In the past month, two things I posted on Facebook caused me real-life conflict. The first was hurtful to a sister and a close friend. The second caused me to leave a mommy group I quite enjoyed being part of.
Facebook is a balancing act for me. My Facebook friends include three of my four sisters (a long story), my parents, my former students, my principal and assistant principals, my coworkers, my husband’s college friends and their wives, as well as my former schoolmates.
Many of my updates are child-related. I try to be funny, but I have to watch my language and my subject matter. Writers consider their audience. When I post on Facebook, I am posting for married mothers of 1-7 children, single moms, childfree men and women, single dads, divorced people, teachers, students, one Israeli and one Palestinian, Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, gays, bisexuals, those who do not wish to gender identify, Ron Paul enthusiasts, and Mormons.
Understandably, I stay away from religion and politics in my posts.
I got into a bit of trouble when I posted an article from Psychology Today which described research supporting my belief that allowing babies to “cry it out” is harmful to them. The issue inspires deep, passionate feelings and it’s a good one to stay away from in polite company. Something the youth of today have no concept of (I’m practicing being old in anticipation of my 40th next month).
Recently, the popular article to post and repost is titled, “Why French Parents are Superior” by Pamela Druckerman. It appeared in The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204740904577196931457473816.html
Let me sum up: French women not only don’t get fat, they are better parents than me and you. They have excellent control over their petits enfants. They don’t say “no,” they say “NON!” in an authoritative tone, and it works. The article claims French children are well-behaved, self-sufficient, and obedient. These petits sit at the table quietly and eat their vegetables. They do not throw tantrums at playgrounds. They share their cigarettes.
I didn’t get offended. I didn’t get pissed off. I didn’t unfriend anyone. Yet, I still want to criticize the article. What is a good parent? If it is someone whose children are obedient, quiet, and vegetable-eating, then I agree that the French have succeeded where I have failed. My 33 month old throws tantrums, ignores me, argues with me, and refuses to eat almost everything. We don’t even have a table, much less do we sit at one and eat meals as a family. That’s what restaurants are for.
I think a successful parent cannot be gauged simply by the behavior of the children. Our job as parents isn’t done until our kids are grown. Are French adults more successful than Americans? Do they have better health? More successful relationships? Less addiction? Are they smarter? Happier? Do they shower daily?
The author gives some anecdotal evidence wherein she describes a French mother teaching her how to say “no.” What a beautiful story. Apparently, all I have to do is say “no” the right way, and Viva will obey me like a good little French girl. The author insists that French parents have excellent boundaries and they do not plead with nor negotiate with their children. There is what is possible, and what is “pas possible.” The French parents do not yield.
Unless their kids suddenly start speaking German.
Personally, I know someone who is both French and a father. His wife is American, but I think they have raised their daughter in a very “French way” and she has always been perfectly behaved. The five of us used to go out to breakfast or dinner about once a week, and she sat at the table with us, ate, and never once threw a tantrum or complained in any way. Nor did she need to be endlessly entertained or walked around. She was content to sit and eat her food while interacting with us or going into her own internal baby world.
I wasn’t a mom at the time, so I just assumed that babies were like that. Then I had my own, and restaurant trips became rare indeed. I came to believe that my friends’ French daughter was a special kind of baby who sat quietly in high chairs, and I just didn’t get that kind. Odie and I often remarked to each other how well-behaved this little girl was and what great parents our friends were.
I still believe that. I think that people can be great parents and have vastly different parenting styles. To say that one is “superior” to another depends on what you want the outcome to be. Who says children are supposed to sit still and be quiet while adults have conversations? Kids like to be included in what the adults are doing. My life is far more child-centered. When the kids go to day care or to sleep, then my life is my own. From a child’s point of view, I cannot think of anything more boring than sitting in a restaurant while grown-ups talk.
And how much can we really trust a society that thinks Jerry Lewis is a genius?