A million books on the subject but in the end I feel most people just do what their instincts tell them. No new parent really knows what will happen or how their child will behave until it happens, no amount of reading can truly prepare one for the unknown. That said, advice, blogs, books all are informative and help but no matter what, it comes down to the environment and the culture in most ways.
Since my last post, babies have still been on the brain. While abroad I took an opportunity to observe the parenting culture in Europe more so than I have on past visits. Of course while living there I had the great experience of working with children but was not looking at the situation from this perspective. French and Spanish kids are fairly similar in culture. Most schools let children go home at lunch time. Their parents pick them up and they have a two hour break at home. Then, the kids return and finish out their day. It’s refreshing to see parents walking to pick up their children and the children not complaining at all about a five or ten minute walk to their home. They are served a healthy, not fried meal and are able to spend more time with their parents. In restaurants, children are welcome at all hours of the evening which is great because most dinner times start at 8:00 or later. Children do not have toys and books and ipads with them, in fact, most children do not have any toys at the table at all. While this may be astonishing, they get through dinner just fine. I wondered why this was so until I did a bit more research which was then backed up by Michael Moore’s newest documentary, “Where to Invade Next” which I highly recommend. Moore covers topics from Women’s Rights, Vacation time, Health Care & Education.
In French schools, children are taught how to eat. Not just what to eat but how to act. In school cafeterias, children as young as five, are served on porcelain plates by the cafeteria ladies. They are taught how to hold their knife and fork, share food at a community table and they actively make conversation with each other. Napkins are placed on their lap and they learn to cut their own meat. Why wouldn’t kids be able to do this? They aren’t eating dinosaur shaped fried chicken nuggets either. All school lunches are normally four courses, including a cheese course (lucky ducks) and a healthy dessert. Surprisingly, the cost isn’t much more, sometimes even less than what schools pay here in the states. Unlike the US, there is no national school lunch program. The lunches are funded by local municipalities and feed about six million French children in public schools every day. The average cost is around $3 per child. Even the poorest towns in France get these meals. It is culturally important that their citizens grow up healthy and have a healthy understanding of food so that marketing and trends do not influence and corrupt their habits. For a closer look, watch this short but very informative video on French cuisine in schools. I encourage you to do your own research. Nothing is perfect but it is clear that European’s have a better handle on this than we do.
While I’m still on the fence about whether to bring bébé into our life, I am gaining a better understanding of how I would like our baby to be raised and what cultural qualities I would like to impart into their life. No one way is the best way but it can be best for you and your family. Discovering this has opened up a whole lot of other opportunities to grow culturally and become the best version of myself.