Posts Tagged ‘ Pamela Druckerman ’

Parents Picks: My Top 5 Books of 2013

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

After reading and skimming more than 100 books this year it’s no easy task to tell you which ones are my favorites. But I sat down, poured a beer and perused my overflowing bookshelf. It was so much fun to revisit Pamela Druckerman‘s Bebe by Day, Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train and Kristine Barnett‘s The Spark. They are easily among my top 12.

But if I absolutely had to whittle it down, here are my Top 5 Books of 2013. These are the books that stayed with me all year long–the ones I went on and on about until my husband’s eyes glazed over. These titles were so fresh that I fired off Facebook statuses and emails about them.

What about you? What are your favorites of 2013?

Here are mine:

1. Lean In
by Sheryl Sandberg
She stepped up to the plate this year and said what hasn’t been said before to women. Just because women want to have families and careers doesn’t mean we need to start planning for it straight out of college. She encourages women to go out there and claim what’s ours in the workplace. Wait to figure out your next steps until you’re actually pregnant. That’s advice I wish I’d had when I was getting started in 1999. Sheryl is a cool chick who has her gender’s back on every page. Take this: “’Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. …A woman… will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she ‘worked really hard or ‘got lucky’ or ‘had help from others.’”

2. The Still Point of the Turning World
by Emily Rapp
I’ve wondered for months how Emily Rapp is doing. She lost her dear son Ronan to Tay-Sachs earlier this year around the time her memoir came out. This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill tragedy. She was unapologetically angry and fiercely sweet. Her frustration and struggle–without the religious backdrop and sentimentality–made her achingly real. She’s real in a way that I will never forget. I’m not sorry for her. I’m inspired by her book that drips with meaning and poetry.

3. Let Them Be Eaten by Bears
by Peter Brown Hoffmeister
Thanks to this book, I’ve taken my kids hiking this year for the first times ever. Right in the beginning, he writes, “With kids, we don’t get out much. It’s too hard.” That resonated with me. I’ve been saying this to my husband since my babies were first born. Now they are 8! And they had never really been outside beyond the backyard or park. Thanks to Hoffmeister’s playful and inspiring approach, we even got our butts off the couch and went camping. I let the kids wander the playground, too, and with bare feet just to make Peter even more proud of me.

4. Orange is the New Black
by Piper Kerman
If you’re tired of books and shows about desperate women chasing dreams of men, careers and babies, this one is for you. It’s got very little to do with anything you’ve probably ever read before. This memoir, which formed the fictionalized–but equally awesome Netflix TV show–is about a nice girl who graduates from college and goes buck crazy. She lands a hot, rich girlfriend who just happens to smuggle drugs internationally. Piper runs cash in this operation just one time, and she soon leaves the relationship. She becomes a nice, normal straight woman again. But the feds catch up with her 10 years later, and she winds up in federal prison for a year while her real-life fiance waits for her. The inner workings–and indecencies–of the prison system are fascinating. Her life isn’t as whack as it is in the show, (Piper and Pennsytucky became friends for real) but Piper blasts your thoughts right open. This was a unique read.

5. Until I Say Goodbye
by Susan Spencer-Wendel 
Whenever I’ve felt kind of bad this year, I reminded myself of Susan Spencer-Wendel. She lives with ALS everyday, but she isn’t sad. Instead, she does everything her heart desires, including getting makeup tattooed on her face for when she could no longer apply it herself. While she still can, she goes on an epic trip with her longtime best friend to see the Northern Lights. She takes her teenage daughter wedding dress shopping because that’s something she doesn’t want the two of them to miss. Susan’s book did make me weepy–just once–but mostly she made me laugh. Her life has purpose and meaning, and it makes me more aware of what I’m doing with my own. Her book was optioned, and a film sounds like its in the works.

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Catherine Crawford, Author of French Twist: An American Mom’s Experiment in Parisian Parenting Gives Great Discipline Tips

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

From what I understand, French kids eat spinach, don’t talk back, and aren’t enrolled in an outrageous amount of extra-curricular activities. I need these children. I am down with French parenting if it means I don’t need to worry about kindergarten math tutoring. (I did this with my 4-year-old until I got a life.) I can’t stop reading about French parenting, so I’m happy that mom and author Catherine Crawford just wrote French Twist: An American Mom’s Experiment in Parisian ParentingThis is one of my book picks for 2013.

What’s wrong with American parenting? According to Crawford, it all bowls down to the following three words: “baby yoga pants.” But it’s not too late for us, even if we are American. Tired of your kids fighting, jumping on the couch and leaving their chewing gum wrappers all over the house? Here are five French-inspired parenting and discipline tips written by Crawford herself.

“I’m a sucker for books about cultural parenting and have read what feels like a Kindle-full about different international approaches. Still, it wasn’t until I had some specimens (that is, a real live French family) under my own Brooklyn roof that I was really able to imagine a possible connection to our chaotic home-life. Referred to as “the experiment,” my husband and I made a pact to research and then practice the French techniques with our young daughters to see if we could improve certain unwelcome behaviors.  

One of the things we learned is that it’s just not possible to raise kids in the United States entirely like they do in France—and I don’t really want to. Some lessons were golden, though. Take, for example, the Franco approach to discipline. Ol’ Fyodor Dostoevsky probably wasn’t thinking much about French childrearing when he set out to write Crime and Punishment, but the shared spirit of his book and Franco parenting style can’t be denied. For most French parents, if a kid breaks a rule, they are bestowed with an appropriate punishment. How refreshingly simple.

