Bringing Up Bébé: You'd Be a Better Person If You Were French

Categories: Media
It appears there's money to be made in stoking the self-loathing of the American people -- hence this article on the Chronicle's Mommy Blog. It plugs the book Bringing Up Bébé, in which an American expat expounds upon the enlightened parenting techniques of our Gallic brethren, and contrasts them with the lax, slothful methods used to produce loathsome wastrels like you good people (and your humble narrator).

Americans have long romanticized all things French -- an inclination that can be effectively cured via first-hand experience of a French rail strike. Self-reflection is healthy, but lamenting about how much better everyone else has it is not. It warrants mentioning that the French do both: The schools, the culture, the behavior of the young are all so much better in Germany or Italy -- or the United States, the French constantly grumble.

I don't have French parents, but I do have French parents-in-law. I'd write this book off as n'import quoi, but it'll be more fun to break it down point-by-point. Per the Mommy Blog, here's where the French have us licked in the child-rearing department:

1) French kids sit quietly in their high chairs eating their vegetables and fish, while American kids are whining and throwing food.

It's these kinds of broad generalizations that we are due to karmically suffer in return for the antics of Newt Gingrich. In any event, the French are not a nation of throwers. They excel at kicking things -- be it soccer balls or melon balls.

2) French kids aren't required to clear their plate but they do have to try everything, while American kids refuse to eat anything but french fries and macaroni and cheese.

Hilariously, the French equivalent of the school lunch lady really will get on your case if you don't clean off your plate. But, even more hilariously, I have regularly transported or mailed packages of macaroni and cheese to my brother-in-law in Nantes.

3) French parents have the ability to focus on one parenting style and stick with it, while American parents read dozens of different parenting books, overwhelm themselves with information, and are constantly changing and questioning the way they parent.

This is just the situation to be remedied by -- a parenting book!

4) French moms are sexy and skinny and quickly lose their baby weight, while American moms are forever dieting and wearing pajama bottoms when dropping their kids off at school.

Curlers! You forgot the part about the curlers! Incidentally, American parents who cook up eggs for dinner run the risk of being labeled lazy rednecks. French parents who do the same will be labeled "French."

5) French children greet adults with a friendly bonjour while a typical American 4-year-old cowers at her mother's leg. Ever notice how American children don't look adults in the eye?

The kids who rob folks on Muni seem to be pretty good about looking people in the eye. A world in which every stranger isn't perceived as a potential child rapist also helps elicit friendly greetings from the young.

6) French babies sleep through the night by two or three months and French parents never use the "cry it out" technique, while most American parents don't get a night of uninterrupted sleep until the child is at least 1 year old.

All of the young French parents I know -- and that'd be a lot -- are pretty goddamn tired. It's a shame the cups of coffee are so small in France. Dunkin' Donuts would do good business over there. And it'd be a lot of fun to hear French people say "Dunkin' Donuts."

French people earn less money than we do, but polls indicate they're happier and enjoy a better quality of life. The social safety nets in both of our countries are collapsing -- but, for the higher investment they make over yonder, they receive free health care, free schooling, and generous support for middle-class families.

Of course there are catches -- in the French academic system, an indifferent student can ruin his or her future before he's a teenager. Second and third chances of the sorts former community college students receive simply don't exist. You screwed up the test at 14 and now you're a clock repairman, Jacques. Deal with it.

You can whine about it while your kid eats all his fish and vegetables -- without whining.

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My Voice Nation Help

It's true that the author of the book Bringing Up Bebé is merely jumping on the I think I'll write a book that'll sell train. The author laments her own parenting fiasco and states that most Americans are like her, when in reality, I doubt most American kids spend all day in daycare and the rest of the time with their Filipino nanny. Additionally, this is coming from the same author who wrote a book about having a threesome with her husband. Yeah, great--and we should be taking advice from her? What crap.

John de Nugent
John de Nugent

Frankly, I found this article a total waste of time, and barely a notch above the French-bashing that Fox News Channel did in 2003-04. I was married to a Frenchwoman, have lived in France (2004-05), speak fluent French, and found that a lot of this "Bébé" book dovetailed with my own life experience in that couhntry, observing French families. (I am also a father and grandfather, btw,, and a 16th-generation American WASP.) To me, the author is only revealing only his own rightwing, neo-con insecurities faced with France. Oh, and, give us full disclosure:  with your apparently Jewish last name, are you a hyper-Zionist still angry France had the good sense to NOT join us in our mad adventure of invading Iraq? Still calling the French "cheese-eating surrender monkeys"?


This looks to basically be a humor piece. However, aside from Yan - with a special set of issues to address - the other posters apparently are blinded by a failed sense of humor, a trait that I find to be very unFrench ...Vance


 Hey, I met a man who are 6'3" on a dating SITE-- T'a'll'loving'. c○ m --.while, I am only 5'6" and I love tall guys. He said to me that tall girls on that site are seeking fun with tall guys...Are you tall and like tall people, if so, go and check here~


When a writer is so uneducated about the subject he writes about he should keep quiet. Obviously you have not tried to get to know better your wife's culture and that says a lot about how poorly you were taught in the US educational system. Maybe a book like "60 million french can't be wrong" would enlighten you about our roots and culture.

Courage, books will help you build a better culture generale for future articles


How ironic this article Mr Eskanazi, I am french and a good person and your article did hurt me a lot but you know what Justin Timberlake sang: "What goes around, comes around"When you have the power to publish words that people read, you feel almighty but what goes up goes down and I hope that your french parents in law can teach you to be good like french people.One other thing, many things in this article are not trueand what is really amazing is that you write articles that are not full of truth but you have the sword of Truththen the Judge who at one point was supposed to judge mehad lied it is all over the internet but HE didn't get dismissed for telling lies, he apologized at least...Have a good dayGod BlessTheBoldCorsicanFlame

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