Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bringing up Bebe

Along the long and winding road of life I somehow forgot to have children. Which is fine by me, though I don't know who will look after me when I'm old and demented -- my two nieces will have their hands full, as my family is cursed with longevity and there are a lot of us in the generations ahead of them.

Not that comfort in age is the sole reason for having children of course -- no, I'm not saying that. But I personally never really had any reason at all. Don't get me wrong, I like children well enough (many would beg to differ) but the esteem with which they are held by their parents, at least in my neighbourhood, does wear a little thin.

Screaming, demanding, ill-behaved, toy-throwing, tantrum-prone picky eaters are what I see on the playground and no, it isn't pretty. A child in a stroller takes on the look of a little emperor on a throne, attended by much taller servants. The goo-goo voices these adults take on when speaking to their emperors grates on my nerves in a large way. The pandering obsequiousness of the attempts to engage their interest and attention? Crazy-making.

All this time I've suspected that I am simply "not maternal", or misanthropic. As it turns out, I may be merely French.

Pamela Druckerman's new book, Bringing up Bebe or French Children Don't Throw Food, as it is known in the UK, indicates that France might be my native land in that children are viewed as short adults when viewed at all. There are strict rules of behaviour, emotions are controlled, no allowances made for small tortures like eating all your vegetables. You mind your manners, you eat what's put in front of you, and you can sob yourself to sleep every night from the age of four months onward if you like, mama's not going to come in and coddle or comfort you. Dally anywhere outside the bounds of good behaviour and you will receive a smart smack on the bottom, or maybe the top, depending on how far mama wants to bend down.

And the result seems not to be a nation of psychopathic killers honed by chilly abuse as children but rather a cultured people who know how to both create and celebrate the joyful moments of every day life; who seek intellectual stimulus over sit-coms; a nation of smart dressers and seductive lovers. A grown-up world, in other words. Call them snobby, or zenophobic, or cold if you like -- they have something to be snobby about if you ask me. If you can live this way, it ain't bragging.

So now should you see me sneer at your offspring at least I will know in my heart I am not entirely wrong. No longer will I feel alone in my impatience. An entire country agrees with my view.

I'm not mean. I'm French.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Watson said...

I was delighted to read (with much mirth) Tracy Nesdoly's take on "Bringing up BeBe." Having rashly had three children of my own plus three steps (resulting in a grand total of almost twenty grandchildren)I sort of consider myself somewhat of an expert in the child-raising department. I, too, have wondered how these small despots are likely to fare in a tough old world with few admirers. With the news so bloated with sadness it is a pleasure to run across Ms. Nesdoly's blog. Keep it coming, please.