Soon after my book Bringing Up Bébé appeared, in 2012, I discovered an animated video made by a company in Taiwan. In it, a woman who’s supposed to be me drinks red wine and teaches her child to paint the Mona Lisa.
Pamela Druckerman is the author of three books including Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. She’s also a contributing opinion writer at the International New York Times.
THE day after the terrorist attacks in Paris was one my children won’t soon forget: They got to watch kids’ television all day long.
It is a perfectly normal dinner party until someone stands up, checks his phone, and says: I think there’s been an explosion, at the Stade de France.
When I moved to France 12 years ago, it was like arriving in an unfriendly paradise. Sure, hardly anyone spoke to me. But there was national paid maternity leave and free preschool. Practically everyone seemed to agree on the need for strict gun laws, and access to birth control and abortion. Not only did the whole country have health insurance; most undocumented immigrants could get medical and dental care free. (Cruelly, their thermal bath cures weren’t covered.)
“You like the place?”
That’s what people in the “Jungle” of Calais keep asking me. They want to know what I think of this dirty, unelectrified stretch of land below a highway, filled with camping tents, plastic-covered sheds and frightening toilets. It’s a temporary home for several thousand people, most of whom have recently fled East Africa or the Middle East.
I’ve been vacationing in western North Carolina and northern Georgia since I was a kid. I arrive, marvel at the mountains and put on an unconvincing Southern drawl. In recent summers I’ve brought my own kids, too (picture tiny people saying “y’all” in a faintly French accent).
But last summer I got some scary news. Black bears — several mothers and their cubs — had been spotted near where we usually stay. I’d never seen a bear, or worried about them. But black bears are thriving in the region, and so are people, so “human-bear interactions” are becoming more common.
Like practically everyone else, I gave a commencement speech last week. Mine was for the Paris College of Art, an American art and design school in France whose roughly 200 students hail from 48 countries.
In deciding what to say, I couldn’t rely on my own experience with commencement speeches. When I graduated from college, a United States senator delivered his stump speech on Poland, then wished us luck.
Earlier this year, I took my kids to see a soccer match in Paris. Along with practically everyone else in the stands, we chanted “Allez les Bleus” — Go Blues — to cheer on the French team.
But a few minutes into the game, my 6-year-old started to look uncomfortable. “Mommy, it’s not les ‘blooes,’ it’s les ‘bleuh,’ ” he whispered.
MY father-in-law, an anthropologist, likes to talk about the time he ate dog penis. He was visiting a remote town in South Korea, and the mayor invited him to lunch. Once they’d finished the dog soup (not a big deal), a waitress carried out the boiled penis on a silver plate. The mayor cut it lengthwise with scissors, then served half to each of them.
My kids have recently picked up a worrying French slang word: bim (pronounced “beam”). It’s what children say in the schoolyard here after they’ve proved someone wrong, or skewered him with a biting remark. English equivalents like “gotcha” or “booyah” don’t carry the same sense of gleeful vanquish, and I doubt British or American kids use them quite as often.
SAME BOOK: US AND UK VERSIONS
“Marvelous... Like Julia Child, who translated the secrets of French cuisine, Druckerman has investigated and distilled the essentials of French child-rearing.” —NPR
“’I’ve been a parent now for more than eight years, and—confession—I’ve never made it all the way through a parenting book. But I found Bringing Up Bébé to be irresistible.” ” —Slate
“Self-deprecating, witty, informative... But however much she admires the ‘easy calm authority’ French parents seem to possess... will Druckerman manage it herself? Her efforts to do so add a compelling narrative to this fascinating study of French parenting.” — The Guardian (London)
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