The Dame in Spain

Hola Readers — I’m just back from Spain, which seems a little more Free-Range than America. (And Canada. And especially England!) One Madrid playground my son Izzy and I visited actually had a see-saw, something you rarely see (saw) in America anymore, thanks to the fear of bump-induced lawsuits. Izzy declared it the most fun piece of playground equipment ever, after merry-go-rounds. (Another childhood standard on its  way out,  for the same reason.)

The two of us were speaking at a conference sponsored by Audi on the topic, “The Streets Also Belong to Me!” — “Me!” being children. The chief of traffic for all Spain was there, and his country really has made a concerted, successful effort to cut down on pedestrian deaths, mostly by seriously  enforcing the speed limits. The whole idea of concentrating on the real threat to children walking to school — traffic — rather than the perceived threat to children (kidnappers), was incredibly refreshing.

I was embarrassed for my own country, though, when after my talk, the head of marketing for Audi in Spain came up to me and said he’d been to California last summer and didn’t understand us. “Here,” he said, “my wife and I, we always smile at the children. We wave, make them laugh, pat their heads. In America, when we did that, the parents would stare at us.” And he demonstrated the stare.

It was icy.

I hope that as the years go by, we drift more towards the Spanish model of dealing with kids, rather than Spain drifting more toward us. I like the idea of strangers making my kids laugh, and I’m sorry that some of us Americans made these Spanish visitors cry. Or at least wonder why we are all so grumpy and suspicious.

That’s my report from Spain except I must add that everyone dressed really well, and I sure loved all the sidewalk cafes. And why doesn’t America have Fanta Lemon — a really lemony soda — instead of just Sprite?

Adios for now!– Senora Leonora