The first time I really realized that my kids weren’t getting their just desserts ever (but were still getting way too much dessert) was when my French friend helped me out with a penance for my Daphne, then a toddler, who’d decorated our hallway with marker. My pathetic solution was to explain–to this 2-year old–what she’d done wrong. Mon amie, on the other hand, suggested that in addition to an explanation, I put Daphne to work getting the scribbles off with a sponge and some soapy water. My daughter was zero help with the cleanup–in fact eventually we had to repaint–but she did understand the consequences of red ink on Benjamin Moore Acadia White paint (matte).

It takes a little more effort than the half-hearted threats I’d grown accustomed to or a conversation on the nature of wrongdoing, but once my kids realized that bad behavior would generate a true consequence, delinquency in my house dwindled markedly.

To get started, here’s my French approach to dealing with a few particularly grating violations:

Climbing on Furniture: A couple of years ago, if someone had given me a quarter every time I had to say “stop jumping the couch,” I’d have had enough scratch to replace a beaten sofa as needed.  Sadly, I had no magic keeper of the cushions–just a busted couch. The good news is that these days I almost never have use for that irksome phrase because my girls know that if I catch them jumping on the couch, the price is that they must sit still on it for a good long time to think about what a sofa is meant for. If there’s one thing most kids absolutely detest it’s having to sit and think. Really, mini-Rodins, they are not. So give it a try. If you find your kid on top of the dining room table, make him set it for the next family meal (regardless of what time it is).

Fighting: I’ve got two girls. I swear on all that is sacred and domestically blissful that ever since I’ve counterbalanced my inner pushover, Franco-style, my daughters have become better playmates.  Maybe they are banding together as “the kid team” because I’ve made it clear that, in many household matters, we are not equals. Whatever their reasoning, I love it. I love it so much that it’s now become particularly difficult for me to tolerate fighting, which is still not quite extinct. I’ve now got a real response, though.

When your kids fight, don’t immediately jump in and start talking it out. Chez moi, that usually just ends up with everyone shouting. Sequester your kids together in their room (or one of their rooms if they don’t share), and tell them they can only come out when they’ve buried the hatchet. It’s like a kid version of Dante’s Inferno, except it’s temporary and there’s an exit.

Leaving trash around the house: I’m the kind of mom that hands out gum pretty freely. What can I say, I like gum. What I don’t like is when my kids–lucky enough to get gum–leave the papers all over the house. For years I’d tell them that if I found errant wrappers, they would no longer be allowed to chew gum. And yet I never took the gum away (see reference to former pushover above).  However, I finally figured it out. Now, instead of taking away a future, phantom stick of Orbit, when I find a gum wrapper on the floor I’ve also found myself a garbage collector or two. Little girls, at least mine, are not huge fans of emptying wastebaskets. Who is, really?”

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American Parents Can Still Learn from the French Says Pamela Druckerman in Her New Book ‘Bebe by Day’

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Did you read Bringing up Bebe? Last year’s controversial book written by American mom Pamela Druckerman? She suggests that French parents do certain things better than we do. They sleep train their children early. Their kids eat braised leeks. They sit on the sidelines at the playground. They do not taxi their children around to a whirlwind of activities.

Everyone is entitled to her opinion, but I personally side with Pamela. In fact, she just saved me $369 because I read her new book, Bebe Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting, and decided to cancel my girls’ gymnastics class. Thank you, Pamela, for that, and for writing the guest post below. She still thinks we have a lot to learn from French mamans. For one, she says Americans parent from a point of anxiety while the French try to find more calm. Ahhh.

From Pamela: “This time last year, I got a taste of America’s love-hate relationship with the French. I’d just published a book explaining what I learned from French parents about raising kids. Not everyone liked the comparison. I suddenly found myself being introduced on the radio as a ‘polarizing figure.’ One journalist wrote that before we met, she was ‘expecting someone fairly nightmarish.’

It was odd to be cast as a defender of France. Frankly, there are bigger Francophiles out there (I think Paris could be friendlier, for starters). I moved to France not out for love of it’s architecture or literature or cheese, but because I happened to meet a fellow who lived there. I liked him – and I’d just lost my job. Three kids and a French mortgage later, we’re still here.

But I have learned a bundle from the way they raise kids. French parents tend to be pragmatic. They stick with what works. In so many important realms – from food to patience to teaching babies to sleep – they have common-sense wisdom that’s worth listening to.

One of the most important lessons I’ve picked up in Paris is that a household that pivots entirely around the children isn’t good for anyone – not even for the kids. If you give children a little more independence and free time, everyone thrives. The conventional wisdom in France is that the best parenting comes not from anxiety and guilt, but from calm.

Of course, we Americans know this already. But often, the social pressure here goes in another direction. Watching the French live out these ideas – or try to – helped solidify some of them for me, and renewed my confidence.

Once the publicity storm tapered off, I realized I wasn’t alone. I started getting letters and reading posts from ordinary American parents, who didn’t care where their parenting advice came from as long as it worked. “Today my very picky daughter ate a chicken sandwich with avocado, brie and sun-dried tomatoes, no fights no tantrums,” one wrote. Another added, “Why should I feel like a lazy parent if I don’t try and force my 18-month-old to read?”

Letters like these inspired me to write a new book, Bébé Day By Day. In it, I’ve tried to distill the 100 smartest ideas I’ve learned from the French. These run from the practical (“back off at the playground”) to the philosophical (“your baby doesn’t replace your husband”). I hope they’re thought provoking, and will arm American parents to make decisions for themselves. Champagne is optional.”

Photo of Pamela Druckerman courtesy of Benjamin Barda


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