I’m not sure how it happened, but apparently I have failed as a parent just by virtue of being American. According to the latest parenting trend, many cultures are better parents than Americans – ergo, I am a parenting failure (and yes, in case you were wondering I have been waiting months to use the word “ergo” in a blog).
Anyway, this trend started with the Tiger Mother. A Tiger Mother, for those of you who didn’t know because a) you don’t care; or b) you really, really don’t care, is the type of mother written about by Amy Chua in her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. “
Now, in the interests of research (and by research, I mean I googled it) I have looked at Chua’s book (and by looked at, I mean I read excerpts of it when I googled it). Anyway, as far as I can tell, Chua’s parenting advice goes something along the lines of humiliate your child every freaking day to the extent that they fear you more than they fear being made fun of by the mean girls at school.
Is it awful to admit that there are days when I see nothing wrong with this parenting advice?
Come on. We’ve all had those days. The days when nothing we do as a parent is right and we know instinctively that the child we adore so much is going to be wearing prison orange for the rest of his life because you cannot get him to listen and/or stop throwing a tantrum.
But I’m not a Tiger Mother by nature. I cannot force my child to learn piano by screaming at him (although this does work to make him clean his room sometimes). I cannot make myself look at a picture my son drew for me, tell him it sucks, he is lazy and he should do it again. I don’t care what the picture looks like, it’s taped to the fridge. Or even framed and hung on the wall. (I have a child Picasso, by the way.)
Thankfully, to rescue me from my American way of raising kids and Mr. Grouchy Pants from his orange-jumpsuit future, there is another new book out, “Bringing up Bebe” by Paula Druckerman. I recently read a sample of this book (and by sample. . .well, you know).
First, I have to say, Druckerman is definitely no Tiger Mom. There’s a lot of patience advocated in this book, er, sample. Second, I learned a brand new curse word in French – “caca boudin.” Apparently this has something to do with sausage and all French preschoolers say it. I’m going to use with abandon, because it’s actually the funniest curse word I’ve ever heard. And I’ve heard a lot of curse words in my time.
In any event, according to Druckerman, the bebes (French for “small, adult-like creatures we drag around to restaurants and gallery openings and expect they will behave the entire time”) in France are awesome. They cry, but only very little because they have been taught to soothe themselves. They go to restaurants and they never need to have distractions or even special meals of those icky little chicken nugget things that everyone knows are not really chicken but some sort of disgusting rubbery thing made in a factory somewhere.
Maybe it’s just me – but who would have a meltdown in a restaurant in France? Hello? They eat chocolate and croissants for breakfast. That’s my idea of breakfast in heaven, people. And they don’t eat greasy French fries from a cardboard container. They eat pommes frites. Who on earth would have a tantrum while eating pommes frites and chocolate? Heck, I would sit still every dang night if I were eating that.
But here’s the deal. This trend – Tiger Mother, perfect bebes – stems from the fact that many of us feel inadequate as parents. And there are some children out there with a sense of entitlement and a serious lack of manners (mine included). And there are a lot of children who don’t have that sense of entitlement and who do have manners. But maybe we can take some of these ideas and mush them into our American parenting and come up with a perfect child of our own.
Or maybe we can just figure out how to eat pommes frites at every meal and be done with it. I’m good with that too.