For a somewhat lighthearted read I recently went to our local library and checked out “Bringing Up Bebe”, whichcame out a few years ago and explores how the French parent raise children. Has anyone read it? As a spoiler for those who haven’t (sorry), there is “one way” to parent (or, rather, “educate”) in France. Most chapters conclude that almost all, if not all, French parents do “x” for any number of things, such as introducing food, getting wee little frenchmen to sleep through the night (he he!), setting schedules, and learning manners and social cues. These “how to’s”, the author argues, are superior to the buffet of styles we graft on to here in America.
I don’t have anything to say about that, per say, but I actually ended up thinking through several tangential things as I read, including the tangible sense that we in America do not have such a set framework (hence the reason books like this pop up, honestly) because there isn’t a common goal in American parenting. The family down the street has totally different goals in raising their children than I do, and a different spectrum of acceptable behavior and acceptable timeframes for some milestones. We can be a melting pot in so many ways…even parenting styles and goals.
The only reason I bring this up is that the parenting skills amalgam out there can have implications for how we, as American mothers, and particularly Catholic American mothers, exist…right now it seems like we spend much time trying to learn “how to’s” because there is no institutional or family knowledge to fall back on. I know that some of us do get some of this passed down to them by their own personal experience in strong families. Praise God, truly! Still, many do not have this help or background for a host of reasons. Since we care so much about our little ones, we desperately want to know the “right” way to do these things… the way that will lead to well mannered, spiritually virtuous, good eaters and sleepers.
So, this is what I’ve come to, after lamenting for a minute or two the lack of institutional “national” knowledge on how to teach, say, patience at the dinner table. While I have made mistakes already in the “how to” camp with my daughter, while I will have to continue to sift through the sludge of information out there to learn all of this from the ground up, and while there may not be a hyper-defined American parenting culture or a given understanding on how to get new little ones from point “a” to point “b”…that’s ok. It is not ok because I believe it is all relative, and that I can choose anything from the American grab bag of parenting styles. It’s ok because we do have guidance from Him and are not alone…and all of that, if I look hard enough, can and does often have implications for how I think through the “how to’s” and to choose appropriate techniques when I need them.