A few months ago, a friend in book club brought up Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. The only mother in our book club vetoed it, saying that it probably is more appropriate for parents.
Yet, I was intrigued. Not only because there’s baby fever going around my social group, but because I really want to understand how I came to be and why I came to be. How did my personality and decision-making principles come out from my life experience? That no matter what, a clone of my genetics will never be quite the person that I am.
I have always been intrigued by impulse control. The one highlighted by the Stanford marshmallow experiment where young kids were told that they could have a marshmallow in front of them if they wait several minutes, then left alone for those minutes. It turned out that kids who were able to wait had better impulse control in life.
I would like to think that I was a kid that waited. But I am pretty sure that if I did wait, I was afraid of something. Afraid of the adults of what they would think of me. Afraid of anything. That I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. But there’s a lot of deep stuff there. Rather, I had control.
I would like to think that.
In the book, the author talks about how French kids are taught to “wait”. That they can wait for their rewards and desires. That American kids, on the other hand, are catered to every demand and need. As a result, they rarely know how to manage their disappointments and failures.
When I was younger, my parents claimed that they rarely bought toys. As evidenced by our small stockpile of toys growing up, I didn’t even have a Barbie until I was nearly 11. The one time that I desperately want a doll that I saw on TV…I felt so guilty about demanding it and playing with it for less than a month. I never asked for it. At a Chinese supermarket, my sister and I would go down the candy aisle and load up our shopping cart with bags and bags of candy. Snacks were never present in my house growing up. As a small subtle suggestion. My mom only would occasionally say “well ok, just one small bag of peach gummies.” I saw many commercials and other things for Mcdonald’s Happy Meals, but I just thought, “Oh my parents just wouldn’t get that for me. They just wouldn’t.”
I have always wondered if it was this sense of we just aren’t that type of people or I truly believed that I didn’t need it.
Yet today, after almost 8 years of working professionally (in the real world), I stomped around my apartment desperately looking for snacks. It drove me crazy. I wanted the snacks. The random Red Vines. The jar of peanut M&Ms (and I hate chocolate covered nuts). The plastic clamshells of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Chips, yogurt, cheese sticks. I was going out of my mind. I wanted it right then.
I mean, the reason that I didn’t have any was because simply put, I didn’t want myself to gorge on them. But at that moment, a tantrum wanted to burst open like the American kids described in the book. Then I settled down. Because I can be patient. I can wait about 12 hours until I walk into the office and take a handful from the jar downstairs in the kitchen. I have turned from the person who never snacked to a person who wants to snack every 30 minutes.