Spending time in Spain for the last week, one thing becomes abundantly clear:
Americans are hypocrites.
(Also, we don’t know how to tie our sweaters around our shoulders jauntily enough, but that’s for another post.)
With all our talk about FAMILY, the importance of FAMILY, the disintegration of FAMILY VALUES and the essential need to preserve THE FAMILY going on these days, we don’t walk the walk.
I think, at times, we don’t even like families in America. We mock them. We disdain them. At best, we tolerate them. If they behave.
(The assumption being that they won’t.)
If you want to see what it looks like when a culture really, truly loves children, you must come to Spain.
Walk into a restaurant with a child, and all faces turn toward you – and smile. The bartender at the cider house is quick to hand the children lollipops. And when they sit up at the bar with us, eating their own cheese platters and sipping on lemon soda, no one tells us that they can’t be at the bar. No one tells they can’t be in the movie theater, the restaurant, the airplane or hanging out on the sidewalk.
On the contrary; in Spain children are, simply, welcome. And not just by other people with children.
We have yet to see a bar or tavern without an ice cream freezer case for the kids. Some even have piles of plastic toys in the corner. Both are nice alternatives to the “YOU BROUGHT A BABY TO A BAR?” debate that I’ve been sick of reading about for the last six years.
We’ve spent a lot of time this week deciding why it’s so different in Spain. Why here, children are so integrated into the cafe culture while the opposite is true back home. I would imagine some of it has to do with our puritanical roots and desire to separate the kids from the booze. (Oh noes! A child might see a bottle of wine!) Nate thinks it has to do with an American culture that encourages drinking to get drunk, and positions bars as a place to separate from the family unit. Either way, I like the Spanish take much better.
It’s been lovely to pull up a chair at the community taverna, and watch the families circulate. We’ve seen grandparents pushing baby carriages, older siblings tending to younger ones, toddlers careering past us on ride-on toys, as the adults sip cerveza or cold Albarino, and the children munch on Nestle cones. We’ve seen teenagers stop by to say hi to an uncle or a cousin, then run off again. We’ve seen every car in the town slow as it drives past, so that the driver might wave hello to the mother with the new baby and wish her congratulations. Maybe they even circle back with their own families, sit, and visit for a while.
This is my first time truly traveling with my kids. And everywhere in Spain that we’ve been, I’ve felt like we belong.
Not just because my children are well-behaved. But because they do belong.