While sitting in a cafe in NYC this past Saturday, I couldn’t help but spy the young man at the table beside me reading Le Point–more or less the French equivalent of Time. This young city hipster clearly wasn’t French (I’ve developed an eye for such things, after years of careful study), and G and I smiled conspiratorially over our soup and sandwiches: ah, the cache of the Francais! They’ve still got it. I noticed only later, as we were getting up to leave, that he was also toting a copy of the latest Wall Street Journal featuring a society headline I just couldn’t ignore, especially not in my current preggo state, and standing beside my French husband: “Why French Parents are Superior”.
It seems only yesterday the Journal published a jaw-dropping parenting piece that started a revolution of motherly mudslinging across national and cultural lines. Predictably, the same thing appears to be happening this week, no doubt inciting thrills in the WSJ staff and the new book’s author.
Why do these stories enthrall us so? I myself am fascinated, and not only because I’m about to raise a half-French child in America–I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother with gusto and trepidation, and fully enjoyed it. Perhaps it is because parenting is such a personal experience, and yet also the strongest demonstration to the wide world of who we are as individuals. Raising a child is by far the most challenging, not to mention the most interesting, thing most of us will ever do, and while we can create an infant, few of the thoughtful among us are under the impression that we can create a complete person. Perhaps if we were more French, or Chinese, or Brazilian, we would be able to better control these little creatures, and would therefore measure up to a greater standard of personal perfection.
Regardless of all the hullabaloo, I think I’ll read Drukerman’s book. Not because I believe she has something new to say about raising young children, but because I’ve been that expat, surrounded by friendly etrangeres, and I believe there will be something profoundly comforting in reading this other woman’s experience of motherhood.