I very excited to finally be back from the land of ZERO connectivity. Despite my much-needed break, I am catching up on loads of un-exciting parenting stuff and rather than bore you silly, risking the loss of your patronage forever, I am so grateful to European Mama for this hilarious tongue-in-cheek guest post she let me to snatch for my blog!
So, if you’re a parent, you’re bound to get conflicting advice. Even if you’re a multicultural parent, because no matter how good a parent you are, the French/Chinese/Dutch/whatever do it much better than you do. So, I tried to imagine how it would look like if I tried to take all these advice to heart? I made a plan. Every day of the week, I would parent like another culture, and see what happens. I will stick to the books, “Bringing Up Bebe”, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, and “The Continuum Concept”, and also this article.
So, I go French! I want to start my day with a nice warm coffee and croissants, but the children eat all my croissants before I can even slip into my role of a French mom, and the coffee gets cold before I even get to drink it. Slowly and hesitantly, I assume my role. I tell the children that from now on, we’re going to have a few rules. Such like: no snacking. Food will be served four times a day and not more. And that no actually means no. I take them to playground to practice to practice my “no” saying skills. I try it: in Polish, “nie!”, in German, “nein!”. It doesn’t work, so I try French, “non!”, and that doesn’t help, either. I try to give them the famous French “big eyes”, les grands yeux, but my children only look at me, think that their mom is actually a crazy person and start laughing so hard that they get a belly ache and start complaining. So we go home. They’re hungry and it’s one hour left till dinner! They’re crying from hunger but today I am a French woman and won’t let them do “n’importe quoi”. I am actually kind of lucky that this is French day because I get to pour myself a glass of red wine. And then another. And another. I am starting to panic because I have to prepare a 3 course dinner, and haven’t even started yet. So, another glass of wine it is. I realise that I haven’t gotten the ingredients, so we go to the store to get them. The children are super hungry but I just can’t give in! The trip to the store was traumatic and I’d just skip writing about it. I cook dinner which takes me another 2 hours, and by the time I’m done, the children are too hungry and tired to eat what I prepared: oysters! Frogs legs! Boeuf bourguignon! And cheese! They want me to cuddle with them when they go to bed but I calmly explain that they have to learn to be independent. So, another no it is. I am so tired after this day. I wish my father was here to make his famous crème caramel. I hope next day will be better.
I wake up my children in the morning, calling them lazy and bad people and what will they do without me. Uh Oh. This is not going well. They, of course, rebel against me, but I am a strong mom, a Tiger today. So I tell them that they will get no food if they don’t get up and dressed right now. This ends with everybody screaming and fighting and a scene so ugly that I won’t even describe it here. Let’s just move to dinner. I serve rice and Peking duck. I tell my children to set the table and criticise everything about the way they do it: not neatly folded, not symmetrical, not pretty enough. My children, they’re so lazy. After dinner, I make them practice the violin and the piano for 6 hours. It is true what Amy Chua says: the 5th hour is the worst, for everybody involved. But they can’t go to sleep until they’re done. I am so exhausted and pour myself some sake. I know that it’s not Chinese, but I don’t want to be so discriminating. I am off to bed.
I wake up on the floor in my bedroom. I decided to co-sleep today and the result was me falling from the bed. The baby wakes up, and of course, I feed him on demand. This is actually quite nice. Until I remember that I need to go diaper less. That changes the day to the worse, because while my big girl is pretty much potty trained, I have still two more to go. My little girl doesn’t run fast enough to make it to the potty, and the baby, well, he’s a baby. Which leaves me with lots of pee and poop, pretty much everywhere. I need some alcohol, but don’t know what kind. I decide on a shot (or two or three) of homemade nalewka. It’s homemade so it should do. I am busy the whole day: preventing poo tragedies, feeding them when they’re hungry (all.the.time), breastfeeding, baby-toddler-and pre-schooler-wearing. I don’t even have the time to meditate or smell the flowers or go outside to hug the trees. At the end of the day I am so tired I want to go to sleep. But I can’t because the children aren’t tired just yet. So I wait. And wait. And wait. In the end, we all fall asleep on the floor.
So today I can be an American mom. This is harder than I thought because they have all these kinds of parenting methods: attachment parenting (which I pretty much went through yesterday) and there are free range parents and helicopter parents, and it’s so complicated and I only have a day for this! So, OK. Maybe I’ll be a helicopter parent for a while and then I’ll be a free range parent for the other half of the day. I follow my children everywhere. I always ask what they’re doing and why they’re doing them. I also decide to take this one step further and apply to University in their name, and started to look for jobs. I also constantly praise them for how clever, pretty, intelligent and funny they are. After few hours the children are more than annoyed with my constant putting my nose into their affairs (and the constant praise that goes with it) and want to play by themselves. So, OK I go free-range. The plan is, we go to the park, I leave and they go back home by themselves. Sounds easy! We get to the park. I explain that at 2 and 4 years old, they’re almost ready to go back home by themselves! I thought this was a great idea! They didn’t. They started to cry and cling to me! And at home they couldn’t even wait for me to leave me alone! But I praise them for how well they’re doing and we go home. But I totally forgot about the cheerleading, and baby-genius enrichment classes! I need me some brownies. And a few hamburgers and fries! With ketchup! And pumpkin pie! Any alcohol? Well… maybe some Starbucks pumpkin latte would do? OK, we go to sleep.
OK, as you may know the Dutch are very focused on routines and order. So, I make a schedule for the day. 8:00- we get up. 8.30-9.00 – we eat breakfast. I feed the baby after that. 10.00-11.00 we go to the park. 12:00- we eat lunch, bread with cheese, ham and some tomato (in Dutch, they call it “broodje gezond, healthy bread, I am awesome!). We drink coffee, yes, the children as well, I just add milk to theirs. But wait, I am too late for shopping! What would the employees at my local Albert Heijn (that’s the biggest supermarket chain in the Netherlands) say if I show up too late for my shopping? OK, maybe it’s not that bad… what I’m 10 minutes too late? For shopping! Oh, no…I am so stressed at the supermarket that I buy a bottle of Jenever and some Heineken to help me with this. O, and some Belgian chocolate wouldn’t hurt either… or appelflaps and stroopwaffels, oh, and I totally forgot the apeltaart! I also smoke a joint. But wait, that’s not the time for eating sweets, not to mention the alcohol? Whatever, I eat them anyway. But then, I need to get right back on schedule. I nag the children to finish eating dinner so that they go to bed on time. This day reminds me why I hate schedules. We go to bed.
How good that it’s the weekend and I can go back to my usual parenting style, which is pretty much everything mixed up together. Of course, I didn’t do all the things described in this article (I do, however, have some homemade nalewka at home). And, in case you’re asking, I am not really making fun of other cultures. I am making fun of myself for having such a chaotic parenting method (meaning no method whatsoever). If you manage to parent like the French/Dutch/you name it and it works for you, more power to you. If you set out to do it and failed, don’t beat yourself up. You don’t need to follow one culture. You can make up your own parenting culture that fits your personality, personal beliefs and your children.