Book Report: Wisdom Of Our French Sisters

I’ve been on a French kick lately…

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It started with this book.  As part of my striving for balance in 2013, I decided to reread French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano.  There is something about the sensible, pragmatic focus on balance and habits and slow change that leaves me feeling calm and capable.  Reading this book makes me crave leeks like crazy!  I discovered vichyssoise, or potato-leek soup, before I had read or heard of French Women Don’t Get Fat.  I fell in love, and I’ve made it so much that now I can whip it together without a recipe, in whatever variation sounds good at the moment.  I made potato-leek soup with watercress tonight, and it was absolutely delicious.

I love French food in general.  So fresh and simple.  So indulgent, yet nutritious and balanced.

The downside of this book is that it makes me feel like NOT going to the gym.  Frenchwomen don’t really go to the gym, apparently.  They just stay fit by walking everywhere…up to 90 minutes a day of walking for pleasure and transportation!  I live in an American midwestern city.  That kind of walking lifestyle just isn’t in the cards unless I move to New York or somewhere.  Therefore, to maintain my balance and health, I must go to the gym!

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French Women Don’t Sleep Alone, by Jamie Cat Callan…  This book was one of those “People who viewed this item also bought…” things on Amazon.  The title intrigued me.  On the one hand, I have been averse to sleeping alone since I was little, and it hasn’t changed as an adult.  In a completely nonsexual way, I always sleep much better with another person in the bed.  Or at least in the house.  So if the book title makes me think I can read this book and never have to sleep alone again…

On the other hand, the author didn’t mean it in a nonsexual way, of course!  So I was further intrigued, curious to know just how literally she means it!  And the Kindle version was cheap, so why not?  It was a fun, fun read!  Not a lot of true wisdom, but a lot of cultural anecdotes and immersed in an attitude of self-pampering.  It made me want to shop for shoes and lingerie!

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Bringing Up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman, was another “also” item!  I love stories of American women immersing themselves in other cultures and finding the wisdom of their host culture.  Think Eat Pray Love-ish.  Pamela Druckerman is an American woman who is raising three children in Paris.  She observes how much better behaved French children are than American children, and decides to research futher.  Bringing Up Bebe is the story of finding answers and applying them to her own family.  As an American teacher of American children…the ones who are really not so well behaved…I honestly picked this one up out of desperation for more ideas as much as for entertainment.  Every bit of parenting wisdom I’ve ever collected has helped in the classroom…surely French parenting wisdom couldn’t hurt?  I’m still in the middle of this one, but I’ve already had much more entertainment than I thought!

So far, the main idea is this:  Children are rational human beings who can learn, who can control themselves, and who are happier when they do.  Children who have not been taught to handle frustration, waiting, no, solitude, etc., are slaves to the tyranny of their desires.  They are not happy people.  (Does a tantrum-filled life strike you as a happy individual?)  French parenting seems to be all about preparing a child for a life of pleasure — not immediate gratification.  Furthermore, in an adult-child relationship, both people have rights, and each decision is a compromise between the two.

I also learned the science behind why babies do or do not sleep through the night…and possibly why I don’t like sleeping alone!  Babies don’t naturally connect their sleep cycles, so they wake up every couple of hours.  If they are immediately picked up, fed, diapered, etc., they learn to want food and interaction after each sleep cycle.  If they are allowed to fall back asleep, they learn to stay asleep and connect their sleep cycles.  Even as babies a few weeks old, children are seen as autonomous individuals who do not need to be swept up and rescued.

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French attitude really does seem to be all about pleasure.  You should enjoy what you eat.  You should enjoy what you wear.  You should enjoy the people you meet.  They should enjoy you.  You should enjoy your children.  Your children should enjoy life — How could they enjoy things if they are constantly upset, impatient, and don’t know how to cope with frustration?

Which all adds up to this…  I have really enjoyed reading these books!  🙂

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