Oh boy. Who would have thought that the biggest challenge so far in France would be the acceptance of the French bathing suit. When we arrived, we knew there was a strict bathing suit requirement in France – no American swim trunks, just the good old fashioned Speedo. As I mentioned before, Owen was horrified at the thought and spent the entire time at the sports store crying (literally) about having to wear such a small bathing suit. At one point, I said, “Hey, it could be worse. You could have to wear one of THESE (holding up a tight swim cap).” Owen picked out the biggest bathing suit he could find (resembling biking shorts at about 1/4 the length) and I made the conscious effort not to talk about it again, until swim day was upon us.
Guess what? Swimming started today.
As I got his swimsuit out last night for school today, he launched into the hysterics again. It would be an understatement to say that he was mildly traumatized by the idea of wearing this suit in public. He was flat out hysterical. It finally got to the point where Tim went online to find out the “official” rules about French pools for him. At that point, Tim made the mistake of mentioning that, in fact, the bathing suit he bought might even be TOO BIG for the French standards. Oops.
Fast forward to today:
Lucky for Tim, he left early to take the train to work, so he missed most of the crying and hysterics at breakfast. Owen even BEGGED me to keep him home from school today, because not only was he afraid to wear his bathing suit, he was now afraid that he would not be allowed in the pool in the one he owned and therefore forced into an even smaller version of the same. Sigh.
Owen also misplaced his math folder on the first day of school, so he was also stressing about this situation.
Since I didn’t let him stay home from school due to the bathing suit debacle, it was a torturous walk to school, loaded with questions like, ”Is it REALLY the law in France that you HAVE to wear small bathing suits?!???” I told O that I would come into school with him to have a short conversation with his teacher about the math folder and the size of his current bathing suit. Since his teacher doesn’t speak much English, I was practicing my French on the entire walk (interrupted by MANY bathing suit questions) to speak to her about these 2 situations.
When we got to school, I went upstairs with O to speak to his teacher and I managed to croak out, “Nous ne pouvons pas trouver le portable mathématiques Owen à la maison.” Let’s just say, that it didn’t sound as pretty as I had imagined, since the teacher had no idea what I was saying. I fumbled around a bit more, until she finally got the point about Owen’s math folder and she responded, “Ce n’est pas grave.” Translation: It’s no problem.
At that point, although I hadn’t yet asked about his bathing suit (whether it was too BIG), I decided to cut my losses and back away from the teacher. Luckily Owen can’t speak French.
At this point I faced a parenting challenge-
a) admit to Owen to that I didn’t ask his teacher about whether he would be allowed to wear his slightly larger swimsuit in the pool; or
b) omit the truth and hope for the best
I think you probably know what I chose.
At that point I turned to Owen and said, “Veronique said that it’s no problem about your math folder and she said that you bathing suit should be fine.” Owen seemed happy enough with that answer. Crisis averted – for the moment, at least.
I left the classroom wondering if I was sending my kid into the French version of purgatory with his big/small bathing suit. What would happen it wasn’t allowed in the pool with that thing? I could be in big trouble with this situation, I knew.
At that point, I decided to speak to the one person in the school that should know everything – the school secretary. I went down and asked her if Owen would be allowed in the pool with his small shorts-style bathing suit. After she let out a huge French-style sigh, she looked at me like I was crazy. There is defiantly a cultural gap here for me, but there is also a bit of a sense of humor gap. At least she was kind enough to find me a bilingual father standing nearby who spoke perfect English. I recounted my dilemma – first about Owen’s hysterics about the bathing suits and then his fear that they were, in fact, too big. I just needed one simple question answered – Will he be allowed in the pool (so that I could save face as a parent)?
Here was his response – “Don’t worry, if his swimsuit is too bit, you can always give him 10 euros to buy another smaller suit at the vending machine at the pool.” VENDING MACHINE?!?!?!?!? Yes, friends, apparently there are vending machines selling men’s Speedos at the pool. There was absolutely no way I was going to give Owen this information at this critical point in the drama, so I did what any parent would do. I left the school.
Fast forward to the end of school:
Owen emerged from school, happy and seemingly untraumatized. He had a great time at the pool and didn’t feel bad about his swimsuit at all. His one statement after recounting how fun it was was, “Guess what, I DID have the biggest bathing suit! Also, I need to get a swim cap. It’s required.” Doh! At least, I managed to triumph as a decent parent for one more day.
Note to any future visitors:
It is the rule in France that you wear a Speedo-style bathing suit (they can be VERY short shorts, if you opt for the larger version) and a swim cap in all public pools – no exceptions. Don’t worry if you forget you’re at home – you can always buy it at the vending machine.
Au Revior –