Are French parents better? Or Chinese parents? I might roll my eyes at the headlines, but I still read the articles. Superlatives and competition aside, it’s fascinating to read about the ways that culture and family life interact and look at my own family in a new way.
Those of you who are similarly fascinated may be interested in Mei-Ling Hopgood’s new book, How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between), which sprung from Hopgood’s experience as an American living in Buenos Aires when her daughter was young.
You know how American families with young children are obsessive about routines–especially bedtime routines? Apparently, that isn’t some universal family constant. In Buenos Aires, children often accompany parents to parties or dinners that go late into the night. They’ll crash out on sofas or chairs when they get tired. I think my night-owl family would fit in quite well there as opposed to here where you get dirty looks if you have a child out in public after 9 p.m. Not that I blame people and their dirty looks. It’s hard not to have strong opinions when it comes to kids. I get that, and I really can’t blame people for wanting what’s best for my kiddo.
That’s the heart of the book. Hopgood concludes with this:
“Despite vast differences in beliefs, religion and culture, moms, dads and caregivers in most societies share a common desire: to raise children who can thrive in the reality in which they live. While no culture can claim to be the best at any one given aspect of parenting, each has its own gems of wisdom to add to the discussion.”
If you like this book, try Meredith Small’s Our Babies, Ourselves or the documentary Babies for more cultural perspectives on parenting. You might also be interested in this speech by Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which she explains that she wasn’t trying to say that Chinese parents are superior. It all, like most things, got taken out of context.
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