This book is my new favorite book for expectant or new parents, because it makes you feel awesome about yourself as a parent. Reading about a dozen different cultures and how they approach parenting makes you a lot more laissez-faire and less stressed about where you’re failing. The chapter about Buenos Aires children going to bed late takes the pressure off having your kids on a sleep schedule at three months (or even three years). And if you’ve ever envied the Chinese for their famous early potty-training, you’ll learn why they have a few advantages (for example, that it’s OK for kids to pee in public). The Chinese people Hopgood interviews view potty-training as a gradual process without a hard deadline, a welcome relief to the competitive American mindset.
Sofia, the author’s two-year-old, is the unsuspecting guinea pig for a lot of her mom’s research. Mei-Ling Hopgood’s daughter finds her beloved Maclaren stroller traded in a sling (while exploring how Kenyans live without strollers), plays at bullying (in examining Japanese culture), and tries some new food (yes, those darn French again, trotting out their vegetable-loving children). A “real truth” teller after our own heart, Hopgood is coolly critical of her own parenting style while at the same time firm about rejecting the culture of guilt and regret that American parenting inspires.
The reader will inevitably leave with a few takeaways to try (taking a cue from Mayan villagers, I plan to give Beatrice a dedicated chore when she gets a bit older) and a few things to let be (the family closeness of the Lebanese, for example, or the Pygmy fathers who let their babes suckle when mom’s not around).