100 Keys to French Parenting — Really?

I’ve been scouting Valentine’s Day gift ideas and now I know what I’m asking for: Pamela Druckerman’s latest edition of her “French parenting” enterprise, “Bebe Day by Day, 100 Keys to French Parenting.”

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One hundred “keys” to getting my kids to listen to me, not whine, and eat broccoli (well, they eat broccoli, but they really complain about it).  Who could ask for anything more?

To me, this is sort of like self-help for we hopelessly American parents, or like a parental make-over.  You know, you get the before and the after.  So just so that I can track my improvements, I thought I would jot down 10 ways in which I am NOT a French parent.  I’ll check in with y’all by Saint Patrick’s Day and let you know how I’m doing.  Wish me bonne chance! 

 10 Ways in Which I Am Not a French Parent

1)  I feel guilty all the time. No matter what I do.  If I don’t exercise, I feel guilty. If I do, I’m abandoning my kids.

2)  When we eat out, my kids eat junk.  To my kids, eating out IS hamburgers, French fries, and milkshakes.   I lost this battle a long time ago and haven’t a clue how to reverse course.  Oh, and forget the mustard, they only like ketchup.

3)  We yell.  When someone doesn’t get what he wants chez moi, tactic number one is to scream.  Pretty soon, we’re all screaming at each other to stop screaming.  Ask my neighbors.

4)   We have a huge car.  I have five kids, and we’re American, what do you expect?

5)  We have a lot of stuff we don’t need.  I don’t really like stuff, but we still have a lot of it, and when we go to birthday parties and whatnot, we bring home more stuff.   My kids contribute by bringing home a lot of stuff from school.

6)  I talk about my stress non-stop.  When I meet someone new in the grocery store, I might tell them that I’m on the verge of an emotional collapse – that’s what we Americans do.  A lot of people who don’t know me therefore think I’m crazy.

7)  I buy cheap, trendy clothes that don’t stand the test of time.  At least a few times a year, I plop down some change for something I then soon decide I hate.  Hardly classique.

8)  My entire family is over-scheduled.  Even on weekends, we make too many plans, and do too much. Therefore, we are all exhausted and reason #3 comes to pass.  Contrast this to those French children milling lazily through a meadow after a Sunday lunch en famille.

9)  We are never invited for dinner.  The French like to entertain in the home, but that would never happen in our case.  We have five kids so no one invites us over.  People are trying to get away from us, not get closer to us.

10)  My kids GET TO ME.  I listen to what they say and I ask myself: are they right?  Am I a bad Mom?  Am I selfish?  Should I buy them the Minecraft upgrade?  This is the key element to being a non-French parent, that the child defines the parent’s reality.

So here I am, Pamela, one totally American mom licking her lips at the prospect of getting that new book of yours in one week’s time.

Forget the dinner out, I want kids that actually listen to what I say, and to live a guilt-free, content life dining out with kids over duck confit.  Valentine’s Day never looked so damn good.

Oh, and does wearing that beret help the cause?  I can ask my husband to pop one of those into the red gift bag.


Melissa Americaine

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