11 April 2012

Book Review, Bebe

Let me begin by telling you a little story.

Once upon a time Doug brought a book home from his boss for me to read.
I am only reading things these days that I have read a million times already, or can read random paragraphs, or flip through, all in the 5 minute interlude while falling asleep.  This is not a good time for me to READ, if you know what I mean.

(One exception, a fabulous ebook by my dear and talented friend Ute. I read it on my tiny phone in the car. Totally worth it. I'll review that one soon.)

Ok then, the book comes home, I try to read it, I fail. I don't like the book. It is not my thing. (Hear me: this does not mean it might not be your thing. Books are like all art, very personal, so go ahead a love it!) I stop reading. I give it back.

Turns out there was a hope (read that: expectation) that I would write a review for a newsletter.  And that fact came to light night before last, with the publish date for the review to be yesterday.  I love Doug, therefore I made it happen. (And he, in turn, will give me many kisses and buy me dinner).

Reading under duress, reading a book I already did not much care for, writing under duress, writing about a book I did not much care for, yeah... Not my favorite activities, and not very inspirational of my highest and best.

So---I read it, wrote it, submitted it, and it was changed a bit in publication as to not offend anyone.

I was floored that anyone thought it might! I so did not intend that.
I was/am aghast.
I did not/do not mean to offend against anyone.
No one.
Certainly not "The French" (gosh how I hate the stereotypes in the book, no matter how well researched, see review below). My riff on the cake is really a poke at the book, which uses french words for emphasis and authenticity.

Since I put some effort into the review, here it is.
Without the changes.

The first draft was also the last draft (with the exception of a short rant I wrote and omitted).
I'm posting it here for posterity more than anything.

Should have put quotes around that final "Parisian" reference since I meant it tongue in cheek. Maybe then it would have been ok? Maybe not.  Merde alors.


Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

Pamela Druckerman's background as a journalist comes through loud and clear in this book comparing and contrasting "American" and "French" parenting styles. Well-researched and quoting loads of obscure and well-known parenting books from both sides of the ocean that no parent would ordinarily have time to read, Druckerman weaves Nuggets of Parenting Wisdom into a story more about stereotyped upper middle class culture in New York and Paris than about parenting.

Teasing out those Nuggets of Wisdom took some patience-- it was hard to push beyond the thinly veiled judgment, and read through the more-than-slightly edgy deprecating humor, past the stereotypes and cross-cultural cafe society observations.

So-- what are the Nuggets of Wisdom I learned from this book that I'll take away?
Watch and wait-- the baby's crying may be hunger, but it also may just be a moment of semi-consciousness between sleep cycles. If you pause, the baby may fall back asleep. If not, you can attend.  This pause has equated to more sleep for all of us.
Ask-- if there are tears, and there is no hysteria yet, ask what's wrong. I've been astonished at how many times we've been able to get to the core of the issue, and how often it has nothing whatsoever to do with what I thought.
Independence-- you do not need to be actively engaged in communicating and interacting in every moment.  Being near each other (or even, not so near), and involved in separate projects or activities is just fine.  This is harder since I've got a very interactive little one, but I get it, and enjoy it thoroughly when it happens.

So, these I'll use.

Overall, while I wanted to love this book, it was an uncomfortable read, too cringey, too judgmental, too presumptuous about too many things including my social status as reader.

What parenting needs, I think, is not divisiveness, but more compassion between us all as parents. I think the underlying motivations behind most of our choices are probably quite similar: love, support, encouragement and opportunity.  How this looks in real life changes from child to child, parent to parent, family to family.

So, for the hard-edged Parisian expectation of getting my body back 3 months after having the baby, or stopping breastfeeding after 6 months, or having the baby on a sleep-all-night schedule before she is 3 months old or I've missed my window of opportunity and am doomed to long term unhappiness for us all?…. Ahhhh, well, I think I will go drown my soft-bodied long-term unhappiness in some fine gateaux au chocolate, go look in at my sleeping baby, and bask in gratitude for all that I have.

1 comment:

Joannah Labrador said...

I'm about halfway through this book. I find it entertaining. Parisians think they are "zeh" best at everything. Take it with a grain of fleur de sel. ;)