Strolling down the high street in La Petite Paris (pre-invasion of French bankers also known as Marylebone), I found myself magically drawn to the window display of Daunt Books. From red and white gingham backgrounds, it shouted at me in black letters:
‘French Children Don’t Throw Food’
Now, that’s a statement. We know already that French Women Don’t Get Fat, that they are better in bed and that they manage to cook up a feast even after a full day of work. But better at child rearing?
I bought the book and inhaled it within a few sessions. The author, Pamela Druckerman, is an American who is married to a Brit in Paris. When she had her first daughter and little later twin boys, she came to realise that French mothers do a lot of things differently. And sometimes better. So she set out to discover why French children patiently wait for their food, sagely say bonjour and au revoir even to strangers and why six-week-old babies that sleep through the night are the norm, not the exception.
Druckerman is observing la vie en français with a lot of witty humour and manages to wrap up her research back-upped findings in chatty prose. It’s an easy read with a good handful of parenting ideas – not so much a manual with a strict schedule to follow. It is ripe with stereotypes… the French, the British, the Americans… But sympathetically, she doesn’t stop short at her own pigeonhole, scrutinising what she has been given on her way by her own mother.
I didn’t share her view on the lacking of smacking and shouting in the French education, but maybe things are done differently in Paris. Either that, or the cardboard walls of our vacation residence in the South of France offer me an insight into French parenting that has so far been withheld from Druckerman.
But apart from that, a really uplifting and reassuring read for all those parents that don’t accept broccoli stained wallpapers and toy-flooded living rooms.