Just finished the book Bringing Up Bebe on the recommendation of Scarlet Lily, and I must say, I found it pretty eye-opening. It's not that I think One Best Way exists to raise a child; it seems foolhardy to think that way. However, I do agree that we as Americans have adopted a rather stifling way of over-parenting, being there at every turn, cushioning every surface, holding the kid's hand literally and figuratively for way, way too long. As a former teacher I saw it all the time, and I hear more and more stories of parents calling up college professors and job interviewers demanding to know why certain decisions were made and defending their children's actions. As new parents, we know we make mistakes, but we try to present a united front and not get too caught up in developmental milestones and what J "should be" doing, although, as I wrote before, we're a bit concerned about the lack of speech at his age. But we're getting him checked out and we'll see where that goes, so we feel much more even-keeled.
This book made me focus more on a few points, particularly the idea of having a few hard-and-fast, core rules but freedom within those rules. I also like the idea of using a very firm tone of voice instead of yelling--if you say something with conviction and zero doubt, the kid will learn that you mean business. She points out that in France, the magic words include "hello" and "good-bye", not simply "thank you" and "please", because simply saying that to a person acknowledges that person's humanity. I truly like the idea of that, that we recognize each other no matter whether it's the waitress at the greasy spoon or an adult walking into the room for the first time. Those small gestures go a long way.
Most interesting for me was the chapter on food and eating. According to Druckerman, the French encourage their babies to eat vegetables first instead of bland rice cereal, and they keep feeding those veggies and mix them up with other food. I took from it that children are encouraged to develop their palates with fresh and varied food. Feed the child what you eat, as long as it's applicable. If a kid won't eat a vegetable, try it again later in a different form or add it to something else. Eventually, he'll learn to like it (or at least eat it). I've tried to start this even before I read the book; I realized I had begun to take on the role of short-order cook for J and, while I do give him the Kosher all-beef hot dogs, they're still hot dogs. That's part of what T and I want to accomplish with this Transitions eating plan--we want to create a house where J gets good, unprocessed food as often as possible with not a ton of sweets; eat the latter at a party or a special occasion. Sure, he's going to get his fair share of junk, but not at our house and not with us whenever possible. I don't know if I'll start turning out four-course meals that the French regularly do, but hey, if the first course is vegetables that I give him while I prep the rest, and then some fruit or cheese for dessert, doesn't that sound reasonable? It does to me (as does the idea of an afternoon snack of crusty bread with good, dark chocolate).
I think I enjoyed this book because it put a lot of my nebulous ideas of parenting in a form that made sense to me. None of us is perfect as a parent, nor is any system. And, really, as long as we stay consistent, let J explore and fall sometimes (in the literal and metaphorical sense), give him lots of love and reasonable boundaries, and don't overburden him with activities or expectations, I think we'll all turn out fine.