by Pamela Druckerman
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
I’m taking a quick break from posting the reviews from my kiddie lit class last semester to write a review of this book before I forget what I wanted to say about it 🙂 I really think everyone who works with or has kids should read this. It was reviewed in the New York Times and has long waiting lists at many libraries. Not having any kids yet, but being an avid observer of children and parents, I was intrigued. A good friend of mine spent significant time in France working with kids and is now a lawyer for children in the U.S. so I am curious to hear what she thinks.
But this is my review, so here’s what I thought: The Times review is not terribly conclusive, though it does seem to try to dispel some of Druckerman’s claims. It raised enough questions in my mind to be interested in someone presenting the other side, though Druckerman thoroughly cites her statistics and studies. And there are some things that my American mind just cannot get around, such as no snacking. One mother I know gets agitated when her sister-in-law feeds her kids five minutes before the whole extended family sits down to dinner, so sure, that makes sense. The whole philosophy of learning to be okay with being a little hungry has its place. However, since reading this, I decided to try to stop snacking to see if I could set that example for my own kids one day and I realized that it is incredibly difficult! It’s hard because I would get so hungry – like, nauseously so – and be unable to fall asleep or wake up ravenous and nauseous and unable to do anything until I ate even just a little something. It’s also hard because American culture is not set up for a no-snacking policy. Everyone snacks. There are baked goodies all over my workplace, all the time. Meeting leaders provide them. It is more or less expected, in a way that I gather is not true in French culture. It’s helpful if, as Druckerman claims, an entire country is in on it.
All of France is apparently also in on waiting in general. Druckerman learns to implement “the pause” – wherein the parent, upon hearing the baby fussing while sleeping, waits a few minutes before rushing in to attend to the baby. She states that much of the time, this fussing is just a little waking between sleep cycles and, if left alone, the baby will learn to fall back asleep and therefore learn to sleep through the night much earlier (3 months is the norm in France).
There are other benefits to French culture that I just don’t see happening, like fully funded day care and year-long maternity leave, complete with home visits from a trained medical professional. But the ideas I’ve taken most to heart involve waiting – the pause, and, later, telling your little one to occupy himself while you take care of yourself. Read it for yourself and see what you think!