The Wall Street Journal continues its mother-guilting march across the globe this weekend. After telling us last year "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior", now they're out to tell us "Why French Parents Are Superior". Dock them ten points for lack of titling originality, but why mess with success? Last year's "Tiger Mom" tempest made Amy Chua a bestselling author, and Pamela Druckerman, author of the released-this-week Bringing Up Bébé, is surely hoping lightning strikes twice.
But this mother isn't buying it. I didn't buy it when I was told Tiger Moms deserve our admiration for making their children do arpeggios till their fingers bleed. And I don't buy it now that I'm told les mamans françaises are way, way better than we are because they value their Gauloises more than their Polly-Pocket skills. While I haven't read all of Druckerman's book, I have read the excerpt from the Journal, and from that summary, here are the primary examples I gleaned of shining French superiority:
• "French children consistently have three meals a day and one snack around 4 p.m." Prepare to have your mind blown, sister! Have you ever heard of such exotic meal planning? Nothing like American kids -- every last one of them an obese embarrassment, "snacking all day" like they're on one long Willy Wonka Cruise.
• French babies "mostly sleep through the night from two or three months old" because their mothers have perfected "la pause," or a brief wait before picking up a crying baby. American mothers, on the other hand, respond to every rustle coming from down the hall. Ah, my folly! Now I see it was my fault that my firstborn had acid reflux and slept 20 minutes at a time until he was six months old! If I only hadn't responded to his hours of uninterrupted, bloodcurdling screaming, I could have been having a pain au chocolat after eight hours of blissful slumber.
• When French children misbehave, French parents "give them the 'big eyes' -- a stern look of admonishment." Where do these Parisiennes get their radical parenting notions? Stop smiling indulgently at your son running with scissors, American Mom! Try looking at him disapprovingly! You will be amazed at how utterly this will transform your parenting!
I think my main gripe about this whole French-mothers-are-better-than-you idea is that nothing about this seems particularly French to me. Our American parents raised us exactly the same way, 40 years ago. We didn't snack all day because we were outside playing. They let us cry it out because they were 23 years old, and didn't feel like getting up. If our fathers gave us the "big eyes," we were extra-good for a week. And they did this all without experts, or peer groups, or stories in major newspapers purporting to show them the light. And so I say: 70s Parents Are Superior. Even to the French. Our parents were laissez-faire when Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was en couches-culottes. Or like our mothers called them: Pampers.