Book Karma & Les Petites Enfants

I think of myself as quite spiritual. I don’t choose to think this way, it’s just how i am. Even down so far as to what i am reading and why. I genuinely believe I find books that i am meant to read at certain times in my life for the message, lesson or enjoyment it will bring that is relative to me at that moment. I have stumbled on books that at the precise time of reading have enlightened, benefitted me or given me real pause for thought – like the Universe has conspired to help me along the way, somehow. I ask my husband if he feels the same way and he doesn’t, he looks at me a little confused and doesn’t get it. It’s just not the way he is or thinks.

For example there was a time when i was lost and confused in my early twenties; unsure where my life was heading and i found a book by Paulo Coelho called The Alchemist. I didn’t go looking for it, but when browsing in Waterstones one afternoon it was hidden at the back of the Cookery section clearly having been dumped there. I picked it up, read the sleeve and took it from there. A serendipitous find you could say. It was a short story with a powerful fable that offered some comfort that it would all turn out ok and if you want it bad enough the Universe will conspire to help you achieve it. A powerful message to absorb at the best of times, let alone when you’re in need of a rocket-propelled kick to (re)embrace life.

Another book i discovered, well was given to me actually came at time when i was starting to get obsessive about having not fallen pregnant. Months before I had an early miscarriage and was so desperate to be pregnant again but it just wasnt happening. This amazingly insightful book called ‘How to control your Fertility’ made me realise just how the female reproductive system actually works (it’s far more complex then you ever would realise and led to believe in school Biology class) and for a few months i felt like i actually took some control back and then I fell pregnant with my daughter. It helped me at time when i needed it and it gave me a new found respect for what my body is capable of and goes through each month.

I don’t believe ‘Book Karma’ ends or should end there though. I do believe its my responsibility to keep Book Karma flowing and to forward on the gift to others who might be in need of some written intervention. I am always trying to recommend books to others when i feel it appropriate. I recently passed the Fertility book onto a friend who was getting impatient about conceiving her second child. She took the book to read, but as it turns out didn’t need it. I told her she must find someone to give it to, hopefully someone who will need it.

So the latest book that came into my life by serendipitous means is called ‘French Children Don’t throw Food’ by Pamela Druckerman. Recommended by a Facebook friend of mine, i had just logged on after having a tough morning wrestling with a naughty two-year old insistent on throwing tantrum after tantrum and at the end of my tether she had that very moment posted a recommendation to read it. I’m usually weary of gimmicky titles, they usually don’t appeal to me and I’ve read enough childcare books professing to have all the answers.

Flicking over to iTunes, i looked up the title, liked what i saw & downloaded it. By the power of wi-fi within 5 minutes it was sitting comfortably in my Library. I started to read it.

Again! Another book that i was destined to read coming along at exactly the right time i needed it to.

The author is an American married to an English/Dutch guy living in Paris raising their family. Previously a Foreign Affairs journalist she is now a writer making sense of her new environment and lifestyle and reporting on her finds. Raising her daughter and soon after twin boys the Parisian way. She is a typical Anglophone as she describes it. Neurotic, helicopter parent who oversees and tries to control every aspect of parenting to ensure she raises her kids the best possible way according to Society (books, magazines, research, statistics blah blah). Living in Paris she has been exposed to the French customs and quite like what she see’s. She is astounded to find that French kids are raised in a very different environment, with very encouraging results. She begins documenting from pregnancy how much more relaxed French women are, no less unaware or unconcerned with their babies developing health but how they pay very close attention to their diet to ensure they dont pack on the l’b’s. They are pregnant, not eating for two. She goes on, from the first newborn days, Babies doing their nights, getting their figures back to getting their lives back within 3 months, socialising again, returning to work, kids in nursery, their diet, their rules & traditions. It’s all incredibly refreshing to read about a nation bringing their children up in a really relaxed, positive way with clear boundaries. The mother is a woman first, wife and mother second. Her children are her life, but not her whole life and according to the author this is the reason why they are raising such well-mannered, healthy children.

Now i’m the first person to insist that no one should ever judge anothers parental choices. I say walk 100 miles in someone elses shoes before you do that but i do notice that many parents I am surrounded by are very hands on, with the children often dictating how they live their lives. I am guilty of this most of the time. Trying to pacify and please and negotioate with a two year old & 6 month old who doesnt know what reasonable means yet. Quite often its futile and frustrating and exhausting being commandeered all the time. Having got three quarters of the way through this book, the message i seem to have taken is; Sit back, chill a bit. Have firm boundaries and let everything else be relaxed in between and dont let your life be completely taken over by a small persons demands. An incredibly common sense approach to being a parent perhaps but one that i am and many other ‘Anglophones’ are not doing. Yes being a parent is hard but by God give yourself a break and let them just be. Let them discover the world not force the world on them.

I’m only two years into being a parent but already i am considerably aware of the competitive jostling that being in charge of a small person brings. If i have a pound for every time someone told me how gifted their child was because they could do or say something well before the books say they should i would be a wealthy woman. We all want our children to excel, me more than anyone but its all a bit daft really. They all develop at their own rate. They all discover the world in their own way and time, how can we possibly compare one two-year old with another. They have a whole different set of genes for a start! Thats all well and good but i defy any mother to not feel a twinge of inadequacy when their neighbours kid is having after school lessons in French, Spanish & Mandarin, just for fun and regularly makes Mister Maker look like a novice in the craft department. My point is it’s really hard to try to keep your head about you when you are in the middle of this.

So having almost read this book i took a pledge to chill out a lot more. Stop trying to encourage Belle or Jools to move onto the next developmental stage and stop trying to instil too many rules on them and trying to ensure i am constantly stimulating them all the time. I’m currently trying to work out what is important to me and what i really wont budge on and taking it from there.

I don’t know whether its a total coincidence or the universe conspiring to give me a break and i’m praying i won’t want to eat my words but the last few days have been a little less fraught in our house since i took on board some of what the books says.

For any parent looking to read something which is both interesting, informative and comical i do recommend you read her book. If nothing else it’ll make you laugh and maybe you will have picked it up for that reason alone.

And if anyone else has other books that could have a Karmic value please let me know.

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