French Twist by Catherine Crawford

Title: French Twist: An American Mom’s Experiment in Parisian Parenting
Author: Catherine Crawford
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Expected Release: March 12, 2013
Source: publisher (NetGalley)


Adventures in Franco-inspired American parenting—a winning mix of witty cross-cultural observation, hilariously blunt French wisdom, and one American mom’s journey to create her own hybrid parenting approach.

“If there is no blood, don’t get up.” This single nugget of parenting gold, offered by a French friend at the end of a long dinner party, changed everything for writer Catherine Crawford, her husband, and, especially, the couple’s two young daughters. Crawford immediately began to see that while the United States had become the land of too-involved parents forever wanting to talk through their kids’ feelings about, well, everything, France employed a far more laissez-faire attitude toward raising les enfants.

Short of shipping her daughters off to Paris for these—and many other—invaluable early-life lessons, Crawford did the next best thing: She brought Old World–style parenting to Brooklyn. In the process, she discovered that her kids could actually hold a thought silently for two minutes without interrupting adult conversation, and that she didn’t, in fact, need to buy out half the toy store to make their birthdays special. She even found out how much her kids like lamb chops! While combining the best attributes of the approach français with what she saw as American qualities worth preserving, Crawford found a way to save her household and her sanity. Hilarious and insightful, French Twist reveals how Crawford and her family survived le grand experiment—and why they aren’t ever going back to the way things were.

Catherine Crawford is unabashedly obsessed with all things French. This struck a chord with me; I am the same way with all things Italian! Her book French Twist: An American Mom’s Experiment in Parisian Parenting is not a dry comparison of the parenting styles of two cultures. Instead, the writing style is very casual and light. It almost has a blog-like chattiness about it. The tone caught me off-guard at first, but I ended up enjoying it a lot. It kept the reading quick and fun.

There was so much great information in this book! I discovered that many of my own views on parenting – whether I’ve put them into practice yet or not – line up with those of the French. This is not a barrage against American parenting. Crawford admits her bias toward the French, but she does not paint a glorified picture of the French style of parenting, either. Rather, she searched for (and I think, found) a balance, an ideal middle ground between two cultures she greatly appreciates.

The pregnancy section was my least favorite part of the book. My spouse and I brought our preemie home from the NICU a month before her due date, still weighing less than 4 lbs., so some of the things scoffed at in this chapter ended up being important for us to use/worry about. Plus, I can’t stand the word preggers. (I realize these two points are simply my own hang-ups.)

French Twist offers a lot of practical ideas, some of which I’ve already tried with my 3 1/2 year old with a good bit of success! Crawford talks about the things she tried, what worked, what didn’t, and why. She learned ways to teach her kids to be happy playing independently, to learn how to contribute to a conversation rather than hijack it, and to appreciate beautiful things, among so many other things.

This book made me feel good about so many things I feel I’m doing well as a mom! It gave me food for thought on how to make some changes I’ve been wanting to make, and it gave me some completely new ideas I hadn’t considered before. The insights into the French way of life were fascinating, especially the differences in their educational system (and school lunches!) compared to ours. I most loved reading about the positive changes in Crawford’s family, particularly the fact that her girls are now able to leisurely enjoy a long meal with their parents, laughing and talking without the need for distractions or other entertainment.

If you enjoyed books such as Bringing Up Bébé and How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, you won’t want to miss Catherine Crawford’s French Twist. Ballantine Books is releasing this title in a couple of weeks, March 12, 2013.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.

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