I read the book Achtung Baby by Sara Zaske, which was a great read all about the differences in parenting mentalities and practices of Germany (specifically Berlin) versus the U.S. It covered categories ranging from policies about children walking to and from school alone, to history courses offered at their respective schools and the differing practices when it comes to forming children’s senses of cultural and civic responsibility, to how to allow the children to establish confidence in themselves.
Zaske also addresses the importance of unstructured play on future development of children, and how to try to change/influences policies where you live.
I read this books, not to replace my own instincts in parenting my baby, but to understand how much of my parenting style is built from within a specific culture, and is not just “intuition”. The more I read, the more I see what culture I am blended within, and the more I can truly pick and choose what works best for me.
Of the “parenting” books, I have also read The Happiest Kids in the World by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchinson. It depicts two expats’ views on parenting, this time in the Netherlands. The expats were one British woman and one American woman talking about their insights into raising children (from infancy to eleven years of age) based on the fact that parenting in the Netherlands focuses on creating happy children. The whole society gets involved to make it a priority.
It’s a good read, and I recommend it for any parents who are worried that they are trying to push their children into checking off too many accomplishment boxes, without taking into account their children’s wants and preferences. Or it’s a fun read if you are just curious to understand how parenting is done in other places.
Previously, I also read Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, and French Twist by Catherine Crawford. So my distribution in countries has extended to Germany, France, and the Netherlands but I am working to expand that presently.
These books aren’t here to specifically instruct or convince readers on a certain way of how to parent per se. In fact, most of the authors are expats raising their kids in a new culture and then trying to blend that with their their own in attempt to find balance. However, they all do reflect on commonalities they see in whatever society they are part of at the time, the one that shapes their raising of children. They also do end up implanting little nuggets in the malleable pockets of my gray matter that make me question the status quo of my own culture. In particular, why does my culture (and many others) prioritize working above all?
How does removing playtime for young children and filling it with structured activities with parental supervision impact both the future generations of children as well as the parents currently doing the implementation? What can individuals do to try to mitigate the cascade of symptoms that lead to a cemented cultural practice enforced by litigation (the culture of suing everyone and everything for accidents)?
My mind is teeming with perceived implications for my own little one, and I’m wrought with fervor to carve out a way to achieve the most balanced route for her to grow as her own person. Now I wouldn’t say I worry about her future yet in the anxious melodramatic ways that bubbles into most of my thoughts, but I would say I’m genuinely curious about what happens next. How do I find like minded, community-based people who want to preserve the innocence of youth, but also encourage the growth of young independence in a society that looks to constant busyness as a sign of success? Is it possible within our societal framework? Also, what is happiness and how do we create a space for our children to discover it, and have it be lasting? More to come on this subject in later posts!
One last tie-in I have for today. I read a book called There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather by Linda Åkeson McGurk, and it compared different aspects of parenting in Scandinavian countries versus the United States (and other English-speaking countries). Much of it compares how the way we raise our children in regards to their relationships with nature. According to McGurk, in Scandinavia they have more focus on outdoor education for young children so that when those children grow up, they continue to appreciate nature and are naturally (ha, pun) more inclined towards environmental protection.
But another large takeaway from the book was that your society has to support these kinds of initiatives. In some Scandinavian countries, people can cross over (or children can play on) other people’s private land/property (think huge backyards and fields) legally, so long as they don’t cause any damage.
The countries also work to instill independence and responsibility in their children by letting them take more age-appropriate risks (like 8 year olds walking to and from parks alone, or playing outside for hours after they’ve gradually learned the areas with their families). I also recently re-watched Lord of the Rings with my husband, and it always instills in me how important nature is to humans, and how much of humanity just sees it as something to conquer rather than a large part of our health and happiness. We forget that we need the good bacteria from the soil and plants, that the fresh air helps decrease infection and disease risks, that our food either comes from or is fed from nature, that we derive a sense of peace from greenery, and that we can find comfort with change by appreciating seasonal life cycles.
It feels like letting our children learn from and develop stronger appreciations from nature sets them up with a good baseline to be happier and healthier than we are. I’m excited to hear and see about all the different initiatives small communities in America enact to figure out the balance that works for each child and family.
Hey, if what you read seemed dated or familiar, I’ve been combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content. 🙂