Before, it was fairly easy to set up a coffee meeting with our friends or go grab dinner with some family without much challenge. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a lot more to take into consideration these days with our little guy – his feeding schedule, his mood, his bedtime routine and keeping it routine, as well as our own exhaustion by day and week’s end.
However, we’ve recently started trying something. Something so simple, so novel and timeless, that it’s hard to come up with any sort of legitimate excuse as to why we hadn’t thought of it before – having people over.
Years ago, it was not uncommon to have guests over at a particular night of the week; each person bringing a dish or a dessert. People got together and just socialized. Yes, before Facebook and text messaging, people actually got together in person at their homes and caught up on what was going on in their lives.
So, we’ve decided to start implementing this into our lives a bit more. Not only is it less expensive than meeting up at some restaurant with friends, as we make dinner here at home, think of how much more freedom you have to sit around, chat, let the baby be a baby and not worry about those around you or a waiter or waitress who you’re keeping from filling that table with other guests.
On top of that, my wife and I have discovered a fun little side effects of these social Friday night dinners at home – having guests over and socializing on a Friday night makes the weekend seem longer than it actually is. Since we’re actually doing something with that evening, it never feels like it does when you get together on a Saturday night, which is that feeling of ‘ugh. tomorrow’s Sunday and then it’s back to work.” You almost feel like you’re getting extra time out of your weekend.
Not only that, but with a somewhat regular gathering at the home, it helps us stay on top of keeping the house cleaner than we had been otherwise.
Save a little money. See good friends and family. Enjoy good, homemade food, and get a little extra time to your weekend.
How can you go wrong?
I just finished Pamela Druckerman’s book, “Bringing Up Bébé.”
.She’s an American journalist who moved to France with her husband where they gave birth to a daughter and two twin boys and quickly learned about the vast differences in culture, parenthood, and child rearing in France versus in America.
Druckerman covers a wide variety of topics in the course of her three kids’ arrivals into the world, but one of the most reoccurring observations is how calm and collected children in France are in contrast to the American parents often found chasing their kids around the park, the house, etc. They refer to it as “being sage,” a sense of calm in a child, whether they be at home or out in public.
From the French culture, she learns that parents give their children rules, but it’s a limited set of rules. Those rules are important and very strict, but there is freedom within those rules. For example, one example from her French friends is children having to be in their room at a certain time each night. Now, the children may play in the room, read, etc, but that’s where they go, to the room. The method behind this is that, eventually, the children will get tired and know it’s time to climb into bed and go to sleep. The line of thinking is that this sets up boundaries for children, but is not overbearing enough where they feel they have no freedom. Rules, with freedom within the rules.
Another big topic throughout Druckerman’s journey is food. American children can be notoriously picky eaters, but she finds that by starting children off with real food at an early age, and having them try new foods, adult foods, even if it’s puree early on, will develop an open-minded taste palate in children. She even recounts how many kids in restaurants in France aren’t offering off of some ‘children’s menu’ of pizza, chicken nuggets, etc, but real food off the real menu. Very very fascinating.
I’m really just cherry picking two topics that stood out the most to me in the course of her book.
So, is it possible?
Druckerman finds a way to take the good of the French style of parenting and blend it with her own American upbringing, but she does so why she’s living in France, a place where all children take part in a grand lunch so that their meals at dinner aren’t as large. There’s even a gouter in between. French kids don’t graze throughout the day like the American kids constantly walking around with a bowl of Cheerios. They have their breakfast, their larger meal of the day at lunch, a gouter (snack) in the afternoon, and then a smaller dinner.
And just because they are better behaved and understand that they have their own lives as do their parents, the children don’t appear to be automatons from this. No, they seem to be joyous, fun-loving little people, thoroughly enjoying life.
However, Druckerman does this while living amid the French culture for years, surrounded by the system that was already in place and having to adjust their American ways to it.
But what about Americans living in America? Do we have to pack up and live in Paris in order to make such a switch in the way our children grow in these aspects without American ‘norms’ getting in the way? Is it possible without peers and family saying that it’s “not how you raise a kid?” because it’s not how we were raised?
Now, notice I used the term “cherry picking” earlier. I did this for a reason, which is that I’m not making a blanket statement that I feel everyone should run out and do absolutely everything that the French parents do, or even what Druckerman’s family did in this book.
In fact, here’s an article from Forbes completely blasting the book, saying the methods take away a child’s individuality, promote socialism and promote forms of child neglect.
I can’t say I agree completely with that author, Erika Brown Ekiel, either.
