Opinions are good.
Opinions are great.
Original thoughts and interesting perspectives are all the rage in France since, like, the beginning of France.
When I last lived there, I was suddenly struck by a striking difference between Americans and the French. Here it goes:
As young children are brought up in France, there is a lot of pressure on them to be engaging and to have interesting ideas – in other words, having something to bring to the table. There, I was struck by the way that parents would rush their children along to come to whatever point it was they were making. And if they took too long, the conversation had already moved on, leaving the kid to catch up for himself. And because of this, these French children grow up having been able to fully cultivate their own ideas because they know how to back up whatever it is they’re saying, since if they didn’t, the conversation would have left them behind without skipping a beat.
Meanwhile, in America, a small child’s thoughts are and continue to be the single-most important aspects of any parent’s life. Shhh, shh! He’s saying something brilliant, they say as he points to a leaf on the ground. Oh, how we’re cultivating her creative spirit, they beam as she interrupts loudly at dinner.
And this is how American children are brought up: feeling like people will gain something by listening to whatever the heck we have to say, regardless of if it is interesting or not. This is all because parents are cultivating these creative spirits, which might actually turn out to be alarmingly obnoxious.
Points to take home: have opinions. But have great opinions that you can debate with others. That you’ve spent time cultivating and won’t be disappointed when someone dares (gasp!) to contradict you. Spar a little bit with someone else whose opinion might (another gasp!) differ from yours. Speak your mind. Teach your kids to cultivate and express their own ideas, but not in an entitled way. Have fun with it.
I have to say, it was quite refreshing at a certain dinner table in Toulouse, when that certain adorable child, whose thoughts had been brushed aside just a moment before, came back with a fabulously witty comment that caused a stir of laughter around the table.
Now that is certainly something to make a parent proud.