It happened again yesterday. This time while grocery shopping. My friends told me it would, but I didn’t think it would bother me so much.
Il a besoin d’une sucette. Il fait ses dents.
What the elderly woman in the jam aisle was telling me is that my son is teething and he needs a pacifier. He wasn’t making a sound, but he was gnawing on the strap of his stroller with gusto. I silently produced no less than four teething toys from his lap and showed it to the woman. I shrugged. He likes his strap.
Il a besoin d’une sucette!
He needs a pacifier, she reiterated louder. And then she scrunched up her lips and made a loud sucking noise. Une sucette!
Il ne les aime pas.
He doesn’t like them, I replied. She shook her head and shuffled away towards the deli section. I stood there watching her go, feeling defensive. How did this woman manage to undermine seven months of parenting in one 30-second exchange?
The first time a Swiss person criticized my parenting, I was only three weeks into the game. Il a faim. He’s hungry, a woman told me bluntly on the street as I hurried home my crying newborn. Um, merci? It is tough enough double guessing your every move as a new parent without strangers telling you that you’re doing incorrectly. I’m not sure if it is a French thing or a Swiss thing, but it is definitely not an American thing. We don’t tell people why their baby is crying. We do the polite thing; look away and silently judge them.
Th funny thing is that I had been craving interaction with locals for months as a lonely expat — a conversation that would help me practice French, maybe even make a friend. So, I’ll have to laugh and develop a thicker skin for next time. My French is improving.