Red, white and nouveau: Our next adventure


She’s ready to jump in. Just look at her, ready to go.


I haven’t posted reviews of the other ones I’ve read, but I am a big fan of the recent wave of books on French parenting. Fun fact: The French don’t have a word for parenting the way we Americans do. It’s just life but now you have kids, from what I gather. It’s definitely not an industry (you know how I feel about the baby industry) and it’s hardly the obsession it is here.

I like that. No, I love it. Je l’adore, one might say.

And so while we start to wrap up the Frugal Oyster Budget, I’ve decided on a new mission. All of these books (Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe; Catherine Crawford’s French Twist; and Karen Le Billon’s French Kids Eat Everything, to name a few) are written firsthand. All of the authors have some French connection. Druckerman lives in France and has for some years. Crawford is surrounded by French ex-pats in her trendy New York neighborhood. Le Billon is married to a Frenchman and spent a year there on an oft-questioned whim.

I have none of those things. That’s why this will be fun.

The Frugal Oyster undertaking was/is designed to keep costs down, keep sanity intact, keep piles of unnecessary crap out of our house, and keep our focus on the big picture in our family life. Surprise surprise, those goals line up nicely with the French approach to raising kids. So why end things after 21 months of budget-focused bliss?

This week I’m reading Le Billon’s book, the one about French eating. The subtitle is “How our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy, healthy eaters.” Happy, healthy eaters? I’ll take those, thanks. In fact, I could stand to be a happier, healthier eater myself, so why not jump in and bring the whole family along?

And so, with Le Billon, Druckerman, and Crawford paving the way with firsthand experience, I’ll find out if their examples, experiences, and their books are sufficient to make an acolyte. A second generation French-inspired parent, if you will.

The little oyster is eating solid (that’s a loose term) food now and I don’t want her to grow up only tasting bananas and pears. I don’t want to raise a kid who thinks French fries are a vegetable. I want my family not to revolve around the kids. I want my family to enjoy food, together. I want to be a woman who is a wife and a mom and a writer, not a mom who happens to write during naps, if she’s not scraping food off the walls. None of that, thank you. Non, merci.

I think this will be fun. I also think it will be hard, since nearly everything about parenting is culturally influenced and this is the United States, not France. But I’m not particularly impressed with what my generation is doing with kids and I know mostly Americans, so I’m painting with very broad brushstrokes here when I say I don’t really like the way Americans are raising kids lately. I know perfectly well that French children and French parents aren’t perfect and Americans don’t get everything wrong, so please keep the righteous indignation in check.

Still, there is a distinct divide between the two parenting cultures and I think the other guys get it right more often; and I think they get it right more often because the French tend to think holistically (has my child been introduced to a variety of healthy foods?) while Americans address child rearing on a micro level (did my child eat enough omega-3s tonight at dinner?) Writ large, I think the difference is that the French see parenting as an art while Americans see parenting as a science. In science you have only right and wrong answers and getting the wrong ones can stress you out and make you feel like a failure, stupid and lame. In art you have basic guiding principles and interpretation, the combination of which makes the artist and the art.

So let’s try it. Going French in America’s Capital City. Rockin’ le free world. First order of business is training the oyster from the start to be a willing and tidy eater of all foods because that’s what the French expect of their kids and that scraping things off the walls? Yeah, I’m not doing that. Non, merci.


3 thoughts on “Red, white and nouveau: Our next adventure

  1. Have fun (it IS an adventure!) and don’t get discouraged or impatient if the “-ing” part of the training takes a little more repetition than you’d anticipated. Sometimes little people need a lot of the same thing over and over again as their skills and abilities develop. We call it habit training… emphasis on the “i-n-g”. It is an ongoing process and it shapes you at least as much as it shapes the wee folk!

  2. We manage, ergo we parent, according to our personalities. Feed her healthfully, provide a loving environment, and treat her with respect and you’ll be a credit to parenting, here and abroad. Enjoy the experience.

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