Reviewed by Annabelle King:
Gina Ford step aside, you may have some competition from across the pond.
If you either have a small child or are expecting one then you might want to get hold of a copy of this book. No disrespect to the mighty Ms Ford (all three of mine are “Gina babies”) but I wish I’d read French Children Don’t Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman eight years ago when I was expecting my first child. In this book Druckerman, an American mum living in Paris, reveals all the Parisian trade secrets of early parenting such as sleeping through the night, getting your child to eat more than pasta and bread and how to have an uninterrupted conversation with another adult whilst in charge of a toddler. All of these topics will resonate with mothers across the land. I know I spent hours going up and down stairs to settle a small baby, or tried multiple techniques to get my kids to eat vegetables. I can’t remember the last time I managed to finish a sentence let alone a conversation whilst pushing my girls on the swing.
Druckerman explains first hand why French babies sleep through the night at two to three months old (yes, they do) and without a blackout blind in sight. She also reveals why at dinner time in France, children will sit quietly alongside their parents and happily eat the three courses put in front of them. And how it is that a three year old knows the difference between a blue cheese and a camembert. Have you ever wondered why you rarely see a French toddler kicking off in the playground or why French children go to bed when they are told?
When all the rest of us are losing our heads, French mothers keep theirs perfectly it would seem. What’s vaguely irritating is that they make it sound so effortless. By adopting a few remarkably simple techniques they seem to have achieved the parenting ‘Holy Grail’. For example, if a French baby stirs and grumbles in the night, the parents practice ‘Le Pause’ and simply wait for it to settle itself back to sleep instead of rushing in to pick it up and give it a feed. From very early on French babies are offered the same food as their parents – not a packet of baby rice in sight on French supermarket shelves – it’s straight onto pureed leeks. And from the age of three when they enter the excellent state nursery system, French children sit down for a three course lunch including a cheese and dessert course. ‘L’éducation’ as they call it, starts young. Indeed by the age of three, French children eat three structured meals a day, with only one snack in the middle of the afternoon. No systematic grazing on rice cakes for these guys. French parents actually bake cakes with their children in the morning and make them wait until the afternoon to eat them.
Patience and perseverance seems to be the backbone to a lot of these techniques. French parents do not give in for an easy life which I know that I am guilty of, on a daily basis. They make their children wait – a lot – it would seem. Nor are they afraid of saying ‘Non’ and meaning it. As a nation they seem much less willing to compromise their own lifestyles for their children. Evenings are for husband and wife, mealtimes are for eating and playground gossip will not be interrupted under any circumstance.
None of this is rocket science, however as a mother of three I still learnt a lot from reading it, and felt mildly vindicated that I already do some of it (I was raised by a Frenchman).
A must read for any mum, new or old, “French Children Don’t Throw Food” is on sale on Amazon for approximately £9.00.
This posting was contributed by Annabelle King who lives in Shepherds Bush. After a crazy ten year career in advertising, she gave it all up to be bossed about by her three little girls. Her blog The Bush Babies was started in 2007, where she writes about the highs and lows of parenthood and raising three little girls in London.