I run the risk of offending the people of France with this post, but I'm going to take the chance. I don't think I have any readers in France, so maybe I can sneak underneath their radar. In all honesty, the French are not known for their strong military, so maybe they don't even have radar. (Wow, I already offended them even before I got to the offensive part.)
Here goes: "The people of France do not like children." I will stop short of using the word "hate," but there is good evidence to suggest that they just plain don't like them. Perhaps they feel that children get in the way of their 4 hour dinners or their 6 week vacations. I'm not sure.
In the past, the strongest evidence to back up this theory was France's low birth rate. However, there is a baby boom underway in France, so that doesn't hold up any more. What is sad is the fact that the government has had to offer some generous incentives to encourage people to have children. Specifically, they offer:
- Three-year paid parental leave with guaranteed job protection upon returning to the workforce;
- Universal, full-time preschool starting at age three;
- Subsidized daycare before age three;
- Stipends for in-home nannies; and
- Monthly childcare allowances that increase with the number of children per family.
A few years ago, the government realized that the French culture would be gone in 50 years if their citizens didn't start having more babies. These incentives make it more possible.
But even though the government is encouraging fertility, I still think that that the French, in general, do not like their kids. Why? Because of the terrifying nature of their children's books. They are just plain scary. It's as if they think it's a hilarious joke to scare the pants of their kids before tucking them into bed.
Take a few minutes to look at some of the titles and book covers that blogger Jenny Colgan starting collecting when she moved to France a few years ago. These things are downright terrifying. You cannot love your kids and read them this stuff. The books that children read early on can give them powerful impressions of their world. Given what I saw featured in the above article, I have little hope for the next generation of French.
But this made me think about my own kids.
Scanning these freaky book titles made me evaluate what I'm reading to my own preschooler. In her formative years, am I letting her read anything that I'm going to have to "undo" with her later?
Maddie has a Teletubbies Christmas book that somebody gave us years ago. She likes reading it. Sadly, there's something about the Teletubbies that small kids are drawn to, while simultaneously creeping out the rest of humanity. Needless to say, the Teletubbies Christmas book has nothing to do with Jesus. And I find myself regularly reading it to Maddie. She often picks it up for me to read to her.
While I'm not scaring her to death with French bedtime stories, I realized that I am putting pictures and values into her mind that run contrary to what I cherish as true. So why am I reading it to her? That's careless parenting, Mr. Johnson! Our Teletubbies book has since found it's way into the trash can.
I may be an IMPERFECT and NORMAL FAMILY guy, but I don't have to be careless with what I read to my kids. I should always take advantage of those very teachable moments at bedtime to remind my child of the security of my love and the character and nature of God and His story. You should do the same.
So don't be like the French and freak your kids out at bedtime. But likewise, don't be passive and miss out on a great opportunity to establish and grow their understanding of God and His world. Bedtime is ALWAYS a good time to do that.