My wonderful wife forwarded me this WSJ excerpt from Pamela Druckerman's forthcoming anti-Chua text, Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. The broad argument: French parents are more comfortable setting boundaries for their children, so everything is better there.
Except, of course, it's not. From the article:
Rest assured, I certainly don't suffer from a pro-France bias. Au contraire, I'm not even sure that I like living here. I certainly don't want my kids growing up to become sniffy Parisians.
There are a lot of things wrong with Druckerman's article: the bourgeois myopia, the cheesy stereotyping of American parents, the pathetic cod-Gladwellian namechecking (she brings on Walter Mischel, inventor of the 'marshmallow test,' to assert that he's never studied French children but his 'impression' is the same as hers(!!)), and especially Druckerman's dead stupid one-sentence dismissal of the deeply entrenched differences in governmental support of childrearing families between France and the U.S.
She even talks (elsewhere in the book) about how awesome it is that French women put on less weight when pregnant than American women do. Of all the tired-ass clichés...
But the deepest problem with the piece is in the paragraph I quoted -- or rather, the question it raises and doesn't even try to answer: if Druckerman doesn't want to raise French kids who turn someday into Frenchmen, why does she have such a hard-on for French parenting? Where does she think Frenchmen come from, exactly?
Turns out the answer is hidden at the end of the piece, and it's got precious little to do with her children:
After about 10 minutes, Leo stopped trying to leave altogether. He seemed to forget about the gate and just played in the sandbox with the other kids. Soon Frédérique and I were chatting, with our legs stretched out in front of us. I was shocked that Leo suddenly viewed me as an authority figure.
What Druckerman wants, of course, is just this: to be seen differently; to sit around chatting her legs stretched out in front of her. To not be 'just' a mom. The real Pamela Druckerman is the woman having a chat at the playground, after all.
What she envies is that French parents -- the ones she sits around chatting with at playgrounds, anyhow -- feel no guilt about putting themselves first.
How do you say 'Fuck off, Seymour, mommy needs her merlot now' in French, I wonder?