Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Parenting Around the World

I fully admit that before and after I became a parent, I never really read parenting books. I felt like I had to do things instinctually because 1. I hate being told what to do, and 2. I had to do what felt right and natural for me. Knowing how I usually feel about "parenting books", I was surprised by how excited I was when I was sent HOW ESKIMOS KEEP THEIR BABIES WARM And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between)by Mei-Ling Hopgood. From page one, I was never disappointed. Hopgood does not proselytize and force her opinions or views on parents. I think that is what makes this book so incredibly witty and fun to read.
Mei-Ling Hopgood, a first-time mom from suburban Michigan—now living in Buenos Aires—was shocked that Argentine parents allow their children to stay up until all hours of the night. Could there really be social and developmental advantages to this custom? Driven by a journalist’s curiosity and a new mother’s desperation for answers, Hopgood embarked on a journey to learn how other cultures approach the challenges all parents face: bedtimes, potty training, feeding, teaching, and more. Observing parents around the globe and interviewing anthropologists, educators, and child-care experts, she discovered a world of new ideas.
Hopgood lets you know that there is a variety of ways to be a good parent. Each chapter offers you insight into a parenting norm of another culture and helps us escape the sometimes rigid mindset of American child-rearing. I was delighted when I read about the way that Argentinians allow their children to be part of celebrations and sometimes break that strict schedule of bedtime. Growing up in an Italian/Polish family, I spent many late nights enjoying parties with my parents, cousins, aunts and uncles. All of the children in my family were part of events in a very intrinsic way. Sure, we sometimes were cranky the next day or two, but guess what? we survived!
 Hopgood adds her own stories of child rearing and admits that sometimes she sticks with her usual way of doing things, while other times she has adopted the parenting tools of other cultures she has learned about. I feel like this book is more of an open-minded anthropological study than an instruction manual and that is what makes it so special. My favorite was reading about how the French teach their children to enjoy food and how Polynesians let their children play with peers without constant parent supervision ( a huge break from helicopter parenting). I also realized how so much of it was like my own upbringing (wow, who knew my parents were so culturally informed?!).

 I realized long ago that I could never be a perfect parent who does everything right, because that does not exist, but with HOW ESKIMOS KEEP THEIR BABIES WARM And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between) I was given ideas that I really feel I could use as a parent, faults and all.

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