In her new book Bringing Up Bébé, Pamela Druckerman, an American journalist living in Paris, extols the virtues of Seine-style parenting. According to the author, French babies sleep peacefully through the night at three months old and eat perfectly balanced meals in lieu of the constant snacking associated with American kids. Her overall take on petit Jacques vs. little Jack? Les enfants Francais appear to be better behaved than their whiny, obnoxious and over-indulged American counterparts.
Hmmm? So French moms stay thin on wine and cheese, get to buy their clothes in the birthplace of haute couture, AND have children that would never make a scene in the checkout aisle at a supermarket? It kind of makes me wonder if the Sorbonne offers a crash course in child rearing. But it does beg the question if one can really perfect this kind of parenting if they don't actually speak French? Or wear a beret? Or if the only "French" food their picky nine-year-old might deign to eat is the "fry"?
It was just about this same time last year when I thought about adopting another hot book-based maternal style, "Tiger-Mom-ing" . The experiment was a bit of a bust, though. I have little doubt my lack of Chinese ancestry might have part of the problem. But the bigger issue was my children's complete unwillingness to stick with a musical instrument at all, let alone practice multiple hours a day. And give up sleepovers? That was a total non-starter for my 12-year-old.
It would probably make sense for me to attempt mastering a cultural parenting stereotype that falls in line with my actual ethnicity. You know, a Jewish Mother. And although no one's written a guidebook recently, I could brush up by reading some Philip Roth.
But I just don't think I have the physical stamina necessary to channel Sophie Portnoy . Becoming "the patron saint of self-sacrifice" and "one of the outstanding producers and packagers of guilt in our time" is surprisingly exhausting. And neither of one of my sons is showing any signs of wanting to be a doctor.
I am a woman who can barely open a can of chicken soup. You can forget about me making it from scratch. Yep, I am motherhood-cliché failure even on my genetic home turf.
But all this has gotten me thinking, could there be such thing as Madison mothering? And if so, could this finally be a parenting style I might be able to master?
I've started pulling together my list of things that would set the Mad City mom apart. For example, is there anywhere else in the world, or the U.S. for that matter, where "recall" might be one of a baby's first words? Or where such a hefty percentage of parents know exactly which car seats are rated highest for old Subarus or late model Toyota Prii?
Where else but in Madison could mothers debate whether their children would have taken full advantage of the proposed Edgewater redevelopment's ice rink? Or consider home schooling not because the schools are too liberal, but because they aren't progressive enough?
I could come up with semi-truisms around baby-wearing, backyard chicken raising and Dansko clogging. After all, I have yet to go to a PTO meeting where the Swedish footwear didn't appear to be mandatory.
But I'm searching for a few more ideas to help flesh out the book -- if you have any, just send them my way. Because Isthmus Parenting: The Surprising Benefits of Raising Kids on X-number of Square Miles Surrounded by Reality has a really nice ring to it. And if Pamela Druckerman and Amy Chua can have success making all other parents feel mildly inferior, I sure want my crack at it, too.