Thursday, March 01, 2012

Bringing Up Bebe

 Last night I heard Pamela Druckerman (author of my fav book, Bringing Up Bebe) talk at Barnes & Nobles. Pamela spent 3 years researching/writing her book while raising three children in Paris. She never expected all the controversy or enormous interest it's aroused. She thought perhaps only new moms or grandmothers would read it. In fact there is interest world-wide. A French edition will be coming out. The French want to know what their doing right!
 Reading BUB as an aunt/grand-aunt, there are many things I would do over given the chance. But mostly I find Pamela's book full of clues to what makes the French tick. My copy is a wreck of notes and yellow underlinings.
French enfants are nudged onto 4-X-a-day set feedings exactly when the whole family eats. Is it any wonder the French have low obesity (8%)?
8am-12noon-4:30 snack-8pm
That's it.
No snacking in between.
French children learn to wait for mealtime.
 Isn't 'La Formule' (entree+plat+dessert) served in French restaurants at noon a continuation of the 4-course lunches children eat at la creche?
  The French Paradox may be more about eating in moderation at set times than drinking wine.
 French enfants are given their first doudou at la creche. Is it any wonder they remain attached to stuffed animals? Where are the cashmere bears at Donna Karan's?
 Cashmere for him, for her and a giant panda too. Childish playfulness is ongoing for the French in my opinion.
 Everyone, young and old, loves nounours/chocolate marshmallow bears.
 Why is there no serious museum in NYC with ongoing + new toy exhibitions like Musee des arts Decoratifs?
 A French passion for the things of childhood (including La vache qui rie cheese).
 Creates an inherent playfulness in French culture as I see it. Spritz yourself in Bloomingdales with perfume and you'll be set upon by staff. In Printemps/Galeries Lafayette it's a free-for all. Spritz and play as much as you want. No one cares or expects you to buy.
 If you want to see French parenting in action take a stroll down rue Vavin, 75006 - a pedestrian street. Or read Pamela's book if France is not on your menu.
(Just two weeks to go!)
 I plan to eat a lot more fruit compote (merci Pamela) this time in Paris.
And less peche mignon(forbidden pleasures).
And only at set meal times! So that's my take away from Bringing Up Bebe.
I'd love to hear yours.


  1. One of the men who wrote a book about child rearing that I leaned heavily on when I was raising my little one- I'm pretty sure it was John Rosemond - was quoted in the paper saying the French principles are remarkably similar to the way Americans parented several decades ago. These days it is hard not to feel that the USA has lost its way in so many arenas.
    That's part of the reason I so look forward to your further travels and above all RESEARCH.

  2. Exactement Jeanette!
    My parents left my sister and myself to play on our own much of the time thankfully.
    Though I certainly wish I'd learned to wait, bake by myself and deal with frustration the French way.
    I'll be spending more time next trip in Paris' candy stores and in the park sailing my boat...

  3. I really enjoyed Bringing up Bebe and agree with Jeanette that we used to be raised in a similar fashion in the U.S. The big thing in the U.S. now is to constantly let kids snack. It's crazy! My mom never carried around prepackaged fish crackers and juice boxes....

  4. I'm reading this book currently and really love it! I wish we better food options and 'day care' with people who are highly trained! Wow. I quit my job to stay at home because we all know American day care can be rubbish. My 16 month old guy is in bed at 7:30pm, why do the French eat so late? If I carry a snack around for my son, it's fresh fruit or vegetables (he has four food allergies, so we can't eat meals out a lot... that's a good thing!) American kids do snack a lot and they're not healthy snacks!

  5. I just finished this book at your suggestion, Carol. Thank you!
    In addition to the French way of eating, I was struck at how French parents foster their children's independence from the beginning. They expect children to play by themselves at the playground, walk several paces in front or behind, and exhibit self control and discipline. American parents, on the other hand, constantly provide entertainment and over-protection!

  6. Anonymous10:25 AM

    You do know the only food from the supermarket.That is why most of your kids have is the same with our urban people here in Europe.the younger parents(my daughter's generation)searched the farmers directly and obtain their meat,eggs and vegetables from the farm fresh and without peticides.beside all of these they got new aquintances and their kids know what a pig a cow or a hen looks like.Dorka from Hungary

  7. WOW What interesting comments!
    It's true that the origins of food (farm animals) are more evident in Europe from my experience.
    I feel sad when I see kids walking in NYC clutching little bags of snacks.
    We are victimized by the big junk food producers IMHO
    Istephens: I too am always surprised to see children walking ahead or behind their parents, quite independently.
    They are both trusted and respected, something Druckerman emphasizes in her book.
    Eating at 8pm - I think perhaps French parents return later from work than we do. I know daycare is setup to last longer for working parents.

  8. I noticed that even French dogs are well-behaved. One morning in Avignon, I looked out our hotel window and saw a well-groomed (but, of course) woman and her two little dogs doing the lèche-vitrine. The little chiens waited patiently while their mistress was ready to move on. I think it's called discipline.

  9. I wonder if I'd get any tips for raising three cats from reading this book...

  10. Carol, I really love this post and your readers' comments are precious! Merci beaucoup,

  11. Thanks for your coverage of this book. I was so intrigued I am now reading it and almost finished. There are definitely things to learn for this grandma to be. I read to children one afternoon a week at my local elementary school and this week I used the "big eyes" on one of the students, my goodness but it worked, she settled right down.

