I find myself giddy at the prospect of French parents picking up a book and thinking, “American parents let their kids do that? Sheesh.” Or the Chinese Tiger Mom turning off the bedside lamp, chuckling, “American parents are so weak.”
But come on, does that happen? Don’t parents have one universal bond between them: the nagging feeling that we are all messing up our kids?
Not, I suppose, if you’re keeping up with the best seller lists.
With all these books recently about all the cultures we should be emulating when it comes to raising our kids — Tiger Moms, French parents, now more French parents — I’m beginning to wonder when people will wise up and say, “It’s not that other cultures are doing something secret and magical, it’s that we just aren’t even trying.”
Case in point?
This latest (insert country here) are doing it better essay found in the New York Times, this time by Karen Le Billon whose book about “French Kids Eat Anything” is about to become a national best-seller just like its (insert country here) are doing it better French parenting companion “Bringing Up Bebe.” (Can I just quickly say how much these books tickle me, given that it was what? Just eight years ago when, in a spasm of anti-French xenophobia, America changed the term to freedom fries? And is now looking across the pond for parenting cues? Oh America, you fickle fool, I can’t quit you.)
But back to the latest essay. Basically, Le Billon recounts how she goes to a dinner party where the children are expected to behave and chat and eat all their food — without, gasp, needling or help from their parents! — and then is astonished that her children can actually behave for the night without threats or begging.
When will these books end?
I’m not tired of them in an America-love-it-or-leave-it way, no. I’m just tired of these wide-eyed, hand-wringing, fear-mongering observations from moms — has a dad yet written any of this crap? — about going to dinner parties in, say, France and expecting their kids to behave like a burlap-wearing, jug-blowing band of merry nose pickers and screamers only to discover that, golly, their own children can be taught to act politely, can eat more than what’s expected of them and can generally take hints from the social mores of the evening and act like perfectly respectable people.
Well … duh.
It’s not because the French know a freaking secret. It’s because this particular family took the time to teach their kids to act politely or to eat what’s on their plate. Clearly, Le Billon did not.
I can’t wait for this trend to die. Do you really need a book to tell you that if you expect very little from your children that you will get very little in return? It’s not a (insert country here) secret that allows children in other cultures to behave as their parents want them to, it’s that their parents took the time to teach them their values.
But who am I kidding? Just wait a year and throw a dart at the globe and that’s the country we’ll probably all be learning “secrets” from next ….
Mike Adamick gets on his soap box at Cry It Out!
Photo: TikiTiki blog