I was having dinner with friends whose fourteen-year-old daughter had just come back from Italy with her grandparents, where they stayed in an elder-hostel. She was just delighted to have been able to make new friends with other grandchildren and, in contrast to her life in LA, be free to walk anywhere alone in Venice and feel completely safe. She got lost, figured it out, struggled with the language barrier and seemed to feel an added boost of confidence and maturity as the result of her experience.
Then I came home and opened my email where a reader had sent me a note that said that my blog-post on overprotecting children came to them directly after they had just heard an audio postcard on NPR about the opposite side of the issue. This synchronicity only further underscored the gist of the NPR piece where, my reader informed me, “a correspondent from Spain described how a village, some forty miles from Madrid, comes to life in the Plaza after 10 P.M. and the siesta. Children run all over the place, quite free. The correspondent explained that in Spain it is understood that all children are the responsibility of all parents, especially those within thirty feet of one’s self and they therefore feel safe. A corollary is that many adults kiss and complement even strangers’ children all the time. Is Spain our past? I, too, was totally free after age 12 and I baby sat my sister (13 years younger) all the time.”
I went and listened to the audio postcard and recommend it (http://tiny.cc/QCLVm).
The image of parents sitting back, socializing and being together as children play tag and soccer in the cool night air was a word picture of life as so many of us wish to live it. Siblings dressed similarly to be easier to identify and return to parents if there was a cut or scrape or a need for parental intervention, while the collective understanding that all the children are truly all our children rang a note of authentic truth.
So let’s dedicate today to recognizing our shared responsibility, and love, for all our children. This is right thinking that leads to right action… and who knows, perhaps even to safe plazas and convivial lives where we might reconnect to some of the treasures of human relatedness that lay waiting to be dusted off and re-incorporated into our so-called modern lives.