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The Joys of North American Parenting…

I am standing at the back of Coles book shop, my head buried in an interesting new read I have found tucked in between a few other books on discipline.  The book happens to be Bringing Up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman, her controversial book on how the French parent differently than their American counterparts.  I am fascinated by the new interest that North Americans have in French parenting and its emphasis on educating the child rather than over-using discipline.  I glance down every once in a while to make sure my own little brood is not tearing up the book shelves with exuberant reading or  exhibiting other such inappropriate public behaviours.  So far, so good.  Since all is well, I continue reading while the evening employees make excessive trips past us to the book supply room.

We manage to make it through the entire shopping trip without any meltdowns, fights or crying, although I am asked a few times by my off-spring to buy one item or another.

On the way home, my husband and I listen to the radio while the kids play video games in the back seat.  Suddenly, screams erupt from my youngest as she yells at her sister that she hates her and will forever.  I try to think of one good reason why we took the kids with us this evening instead of going with the original plan of hiring a babysitter.  And then I remember that it was easier to take them than make other arrangements, considering one was crying and begging to come and the other would have marooned himself to his room for the evening.  The youngest would have generally created mayhem.

And so amidst the current screaming and crying that continues to persist for the remaining time we are in our vehicle, I am left to wonder if the French do indeed have the corner market on raising kids or are there other reasons for why North Americans continue to live with our temperamental children?

To understand my own thoughts on this subject, I had to look back on the events that unfolded previous to said meltdown while we were homeward bound.

Earlier in the day, we had packed up the three we were keeping for the evening and then sent one to a friend’s house overnight.  As I shared above, it takes us quite a while to get up the gumption to go anywhere with kids in tow, so we arrived in town quite a bit passed our family’s regular supper hour.

By the time we enter our restaurant of choice, the kids are past hungry and I am still feeling the after-effects of the cat nap I had on the way down during the on-board movie.  As our luck would have it, the restaurant is booked solid, with line-ups eventually out the door.  The staff inform us they will only have a table available in twenty minutes.  We decide, against our better judgment, to tough it out.  Our name goes to the bottom of a long list.  After a few trips down the hall and to the washroom, I take the two youngest and sit on a bench as close as possible to the waitress station.  At least we will be noticed here.  I tried to look as saintly as I can muster strength to do so within myself, all the while realizing that it will be my child’s plaintive cries of hunger that will get the waitress’s attention.  Twice I hear her say that families with young children should be seated first.  I think to myself that this plan of action is working.

Meanwhile, I strike up a conversation with a former co-worker of mine just finishing his meal, and when we are through speaking, and he is just meters away, my youngest asks me who he is.  I tell her he is a retired teacher.  While he is still in listening range, Little One asks me, “Why did he retire…was he just tired of screaming at the kids?”

I discreetly try to explain to her that is not the true definition of retirement, while my other child, with pressing concerns of her own, is trying to convince me that her guidance counselor at school is 73 years of age.  “Daughter,” I say turning to her, “You know Mister is not 73 years old.”

She thinks for a split second, and then replies, “Well, he is 72 then.”

Mercifully, the waitress has now rescued us from these interesting, albeit humorous fallacies, and we are now heading for a back table next to the kitchen.  From this vantage point, we will be able to hear the door slam every fifteen seconds, as well as be privy to insider information about the goings on inside the restaurant’s kitchen.

How delightful.

I can only be grateful we are away from the watchful eyes of most of the other restaurant patrons, as I am sure there will be a few kerfuffles before the night is through.  My expectations are not disappointed in this respect.  We barely are seated when Little One starts whining and crying about one thing or another. I am ready to check in to a table for one, but Husband saves the day by allowing our youngest to sit on his knee while I try to focus on deep-breathing exercises.  The waitress arrives with our menus creating a new source of tension as I now feel pressure for everyone to act appropriately in her presence.

Of course, someone does not.

Our waitress is fast and efficient, and apart from ordering too much food, the meal goes over famously.  With only a few crazy moments, we pay and are out the door to the shops for the rest of our afore-mentioned evening’s entertainments.

And so I am left to wonder, do the French have it best or do I?  My parenting skills, far from perfect, are food for fodder for most of the funny stories I write.  Without the meltdowns of my youngest, the disparaging comments of my oldest and the whiny inquisitiveness of my middle one (not to mention the one MIA this evening with her silly sense of humor), what then would I write about?  I would certainly have no funny stories to share with all of you.

So, although I appreciate the French and their handle on educating the child, I will stick with my “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” approach for now.  Because for the time being, it has allowed me to write my stories.   And that is one of the main reasons I find myself laughing at the end of the day, instead of crying.

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