devastated our family was when McDonald’s quite supersizing anything. It was supposed to make our nation skinnier, but all it meant for me was that I could no longer order a ten-piece nugget and extra-large drink to feed three kids for under six bucks. (And thank you, Costco hot dogs, for filling in the gap.)
- How building an identity solely around my children excuses me from a lot of housework, personal grooming, and, of course, writing bestsellers.
- How, as American mothers, we must sanctimoniously give up our lives for our children because, really: what else would we blog about?