Monday, September 03, 2012

Bringing Up Bebe



As the time approaches when Mace will start baby school and I will go back to taking care of other peoples' kids instead of my own, I have this constant struggle inside my mind......one moment I have intense guilt and sadness that Mace won't be happy/will get sick/will be bored/will not be held enough/will cry too much/etc/etc at baby school....and that I will not enjoy school/be bored/be exhausted/want to sell our house and move away just for something interesting to do/etc/etc.

In the next moment I think he's going to have so much fun/meet friends/meet other adults/learn patience/play hard/nap well/continue to be a mellow, happy baby.....and that I will enjoy being independent/teaching children/seeing adults everyday/wearing nice clothes.  Everything in the logical, reasonable part of my brain tells me that this latter situation is what I really want......that it isn't that I want to stay home with Mace every day......that wouldn't be good for either of us.....but then I look at him when he's happy or when he needs me......and wonder what could be so important to do that I should leave him for eight hours at a time every day??

In short, I need help being inspired to continue to think logically so that Mace can go to baby school and I can go back to teaching middle school and Rob can stop being my therapist and we can all be happy.

Bring in Bringing Up Bebe.

As soon as I saw this book reviewed in the papers I knew I had to read it as soon as it came out......basically this book describes through the eyes of an American mother living in Paris how French parents and kids are calm and mellow.  They have their own lives.  Their children are well-behaved.  American parents and kids try to compete with and outdo each other.  American parents hover and their kids want instant gratification.  I want to be like the French!

I anticipated the arrival of this book so much that I was a little disappointed when Rob jumped right on it and read it first.  He started reading it on the Kindle while we were in Florida on spring break.  His dad and I kept hounding him for his biggest takeaway as he read or what he really liked about the book so far.  "Just read it," he said.  "You'll like it."  Of course that was after he got worked up a bit because he can't handle too many requests from too many people at once you know.

Unfortunately Rob apparently forgot that part of what I do for a living is to get kids excited about books and teach them how to talk about what they read.  So that as adults, they can answer a simple question like, What was your biggest takeaway from this book?  Yet we could get nothing out of Rob besides "Read it, you'll like it."

But I already know I'll like it! I thought.  Out loud.  Because I've already read reviews of it and I want to look like the mother on the front cover!  I just want YOU to tell me what YOU like about it!  Nothing.

I received the hard copy of this book as a baby shower gift from my best friend.  I prefer hard copies because I like to be able to flip back to any part of the book with ease.  Maybe there is an easy way to do that on a Kindle, but I haven't figured out what it is.  I've been watching this book sit on the side table in the living room for months.....and while I flipped through and read sections of it from time to time, I hadn't felt motivated to read it cover to cover since Rob couldn't even tell me one big takeaway he'd gotten from it.  (And I suppose I'm the last to the party to realize that it isn't that he couldn't.....it's just that he doesn't want to be bugged.....and once you've already bugged him.....well, he's sensitive, we all know that :)))

So I kept staring at this book.  And I kept thinking, I really do want to look like that mother.  Plus I already have two red strollers!  So finally I started to read it.

I am only a third of the way through the book and already I feel so much better about my life.  I am starting to feel like I can do all of this......work and be independent and still be a mom and have a family without one or the other overtaking my whole life.  The biggest takeaways from the part I've read so far are these:  Children need boundaries to live within.....and within those boundaries, they should be free to be the people they are going to be.  Also--parents who are overly obsessed with their children are not as happy as they probably could be.

When I read about this I kept thinking about teaching middle school.  Middle school is an age group you either love or can hardly tolerate.  I absolutely love it and I've had a lot of success teaching this age group.  I think part of it has to do with the fact that I give kids boundaries and have some non-negotiables, but within those, they have quite a bit of freedom.  Also I am pretty calm, patient, and relaxed (which my mother says she can hardly believe because every time my parents would ask me something or want help with something I would have no patience for it whatsoever) and the kids and I get along great.

Calm, patient, and relaxed is exactly how I want to be as a parent.  And that would mean not letting irrational fears about daycare or irrational fears about returning to work take over my life.  Just as work has never taken over my entire life, being a parent shouldn't take over my entire life either.  While Rob and I are not the same people we were ten weeks ago, if we were to let being parents take over everything, I just know we wouldn't be as satisfied with life as we should be.  And Mace wouldn't be either.

Honestly, this book is interesting from a cultural perspective too, and I think a lot of people would like it whether or not they were new parents or even if they were parents at all.  It has been exactly what I needed right now to sort through everything with another transition on the horizon.


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