I’m a reader. I like to read for entertainment but also I always look to books to help me out when I’m looking for direction. Becoming a mammy for the first time nearly 3 years ago was the maddest, most intense thing that ever happened to me and I flailed around for a good long time before I settled into my new identity. Along the way, I talked to mammy friends and relations, and I found myself drawn to books about parenting.
One day, a mammy friend lent me her copy of ‘French children don’t throw food’ by the American author and journalist, Pamela Druckerman. I liked it, it’s written in a personal, chatty style. She details how she met her husband and moved to Paris. It doesn’t contain any parenting advice, but outlines the author’s personal observations about French parenting and the ways it differs to American parenting.
Here are some of her conclusions – French mothers go on instinct, they are less conflicted and less worried about choosing a parenting style. Here the Irish mammy in me was going ‘huh?’ I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet in Ireland either. I know I’ve never worried about my parenting style. I think a lot of what she writes about will resonate with American mammies, and maybe less so with European, never mind French parents.
In France, there doesn’t seem to be any rules until you ask detailed questions. It’s only when she digs deep that she discovers the ‘cadre’ or framework, which is how French parents describe being very strict about certain things, but giving a lot of flexibility with other things. It seems that French children are given a lot of freedom but expected to behave well too, for instance, children are given the same menus as adults are and throwing food is not allowed.
One thing that really stuck with me is her description of watching other parents or caregivers in playgrounds. She was stunned to see the French adults around her sitting down on the benches and chatting while their charges played. Apparently, this never happens in American playgrounds. Apparently there, the parents are up at the top of the slides, helping the children along.
This got me looking around Irish playgrounds, and what I’ve noticed is this, mostly Irish adults will hover around their children, sometimes, but not often, you see a grown man lurching around, hunched over, on the top of the climbing frame. Very rarely do you see parents sitting on the benches chatting. It seems we Irish playground visitors are halfway between France and America on this.
Well I like the idea of sitting down every once in a while, and I also think it’s a good thing to let kids play on their own, without any instruction, every once in a while, so inspired by this book, I’ve been encouraging my daughter to explore by herself, whenever we’re in a playground, which happens a lot. I’ll plonk myself down on the nearest bench and wave over at her every so often. If she asks for help climbing up on something, I tell her, ‘if you need my help, then it’s too big for you’. And do you know what? I think it’s made her more adventurous. She’s gotten used to the idea now and she’ll mostly wander round exploring by herself, and chatting to the other kids. I’m still called over when the swings are free, but that’s ok.
I’d recommend this book as an interesting, thought provoking read. For all those moments of leisure time you have. Haha.