Last weekend I read a fun book called French Twist: An American Mom’s Experiment In Parisian Parenting by Catherine Crawford. I happen to love all things French and have been dying to visit France for ages. Unfortunately I just can’t get away right now, so I try to soothe my longings by reading about Americans finding love in France, building homes in France, and parenting the French way. As it turns out, the “French” way of parenting is pretty close to what I like to call “commonsense parenting” aka: how my parents raised me. There is none of this “attachment parenting” mumbo-jumbo, no helicopter parents, and no tiger moms. It is just letting kids be kids and letting parents be parents, not kid’s friends.
One of my favorite aspects of French parenting is the focus on the art of food and eating. According to the book, French school kid’s lunches are a worldwide treasure or something. I mean these kids are having five course meals every day at school! And we aren’t talking pizza and fries, we are talking pate, lentils, cucumber salad, and even stinky cheese! As the mother of two boys ages 8 and 10, I have started to train my children in the art of food. I now have them help me with dinner by slicing veggies for the salad, or making a marinade. I used to put food on their plates but now I serve everything family style so they can take as much or as little as they like. The one rule is they have to try at least one bit of everything, and if there is something they don’t like they must either keep quiet about it or say, “It’s not to my taste”. Once the baby is old enough she too will help with dinner.
Another French parenting trait is quoted in the book as, “If there is no blood, don’t get up”. It turns out my mom used to say the same thing to me and my siblings when we were fighting only it came out as “Is anyone bleeding? No? Then figure it out yourselves”. I can’t say this worked well for me when my boys were under 5, but once they were in school it suited me just fine. I live in helicopter parenting central, where every childhood squabble is “solved” by parents, which ends up teaching the kids nothing about working things out for themselves. This is one of the many reasons I have time to do so many things I enjoy- because I am not spending my time solving my children’s petty arguments. Maybe that is why French parents look so relaxed and are able to wear skirts to the playground- they aren’t always jumping up to solve their kid’s problems! Ha!
One of my favorite parts of the book is a minor diatribe on children’s birthday parties. Around where I live they are out of control! There are jumping castles and clowns, and hired snow cone makers and cotton candy machines, and that is all for one five year old! And I remember one of my son’s getting a huge toy truck as the party favor! Now I happen to live in an area with a lot of Mattel toy executives, but still! Just because you can give everyone a huge truck or Barbie as a favor doesn’t mean you should! I am a big believer of having a family dinner or a small group of friends over for cake and running around for an hour and no party favors. I suppose that makes me a “mean ” mommy, but I am ok with that title if it means my kids don’t grow up expecting to be rewarded for going to a party!
As you can see I have pretty strong opinions on how I parent. That isn’t to say how I parent is the best way, or that other parents are “wrong”. It just means I have found a way of parenting that works for me and apparently it is French. How very chic! So if you are a parent, especially if your kids are a little older- say above 5, then I highly recommend this book to you. It is a great read and you might realize your kids are more resilient than you think. At the very least it will make you want to eat a baguette and drink a glass of wine!