As a mother with two young daughters in a trendy urban neighborhood, hedged in by hordes of other trendy urban families, I often feel a keen sense of bafflement at what I see going on with the procreators in my midst. So, at the risk of being a traitor to my generation, I have to say: I don’t know when or how it happened, but it’s clear to me that, even as we have tried harder than any of our ancestors to mentor, please, and encourage our kids, we have completely lost control of them, and in the process we’ve lost control of our own lives as well. And it isn’t pretty. How ugly is it? Three words: baby yoga pants.
I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, quite possibly the world headquarters of helicopter parents, but I’ve seen similar abdication in Manhattan, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon. These are just the cities I visit regularly; I have a pretty good hunch it’s happening in nearly every middle-class neighborhood nationwide, urban or otherwise. How can I be so sure? Here are a couple of the many ways: I’d be willing to wager that you know—all too well?—parents who lives in fear of their toddler, or that you’re aware that a Bugaboo is not merely a synonym for “hobgoblin.” I have absolute certainty that, thirty-some-odd years ago, my mother didn’t pick me up from school laden with four snack choices to ensure my satisfaction (and avoid a meltdown) and that she didn’t put in a lot of time worrying that she wasn’t being the best mom she could possibly be.
Adventures in Franco-inspired American parenting—a winning mix of witty cross-cultural observation, hilariously blunt French wisdom, and one American mom’s journey to create her own hybrid parenting approach.
“If there is no blood, don’t get up.” This single nugget of parenting gold, offered by a French friend at the end of a long dinner party, changed everything for writer Catherine Crawford, her husband, and, especially, the couple’s two young daughters. Crawford immediately began to see that while the United States had become the land of too-involved parents forever wanting to talk through their kids’ feelings about, well, everything, France employed a far more laissez-faire attitude toward raising les enfants. Learning to sleep through the night? A few tears never hurt anyone. Food? Let them eat cake, sure, but only after they’ve sampled lamb chops, broccoli rabe, and the stinkiest of cheeses.
Short of shipping her daughters off to Paris for these—and many other—invaluable early-life lessons, Crawford did the next best thing: She brought Old World–style parenting to Brooklyn. In the process, she discovered that her kids could actually hold a thought silently for two minutes without interrupting adult conversation, and that she didn’t, in fact, need to buy out half the toy store to make their birthdays special. She even found out how much her kids like lamb chops! While combining the best attributes of the approach français with what she saw as American qualities worth preserving, Crawford found a way to save her household and her sanity. Hilarious and insightful, French Twist reveals how Crawford and her family survived le grand experiment—and why they aren’t ever going back to the way things were.