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In defense of ‘Bringing up Bebe’

When the book Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Drucker first came out, I became aware of it through the vitriol that poured through popular online media about it. Many comments were particularly dismissive of it, due to the idea of it attacking the American way of life, and who-is-this-Drucker-woman-to-speak-for-all-American-moms?

Due to this, I had no intention of reading it. My husband expresses no interest in it. But curiosity (and fear) overcame me, and I wanted to know what she meant about the poised Parisienne mother.

As it turns out, I love it. I have always believed that children are very capable, rise to expectations, and should make life more enjoyable rather than difficult to parents. Based on my (albeit limited) experience growing up with my brother, who is 6 years my junior, I believe children have more respect for you when you do not strive to serve them. Based on my own experience as a child, I believe that children respect clear and firm boundaries, and that they learn best when allowed to explore and make mistakes on their own.

However, not having grown up in that environment precisely (sorry mom!), I have no idea how to create that sort of environment. How can I be stern when I’ve never consistently been in the company of an adult who doles out justice (to my mind) justly? How can I be an adult while at the same time trying to be my son’s friend?

In her book, Druckerman states clearly that her experiences are not representative of all American parents, or French parents. She makes good effort to research and interview parents, child care providers and academics, which helps make the narrative more credible rather than purely opinion based (which this blog post is, because I’m lazy and am not going to be paid for writing it).

Can some of what she spout be exaggerations that fall far short of a fair study of the issue? Of course! As with most mothers in the modern age, she has less than a handful of long-term case studies at hand (her 3 children). And if her book was meant to be a treatise worthy of the political correctness and perhaps academic rigor that her critics seem to find lacking in her, it wouldn’t have been as popular or accessible as it is now. At least she is willing to (frequently) use herself as the example of failed techniques to discipline (educate) her children, and give us as full a view as possible of the alternatives.

As with breastfeeding v.s. formula, it becomes an emotional issue when you tell people that “The hours and hours you spent doing that for your kid? Well, it may not have been as good for her as you thought.” So I say, buckle down and change tack. I have yet the opportunity to mend my ways and (hopefully) prevent bratdom.

4 responses »

  1. Just caught up with some of your posts. Life got a bit nutty and I didn’t see them until now. I haven’t heard of that book yet, but probably may lean toward agreeing to some extent. Americans are known to not be the best dislipinarians with thier children.Hence, they are labeled as growing up somewhat spoiled from lack of disipline. I know (from our brief experience) that the French tend to have “more well behaved” children. (of course that doesn’t speak for everyone) When we raised our first two sets of kiddos I was a real push over, my children were basically well behaved so I didn’t feel the need to be so strict with them. I vowed I would be different now that my last sets of littles are a bit more of a handful, BUT thats not the case. I do believe every child needs to be treated differently to some extent as there is alot that plays into thier personalities. (genes, upbringing, prior upbringing/past experiences-adoption cases, thier ability to grasp right from wrong due to neurological make up) I do struggle with whats right and where the line should be drawn. It doesn’t get easier with the more children you have, thats for sure. Each situation is different. I/we strive to make sure we do our best to do whats best for them. (and us) Child rearing should be enjoyable, and it is most of the time. (or else I wouldn’t have had so many LOL) In the end I just want to make sure they are well loved, safe and can enjoy being children. I know I should be bit more strict in certain situations but from what I have learned over the years is that I feel my softer side comes out all to often which does allow them to come to me with ANYTHING. I think that is one the most important things. Am I right in my beliefs? Who knows, twenty four years later and I’m still learning.Child rearing is what you make of it. Sometimes its great, other times not so much. One thing we do always find is that by the end of the day John and I have alot to talk about. There are many many funny /laugh out loud moments to raising kids. (I should really take the time to take a look at this book)

    • Hi Maria! Yes I have heard about you guys trying to get livestock, and adopt more! No ’empty bed’ syndrome for you lol! I agree that it is great when kids find that they can talk to you. That’s my experience with my brother as well… but then we are siblings, which can be different. I think the book is interesting that one can learn how the French, nationally, came to adopt the viewpoint they have towards raising kids. Certainly worth reading! Hope you find time!

      • John & Maria Burns

        Good Morning Grace,

        Yes, I will try to find time to read it. It does sound interesting. (I can never get enough info on raising kiddos) Yes, we want to start a farmette here, just a hobby farm, nothing to intense. I haven’t done anything for myself in the last 6 years and now that life is getting a little easier I would like to venture into this. I really enjoy the peacefulness of outside in the quiet countryside, its just beautiful and serene.I’ve wanted this for a long time and I think it is beneficial to the chiildren as well. Its a wholesome way of life being outdoors and around all the animals and Gods creation. A much slower and simpler pace from all the rushing and busy life styles we all tend to live these days.

        As for more children, my heart would LOVE to but my mind (and body) tells me otherwise. I have so many friends that are still adopting, some up to 10-15 children. It makes me feel torn BUT I cannot take that leap right now. My “Johnnie” needs much care 24/7 as well as my other children who need me all the time. I inquired about the process but we just cannot do it. (I have tremendous guilt over that) Maybe if I had the money to hire someone to do all the cooking, cleaning ect around here then I could focus 100% on the family and have more but of course I don’t have that. (most people don’t) Maybe if both my SNs boys were healthy it would be possible but our situation doesn’t allow it . Its just that Johnnie needs total care and Christian is still looking at a big ordeal with his surgery later this school year (amputation of his foot and a new prosthesis to get used to-not to mention the emotional part I have to deal with with him) So for now, maybe forever, no more children. My heart does ache terribly when I see how many need families out there while most americans sit back in thier cushy lifstyle and ignore it because they don’t see it. (or want to) I feel compelled to adopt more, so does John. (we just can’t right now) sigh…………..

        Oh well, I’ll stop here, thats a long winded statement. (it just affects me alot) Keep those pictures coming and I like to read your blog. I must end here, I still have 2 more showers to do and then we have to get out the door and load all the littles in van. Have a great day! Love to your family!

      • Hi Maria,

        I hope, if and when you read the book, to hear what you think of it… especially as you have had so much experience raising children. And there’s no need to make excuses for all the hard work and care you have already done in adopting and raising kids… You could not stay sane if you didn’t set manageable limits for yourself. I believe right now your efforts are a testament to other people: that there is great need for adoptions and charity in the world, and that everyone who could should.

        It will be such great fun raising animals! Am glad you guys finally got the space for it! I look forward to seeing your further adventures in that area!

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