In her new book Bringing Up Bébé, Pamela Druckerman, an American journalist living in Paris, extols the virtues of Seine-style parenting. According to the author, French babies sleep peacefully through the night at three months old and eat perfectly balanced meals in lieu of the constant snacking associated with American kids. Her overall take on petit Jacques vs. little Jack? Les enfants Francais appear to be better behaved than their whiny, obnoxious and over-indulged American counterparts.
Hmmm? So French moms stay thin on wine and cheese, get to buy their clothes in the birthplace of haute couture, AND have children that would never make a scene in the checkout aisle at a supermarket? It kind of makes me wonder if the Sorbonne offers a crash course in child rearing. But it does beg the question if one can really perfect this kind of parenting if they don't actually speak French? Or wear a beret? Or if the only "French" food their picky nine-year-old might deign to eat is the "fry"?
It was just about this same time last year when I thought about adopting another hot book-based maternal style, "Tiger-Mom-ing" . The experiment was a bit of a bust, though. I have little doubt my lack of Chinese ancestry might have part of the problem. But the bigger issue was my children's complete unwillingness to stick with a musical instrument at all, let alone practice multiple hours a day. And give up sleepovers? That was a total non-starter for my 12-year-old.
It would probably make sense for me to attempt mastering a cultural parenting stereotype that falls in line with my actual ethnicity. You know, a Jewish Mother. And although no one's written a guidebook recently, I could brush up by reading some Philip Roth.
But I just don't think I have the physical stamina necessary to channel Sophie Portnoy . Becoming "the patron saint of self-sacrifice" and "one of the outstanding producers and packagers of guilt in our time" is surprisingly exhausting. And neither of one of my sons is showing any signs of wanting to be a doctor.
I am a woman who can barely open a can of chicken soup. You can forget about me making it from scratch. Yep, I am motherhood-cliché failure even on my genetic home turf.
But all this has gotten me thinking, could there be such thing as Madison mothering? And if so, could this finally be a parenting style I might be able to master?
I've started pulling together my list of things that would set the Mad City mom apart. For example, is there anywhere else in the world, or the U.S. for that matter, where "recall" might be one of a baby's first words? Or where such a hefty percentage of parents know exactly which car seats are rated highest for old Subarus or late model Toyota Prii?
Where else but in Madison could mothers debate whether their children would have taken full advantage of the proposed Edgewater redevelopment's ice rink? Or consider home schooling not because the schools are too liberal, but because they aren't progressive enough?
I could come up with semi-truisms around baby-wearing, backyard chicken raising and Dansko clogging. After all, I have yet to go to a PTO meeting where the Swedish footwear didn't appear to be mandatory.
But I'm searching for a few more ideas to help flesh out the book -- if you have any, just send them my way. Because Isthmus Parenting: The Surprising Benefits of Raising Kids on X-number of Square Miles Surrounded by Reality has a really nice ring to it. And if Pamela Druckerman and Amy Chua can have success making all other parents feel mildly inferior, I sure want my crack at it, too.comments powered by Disqus
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.