Monday, March 5, 2012
Monday, March 5, 2012
When I came across this book in the less-than-illustrious book review section of People magazine (ok, so I'm a bit of a snob!), I was immediately intrigued, and not just because I am now drawn to observe with scrutiny the many trends that come along in the parenting world these days. As it happens, my dearest mom friend (with the exception of my sage and beloved sister-in-law H, of course) is a French parent. V and I met in childbirth class, and spent the last two months of our pregnancies getting our weekly exercise on the winding trails at the beautiful Arastradero reserve, talking about everything from names we liked to how we envisioned the future educational paths of our soon-to-be-born sons. Baby A was born just three days before his future best bud, Baby M, and they have spent the past eight months growing up together.
There are lots of parenting philosophies out there, but it wasn't until I began to devour this book that I realized that I have never once heard V mention the words "sleep training." In fact, when I sadly informed her that I felt like I might have to let my little A cry it out if we couldn't figure out a way to push his two daily naps past thirty minutes, she gave me a benevolent glance of sympathy and gently assured me that I certainly wouldn't have to do that. When baby A got his first real cold, I almost panicked at our play date when I realized I had forgotten that pesky nasal aspirator, but V just handed hers over without a second thought (clean, of course!). I scoured baby food cookbooks and researched to find the best spoons, bowls, and bibs when it came time for A to start solid food, bought only a few jars of organic baby food and purchased the perfect BPA-free freezer trays for storing our freshly made food. I'm not sure V even owns a baby food cookbook. She merely whirs a mixture of freshly steamed fruits or veggies with bits of cooked meat together into a fine puree and hands it over to baby M.
I record all of this not to look upon the way I have gone about parenting with criticism (or any other American parent, for that matter) or to suggest that the French way is better. I think what resonated with me most as I enthusiastically read the account of Pamela Druckerman, American mother living in France, was the comfort, pleasure, and even sense of kinship that I felt with her as I recollected the many similar epiphanies and experiences I have shared with V. Without even realizing it, V has been absolutely instrumental in the way I think about being a mother. She encourages me, though she doesn't know it, to take a deep breath and just let go, pushing worry and anxiety far from my mind. I don't have to feel like a failure if baby A wakes up when his pacifier falls out. It's not the end of the world if we only manage two teaspoons of oatmeal for breakfast. Should I be able to come to these conclusions on my own? Of course. Is there something inherently French about the wisdom behind the idea of just enjoying your child day by day without worrying about developmental milestones, appropriate socialization, diet and daily stimulation? Probably not, although the American thirst for every last bit of knowledge undoubtedly deeply affects parents-you need go no further than a parenting message board after one of the countless Google searches we all embark upon to figure out why poop is a certain consistency or what ingredients are found in iron-fortified rice cereal. What's worrisome about this tendency is the potential consequence of missing out on the joy, the sheer bliss, that a baby brings to your life.
V once told me that there are some days when she looks at baby M with amazement and thinks, "I am just so in love with my baby!" I've never forgotten it, both because I know exactly how she feels and because there have been times when I have allowed my fears of routine disruptions, the right nutrition, and quality sleep to get in the way of the bliss. My post title was inspired by the French "wait," a word I've heard V use over and over, and which happened to be the first word in the glossary of Bringing up Bebe. She says it's the first word French children learn, and while I see the instructive benefit, I think it might also apply to me as a parent as well. Wait, breathe, and don't miss one second of happiness with my baby.
I can hear baby A stirring now, after an hour and a half of peaceful rest. Waiting, not worrying...my new parenting philosophy.