Posted by: vlibrizzi | February 1, 2009

Thoughts on why French children are so cute

Over the last few weeks, C. and I have been observing how incredibly adorable French children are. They all seem to have bright, inquisitive eyes, pinchable cheeks, and big smiles. To make them even more irresistible, their parents always seem to dress them in the cutest of outfits—courderoys with penny loafers, dresses with petite flowers on them and ruffly socks, and, no matter the gender, they are always equipped with matching mittens, scarves, hats, etc….you get the picture!  A friend of ours speculated that French schools may just not teach reading and writing until 2nd grade, and instead focus all their efforts on teaching cuteness through age 7.

The thing that impresses C. the most is not only the fashion but more so the manners. We’ve often observed French children at restaurants at a table with their parents, sitting (yes, sitting, not wiggling or running around the room) perfectly contented for what seems like hours (remember, French meals take forever). Moreover, we have not yet seen any French parent scold their child when they get out of hand….somewhat because French children never get out of hand, but also because they (the parents) are so mild-mannered themselves that when their children start to whimper, they remain calm, rock their babies, give some quiet attention to their toddlers, or engage their pre-schoolers in conversation. 

The impressive parenting and cuteness of French children was most apparent today when C. and I went to mass at a new church (about a 25 minute walk from our house…but a great walk through the Fontainebleau chateau’s expansive gardens). The church is on the site of a Carmelite monastary and the brothers open their chapel to the public every Sunday at 11:15 for mass. Some friends of ours somehow found this gem of a church, and invited us to join them this week. The only unfortunate thing about the mass which is full of music, light, and lots of families, is that it is, of course, in French. 

We had difficulty finding the chapel so we arrived a few minutes late (I’m sorry Mom…I know how much you hate people who arrive to church late), and therefore, had to sit in the back row behind a row of parents with babies. And, although I tried to pay attention to the mass and learn new French words, my eyes kept wandering to the two adorable French toddlers sitting in front of us. They sat on their fathers’ laps throughout the mass and barely made any sounds. When one boy started to get a bit antsy (a real surprise to the rest of the congregation who all turned around to stare), his father calmly reached into his diaper bag and pulled out the French equivalent of a pacifier—-a baguette.

Yes, he gave his son a baguette. And, yes, as soon as the bread touched the child’s lips, he was miraculously silent, content, and smiling at C. who was making googly eyes behind him. 

So, what did I learn today? Baguettes make children happy. But, not only children, adults too…including me. Seriously, when I bite into a French baguette, I always smile. They’re so warm and tasty that they surely pacify me on a cold, rainy day. The French should spread their baby pacifying scheme to all the world…or, then again, they could keep it a secret, in order to have wide-eyed Americans like me impressed by and enamored of their children for years to come.


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