It was a family affair last week at the launch party for the new book, Say Bonjour to the Lady: Parenting from Paris to New York. Authors Florence Mars and Pauline Lévêque were accompanied by their children, to the event, which took place at the Bonpoint children’s clothing boutique on Madison Avenue and East 68th Street. The book is a light-hearted collection of insightful observations about the differences of raising children in New York as opposed to Paris.
As their children enjoyed the table of French inspired finger foods (madeleines anyone?), Mars and Lévêque posed for pictures and autographed copies of their book for their guests. The two Parisian moms have embraced family life in America in different ways. Mars, the vice president of Bonpoint in the United States, still adheres to many of the customary French parenting rules. By contrast, Lévêque, a French journalist turned illustrator, prefers to raise her children in a fashion that is completely American. They discussed how their experiences in their adopted home country have influenced them, and subsequently evolved into a book:
How did your collaboration come about?
Florence Mars: Since my family moved to the US seven years ago I kept a journal of all the things that surprised me, I really have been observing the locals with great attention! Arriving in NY it came as a complete shock how different Parisians and New Yorkers really are. As a mother of three and as the boss of Bonpoint in the US I have had A LOT to observe around parenting issues and I thought it would be interesting to do a book about all those little differences. It was very natural to ask Pauline to join the fun, as she is not only a very good friend and a mother but also a very talented illustrator.
|Sample illustration from the book|
Pauline Léveque: Florence and I met 20 years ago in Paris, we were both working for a TV company, we got reunited in NY and became very good friends. Flo didn’t really choose to live in New York, her husband moved here for his work. On my side, I always dreamt to become a New Yorker. Both mothers and Parisians, we often compared our culture and the education we received to the one our children were having. When Flo talked to me about this book’s project and asked me to illustrate it, I thought it was a wonderful idea.
|Photo courtesy of the authors|
What inspired your style of writing or illustration?
FM: For the writing I really wanted to have very minimalistic sentences, very factual. The illustrations were all Pauline’s; the idea was to play with black and white wallpaper like illustrations of our two favorites cities and some touches of colors for the details or for the characters.
PL: A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me a carbon ink pen and I totally fell in love with it. It draws very thin lines. I also love watercolors; it gives a very elegant texture to a drawing. My father is an artist, I grew up in his studio, playing with his brushes and helping him coloring his big canvases. I guess seeing him paint for a living and being free as an artist truly inspired me.
What do you like most about raising your children in New York?
FM: I am so grateful that NY taught our children open-mindedness. They will never raise an eyebrow if they see a man dressed like a smurf in the subway or covered in tattoos. No big deal. And they were taught the NO bullying philosophy at school which is pretty amazing. And did not exist in France when we were still living there.
PL: The way children are taught confidence as soon as they are able to talk. The cultural diversity and the energy you can find in New York. The fact that nobody judges you and that everything is possible if you really work.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
FM: This is not a serious sociological survey, we just wanted to make fun of both the French very old school mother that is not willing to explain anything to her poor children (“no means no”) and the way-too-cool American Mother who is always explaining everything and also always willing to negotiate with her children. Pauline and I are convinced that the truth is to be found somewhere in the middle!
PL: I think Florence said it all. Both educations have their strengths and weaknesses, and I have no doubt that whatever nationality a mother and father are, they love their children the same way.
– Rhonda Erb
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