  12. Wow,Carol..this is so interesting! and i'm also intrigued by the reactions this book arises. I'm French and live in southern Spain where kids are kings, which make me shriek at times. I have 2 sisters who live in Paris and Tours and have children. At the dinner table, my younger sister and husband could repeat 20 times to my 7 year old niece : "tiens-toi droite...tiens ton couteau comme ç parle pas la bouche pleine..." and so on (sit straight..hold your knife this way, don't speak with your mouth full) until she gets it right. And yes, dinner is at 8 no later. My elder sister has 3 children (all teenagers) and rules at home are strict : no food between meals and coca-cola is only allowed once a week ! I don't have children myself but i guess i would raise them the way my parents raised us...i know that strict discipline can be boring but it works...
    I think in France, no parents like to hear : "oh mais votre enfant est mal élevé" (oh but your kid has bad manners/is badly raised) it's a hint of poor parenting.

  13. Great photos, Carol. I like the toys in the museum & the stuffed animals.
    That book is really taking off - you can pick 'em!

  14. Nikon:
    I guess we both belong back in the playpen...

  15. I too have a secret desire to go sail a little ship in the park in Paris. So sail one for me while there will ya? :))

  16. Carol-

    Doesn't the Museum of the City of New York at 5th and 103rd have a permanent toy display?

    I think it does......

  17. MUST, must, must read this book. (And stop snacking at 2pm and 10pm.)

  18. Roseann:
    I meant to say ongoing and changing toy exhibitions.

  19. I had heard of Pamela and her book before! I must check this out. Btw, I finally got the chance to thank you in my last post! I was so grateful for all the new readers you brought me. I don't think I can do the same for you :) but I wanted to say thanks in any case!

    I have (a small) surgery coming up on Tuesday which is why I am looking for some new books to stock up on and read! Maybe I'll look for Pamela's this weekend.

  20. Thanks for sharing your interest in Bringing Up Bebe book!

  21. Having listened to Pamela Druckerman speak at the American Library in Paris, it was very interesting to read your post as well as the comments made by others.

    What was the reaction of the audience in Barnes & Noble? Did they mainly agree or disagree?

    Needless to say, Druckerman's book caused quite a stir in the expat community because not everyone agrees with her for a variety of reasons.

    As for me, I agree that the book provides important clues about French culture.

  22. The audience was completely positive I would say...
    There were quite a few mothers-to-be in the audience and some moms with miss-behaving kiddies :(
    Pamela was honest, self-effacing and surprised at the book's popularity.
    Personally, I find the book reveals much about my own upbringing both good and bad...

  23. Very interesting. I think 8:00 is too late for children in the U.S.By the time dinner is over, it's 9:00. They would be eating and going straight to bed. Then working mothers would have to clean up and it makes for a long day.There's good and bad parenting all over the world. I don't think any one nation has cornered the market on it. Jude

  24. Great post, Carol. I must get this book to see how we've been doing it. Too true: the non-snacking thing is paramount, although eating at 8pm is only coming into play now that my kids are 9 and 12 - before they ate separately at 7pm.
    There are many stereotyping issues here since we're seeing an alarming growth of even French kids who are becoming obese.
    On the doudou front, being given one at the creche is a new one. As parents we found something cutesy small and gave it to our babies, hoping they would latch on to them, rather than the giant panda. ;-)

  25. Eating at 7pm or 8pm...
    does it matter?
    The idea is the whole family eats together same table, same time is how I read it.
    In France they eat later.
    In Spain they eat at 10pm!!

  26. In 15 minutes I am going to have some Fresh chèvre on toasted baguette & salad with a glass of wine ,followed by a poached pear leftover from last night.
    everyone should have at least one doudou! and a dog or cat or other pet.
    Arkansas Art Center in LR has an annual Toys By Artists exhibit.

  27. All sounds good to me Carol......I'll give it a whirl! It will be difficult to say 'no' to those forbidden pleasures....but I'll pace myself.

  28. Anonymous6:13 PM

    I raised six children. I was from the new "old school" mindset. In some areas I was casual, and in other areas not so much. They turned out to be educated, skilled, well rounded adults.

    Adults need doudous as well. I have mine. They are called Bear, knitting, and sketchbook. Bear usually stays home; Knitty used to come along everywhere, but sometimes stays home; I always have a sketchbook with me. :-)


  29. I wonder whether the author mentions the allocation familiale? Do you know about it?
    If you're French, and you have two or more children under twenty years of age, you get:

    Montant des allocations familiales avant majoration
    (pour l'année 2011)
    Tableau 1 relatif à la fiche F132132 enfants 125,78 €
    3 enfants 286,94 €
    4 enfants 448,10 €
    Par enfant supplémentaire-161,17 €
    Those are MONTHLY supplementary payments from the government [= yourself and other taxpayers]. And it goes up, per child, when the child is 11, and again when the child is 16 (because they cost more).

    I have known people whose lifestyles as craftspeople &c. are greatly facilitated by these grants. In France, they pay you to have children. But you have to have more than one.

    You probably knew that.
    (And thanks - because I knew it existed, but I never knew how much it was until your postings inspired me to look it up!)
    Amanda in Barcelona

  30. You have inspired me to go out and buy the book BUB right now.

    Your posts bring me such enjoyment and nostalgia as I've been to Paris at least 25 times. Also your artwork is simply beautiful!

    By the way my daughter has a doudou who is 20 years old - he in college now and joins us on our travels throughout the year. When my daughter has children I'll be on the first plane to Paris to buy a Tartine & Chocolat doudou and shop for fabulous clothes!!! Keep drawing and writing.


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