Like much of life, it’s not about blanket statements or ideas that are cure-alls. It’s about finding your personal balance and what works for you.
For example, I love the idea about raising a child who loves the idea of exploring new foods and tastes, who aren’t raised on the kids’ menus of pizza and chicken nuggets. However, as I’ve stated in the past, I’m not a fan of the “crying it out method” when a child can’t sleep.
I like the way that Druckerman describes the French authority of parents, creating a framework with a few key phrases throughout their childhood that produces those well-behaved children who are still having fun with the other kids, at the park or playroom. However, I’m not a fan of the dismissive nature of breast-feeding, as it comes across in the book, as I’m a big proponent of breast-feeding for mothers who have the ability to do so.
There’s a lot of question marks up in the air and you know what? Neither one of the authors I’ve mentioned (the book, or the article disapproving of the book) has all the answers. That’s why we, as readers, as consumers of knowledge, have to take in what we can, digest it, and discover what is appealing and useful to us, and what might not serve us well in life.
Maybe the best way to end this one is simply to say c’est la vie!
Posted by thedorkydaddy in Books and Reading, Food, Socializing Tags: baby, Bringin Up Bebe, child development, eating, Erika Brown Ekiel, food, Forbes, French parenting, gouter, journalism, Pamela Druckerman, Reading, The Dorky Daddy
Before our son was born, I never thought of how easily we would come and go from the house, run an errand here and there, pick up some groceries, or grab a bite to eat, without giving it a second thought.
Now, going to the grocery store is like planning the storming of Normandy.
A date night? Well, they don’t even really come into play, at least not this early in our little guy’s career as a being on Earth.
However, the exception was this past week when, for the first time since he was born, my wife and I actually got a chance to go out and have a night of our own. While the little one spent some quality time with one of his grandmas, we went out to dinner, and then caught a performance of “A Chorus Line” on its tour stop in town.
It seemed a little weird, the whole night. At dinner, while we both thoroughly enjoyed the meal (we both ordered steak, so this MUST have been a big night) there was the occasional “you think he’s okay?” sprinkled throughout our conversations, the glancing at the phones to make sure there were no messages.
After dinner, we went to the theatre, she checked in via phone and things were going all right except for the usual fussiness, and then we enjoyed the show.
I had never seen “A Chorus Line.” Meg had caught it in NYC some years ago, but it was all new to me. At first, I was sort of skeptical, finding the opening number just a tad too long for my liking and leaving me wondering if I was going to make it through the whole story.
I like when I’m pleasantly surprised, though. Once the characters started revealing themselves and the story took shape, I really ended up having a great time and enjoying the show. Don’t judge a book by its cover…or a show by its opening tune, I suppose.
When the curtain fell, we walked back to the car and hit the road, wondering the whole ride if we had been out too late, if he was okay the rest of the night, and if he had driven grandma to drink.
Upon our arrival, he was asleep in bed and all was well with the world.
Before we became parents, it was nothing to say ‘I’m just going to run to the store’ or ‘let’s go grab some dinner.’ Heck, if you go back to when we were dating, we went out without a thought all the time.
During all those periods of life, you never give a thought to the amount of leeway and freedom you have in the decisions you make and can choose at a split second. Honestly, why would you back then?
Now, there’s a lot more planning, a lot more shifting of the to-do lists.
But, it certainly makes you enjoy those rare date nights a lot more when the chance arises.
In the past week, our little guy has added solid foods to his menu. I say solid as in mushy, but heck, it’s certainly something a little more diverse than just milk, I’m sure.
Eventually we would like to begin making his food on our own. It’s amazing how much of a supply you can get out of simply pureeing a piece of fruit or vegetable, and how cost-effective! Of course, this is sometimes met with an eye roll or two from people who wonder why we would go to such trouble. I totally look forward to it, though.
Call me weird, but I look forward to the fun of choosing what types of food to make and making it as a family. Knowing what’s inside what he’s eating and where it came from. My wife and I have spent the past few years trying to eat local whenever possible. Here’s a perfect, inexpensive way for the baby to do so too. Not there yet, but I look forward to when we are.
Last week we started with Rice Cereal, which he lapped up excitingly. A few days later it was Oatmeal Cereal.
This week, drum roll please…it was sweet potato for our sweet potato, and boy, did he love it.
What a world-changing feeling to see that orange-smeared face smiling with a spoon in his mouth as he got his first tastes of new food, and liked it, to boot.
Times, they are a changing.
I might as well hand over the car keys now. 🙂