I'm an American mom living in France. I've never seen a screen out during meal time, and French kids are always well-dressed.

Mom and son posing for photo in France
The author moved from the US to France, and she stands out as an American the most when she's around French parents.Courtesy of the author
  • I'm an American mom living in Bordeaux, France.

  • Despite trying hard to assimilate, I can't hide the fact that I'm American.

  • It's the most obvious when I'm around French parents.

As an American living in Bordeaux, France, with my family, I'm working hard to assimilate — and not stand out like the foreigner I am. I'm learning French, adopting a French diet of baguettes and butter, and swapping my leggings for floral-print dresses and Adidas Sambas.

And yet, when I'm in Mom Mode with my 7-year-old son, Oliver, I just can't hide the fact I'm American. Some of the differences between French and American parenting styles are too noticeable to hide.

I've made a few adjustments since moving here, but there are some American momisms that I have no intention of giving up.

As an American, I hover around my kid in the playground

The French playground is one of the best places to observe the differences between French and American parenting styles. For one thing, American parents tend to hover, tagging a few feet behind the kids while they run around the playground. Although my son is fairly self-sufficient at age 7, I definitely stuck close to him when he was younger, loudly pointing out dangers and reminding him to be careful, standing ready to catch him if he fell, and even intervening if he encountered a poorly behaved kid. This kind of helicopter behavior is fairly common among American parents — but less so in France.

French parents are a lot more likely to park themselves on a bench and allow their kids to wander around on their own. I've seen French toddlers set free on their balance bikes at the skatepark and allowed to climb up jungle gyms with no one within catching distance. And guess what? They survive.

In fact, I rarely hear crying children at French playgrounds or witness so much as a skinned knee. French parents still keep tabs on their kids but give them space to figure things out on their own.

French kids are always impeccably dressed

It may sound as if French kids are running wild, but that's not the case — and their wardrobes are evidence of that. French kids are usually impeccably dressed, clearly by their parents.

Girls often wear pretty cotton dresses with tights, ballet flats, and matching bows in their hair, while the boys wear nice pants and button-up-shirts topped off with a thick sweater or jacket — sometimes even on warm days (because the French dress for the calendar rather than the weather). The crazy thing is, no matter how long they've been on the playground, or even after a long day at school, these kids still look so fresh and so clean.

Meanwhile, my American boy is immediately recognizable for his comfortable athleticwear — soft joggers, T-shirts, hoodies, and sneakers. He's also usually the only one running around in short sleeves on chilly days, usually with stains somewhere on his clothes.

I may get occasional disapproving looks, but I think it's important to let my kid dress the way he wants. Even more importantly, I'm proud that he's recognized that he dresses differently than his French classmates, and he's OK with it. In fact, he's told me he likes being different, and I love that about him.

I'm trying not to be a yeller

I'm not sure how the French kids are able to stay so neat, but I suspect it has something to do with how French parents reprimand and discipline their kids. Yelling is very common among parents in the US — so much so that their reprimands are often completely ignored by their kids. This is partially why I made the decision to try not to be a yeller even before having my son, but I still do let out the occasional holler: Look out! Stop that! Five more minutes! And when I do that in France, I get stared at — because French parents rarely raise their voices.

When a French kid does something naughty, they're pulled aside and very quietly and sternly reprimanded. It seems to be a whole lot more effective than yelling because the French kids I've encountered are generally a pretty calm, well-behaved lot.

I rarely see kids with iPads

I've witnessed this good behavior often in restaurants, where French kids typically sit quietly and politely, even for the duration of long meals. I was struck by this at a recent café lunch, where a young boy about my son's age ordered beef tartare and spoke quietly with his parents throughout the meal. Meanwhile, my son was noshing on fries, drinking Coke from a bottle, and playing games on my phone.

I've rarely seen French kids with screens (or sodas) at a restaurant. Do I wish my kid was more like Tartare Boy? Sure I do — and sometimes he is. But I also feel like it's a lot to ask an energetic child to sit still for over an hour at a quiet restaurant. And I'm 100% OK with letting him have a few minutes of screen time in exchange for allowing my husband and I to enjoy our meal and a few minutes of adult conversation.

My kid snacks more than any of his friends

Restaurants aren't the only place where I've noted differences regarding food. My kid snacks — a lot. And like many American families, we often have a selection of junk food in the house, such as chips, sugary cereal, and ice cream.

I've always let my son snack throughout the day because he's super active, and he's just as likely to reach for yogurt or cucumbers as a handful of cookies. But when his French friends have come over to play, they seem genuinely perplexed when he offers them snacks, and they don't have the expected response when he opens up our snack cabinet. One asked if she could have a glass of milk instead, while another asked if we had any fruit.

We've learned that French kids usually snack only once per day, during "le goûter" which is around 4:30 p.m., when they get out of school. This seems to be sufficient to tide them over until dinner. Otherwise, between-meal snacking isn't common — which is probably a big reason childhood obesity (and obesity in general) is not an epidemic in France as it is in the US.

I have a lot of respect for French moms, but I know I'll never be mistaken for one. While I'm sure I'll be taking some lessons and making some changes during our time in France, I've also made peace with some of the things that make me an American mom. Fitting in is great, but sometimes you just have to stay true to yourself.

Read the original article on Business Insider