I can see those red tail-lights heading for Spain


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.

Namaste, Bruce



2 Responses to “I can see those red tail-lights heading for Spain”

  1. Cheri Randolph Says:

    Hi Kevin- I followed your link from the comment on Judith Warner’s Op-Ed in “The Times”. I, too, have noticed similar behavior of parents & grandparents minding the collective group of children playing in the early evening in Mexico, Italy, France, Spain and Amsterdam. I remember, as well, a similar situation here in the States from my childhood in the 50s. I feel that reliance on electronic entertainment in addition to air conditioning has contributed greatly to the decline of this feeling of “community” here in the States. Back then, it was quite common for all of the adults to sit on porches and on their lawns in the evening chatting from one house/yard to another as the children played hide ‘n seek or caught fire flies. There was never a lack of adult supervision.

    Interestingly enough, this practice of enjoying the outdoors in the evening returned to my city, Houston, Texas, last year following Hurricane Ike. We lost electric power for 15 days – thus, there was no A/C, TV, computers, etc. I ride my bike for exercise every evening, and I observed my neighbors once again living as I remember back in the 1950s. People were playing board games on their porches, having dinner outside and generally there was more of a feeling of community.

    I agree with you that to change attitudes in the States, we must educate the children, but in order to do that there must be a great deal more parental involvement than I see happening in many families today. A good example of abdicating parental responsibilities, seems to be the woman referenced in Ms. Warner’s column, and perhaps that is the reason for so many negative comments toward her from the readers.

    Cheri Randolph

  2. Stephanie Says:

    This sounds like our school camping trip, where surrounded in a bowl of mountains, our first graders and kindergartners ran around and around as darkness fell, each with a little headlight on their head, squealing and squeaking and exploring the evening – huddling around a toad too sluggish to out run them – some checking in when they needed, the parents relaxed, and mindful, occasionally checking for their children, but the experience of everyone being free with their children in nature, and the children enjoying it until long after their regular bedtime was a highlight of this year.

    Thanks for sharing that Dr. Bruce. Stephanie.

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