Tag "parenting"

Raising Kids à la Française

I remember visiting the States from Paris as an older teenager. I was having dinner with a very welcoming family and the conversation was going well, until their 8 or 9 year old opened his mouth to say something and his parents suddenly stopped the conversation with me, turned to their child and listened to what this kid had to say as if the President had entered the room.  How odd, I thought…Where I come from, kids are pretty much ignored when adult guests are around. Kids eat with their parents alright, but they generally know better then to interrupt an adult conversation.

Kids in France know from an early age that there is family time, during which their comments and thoughts are welcome, and then there is adult time. You better not disturb during adult time, unless you have a homework emergency or similar crisis.

I am certainly not saying that one way is better then the other. Stopping your adult conversation because your child wants ice cream immediately could work wonders on her self-esteem. It is great that she now knows that her feelings and needs are important. Personally, however, I hope to show my kids how important they are without constantly interrupting what I am doing to cater to them. I do want them to know that frankly, my conversation is no less important then their immediate need for ice cream.  That may sound harsh from the American parenting point of view but I do believe that in the long run, stopping  your conversation or your activity because a young child demands it, is doing said child a great disservice.

Another subtle difference is play space. Kids in France know that they are not welcome everywhere and anywhere in the house. They could play in their room, or in an assigned area such as the family room or the breakfast room. Most know, however, that there are places, such as the salon*, where they cannot bring their toys. I entertain often and my kids know to tell the other kids that some spaces are off-limits to toys and crumby food. All the parents have been respectful but some express surprise either at the rule itself or at the fact that we are able to enforce it.

An interesting distinction between American and French parenting probably lies in the word Education. In English, this word often refers to what the child learns outside of the home (in school, college etc.), whereas in French, this word actually means “upbringing,” or what the child received inside the home. A “well-educated” child in French standards means well-brought up, or polite.

The most important difference between both types of “education” is that somehow French kids don’t need every whim catered to in order to recognize that they are their parents’ no. 1 priority.

* salon is the living room

Book Review: Wonder by RJ. Palacio

Last year when my daughter was in the fifth grade, one of her assigned reads was Wonder, by RJ Palacio. She read the book, very much enjoyed it and gave it to me to read, saying “you will love this, Maman”. It took a bit more prompting as I have plenty of my own books and never enough time to read. But once I did pick it up, I couldn’t stop reading.

The book is about a boy, Auggie, who was born with a severe facial deformity who, after being home-schooled his whole life, is about to enter the 5th grade at the local school. There are a wide range of reactions to the new kid with the deformed face. The book takes us through Auggie’s feelings, fears, courage, humor, and those of his sister, parents and ultimately friends.

I enjoyed the book and loved how each chapter is written from someone else’s point of view. I am  glad that my kids’ school assigns this book as it teaches children about acceptance, sensitivity and the effects of bullying. The book is recommended for ages 9 to 12 but I would recommend it to all parents out there. If you’ve ever taught your kids to not “judge a book by its cover”, pick up this book and read it with your kids. It is down-to-earth, heartfelt, witty, and funny.



Mommy, How do Babies Get in the Tummy?

We are all pretty capable and accomplished, so why is it that when our 3 or 4 year old suddenly looks up and out of nowhere asks: “Mommy, how do babies get in the tummy”?–we freeze, and are unsure on how to handle the situation?

Many of us have been there, and if you haven’t it will likely happen to you at some point so be prepared!

Some fun responses I’ve heard from Mommy friends include: “Babies grow in Mommies’ tummies after they go to college,
get a good job, fall in love and get married…Then the baby comes in their tummies.” or even “Babies get in mommies tummies when two people who love each are old enough and ready to have a baby together.”

Way back when, I had also chosen to include marriage in my explanation. Of course that became a problem when our then babysitter got pregnant without a husband. Babysitter became bombarded with questions like “how could that have happened?”…you could imagine. I was also proven wrong by my kids who now knew better.


Thankfully my kids start formally learning these things in school in a wonderful program about life values, starting at age 10 or 11. It takes the onus away from me from having to actually start all the not-so-fun conversations, yet gives them food for thought which they know they are always welcome to come share and discuss with me.

So what to do between ages 4 and 10? Between the time they start asking to the time they may learn about these things formally? I certainly don’t have the answer, but what I do know for sure is: Do answer! They will then know that their questions are important to you, and that they could come to you for questions and conversations. Especially because as they get older, they will find things out from friends and the way-too-accessible internet, so they may as well learn the truth from the most reliable source!

Adoptive Parents Are The Parents!

I know it’s obvious to many: Adoptive parents are the parents! But how many of us still make the faux-pas of asking adoptive parents: “did you meet her mother”? Of course what we really mean to ask is whether they have met the biological mother. But we sometimes forget this very important word and it turns out–it is irritating to adoptive parents.

A relatively new friend of mine who is the adoptive mother to 2 Chinese girls was (rightly) complaining at me today on how people sometimes ask her, in front of the girls no less, whether they have met their parents. Sometimes they even ask if the girls (ages 10 and 12) are sisters. Hello! they have grown up together under the same roof with the same loving parents since their infancy. They compete for their parents’ attention and fight over clothing. Isn’t that sisters enough?

And again, apparently, asking if the girls are biological sisters makes all the difference. Phew, I said to myself, for I remember asking exactly that when my friend first brought up the topic many months ago.

Another thing I’ve come to realize is that just because someone brings up something, does not necessarily give us, the listeners, carte-blanche to ask any question we want. Not just on the adoption issue. This goes for anything. Let’s use our judgment and know when we are getting very close to that line where it’s just no longer ok to pry.

I do give a ton of credit to this adoptive mom for being so open about it, especially with her daughters, and for learning and teaching them about their origins.