With the artistic name of El Hematocritico (chosen at random because New Kid On The Block was already caught), Miguel López is a well-known tweeter, children’s teacher and author of children’s literature and articles in various media, including elDiario.es . He now publishes Listen to them. For an upbringing with empathy (Paidós) in which he asks fathers, mothers and educators, in a relaxed tone, asking us questions and inviting us to remember our childhood, to think “how you would have felt as a child with this pressure we have now”. Don’t panic: The Hematocritic hasn’t become an overwhelmingly brainy expert nor has he abandoned his usual tone of humor. In this interview he talks about the tight schedules of children, the dangers of having the perfect family accounts on Instagram as a parenting model, how fun it is to play Fornite with friends, the dangers of forcing our children to share their toys or give kisses and that, if you’ve let go of this “music isn’t like it used to be” or “they don’t do drawings like David the Gnome anymore” maybe, just maybe, you’re becoming a stale person.
My oldest daughter turns 18 and I’m back to being a scared new parent
On the back cover of the book you can read that it is a manifesto in defense of the little ones. In defense of what, what do you want to defend them from?
Of excessive control over them, especially of their free time. I observe that, although they live happily, they have this lack of free time, this lack of ability to decide on their own agenda. I notice it, for example, when a child has the whole house full of possibilities and is telling you “I’m bored, I’m bored” and he needs you to put an activity in front of him. I think we’ve taken away the ability to manage their boredom, their free time, and that’s an important skill. Now that we talk so much about giving entrepreneurship classes to children to teach them to create, we do not teach them to invent what to do with their time.
It gives the impression that you have to fill every moment, take advantage of every gap. That your children have Mondays off from 6 to 8 is a waste of time, it seems to you that those two hours could be playing chess, studying Chinese….
He says in his book that we go like the Coyote after the Roadrunner until we run out of ground without realizing it and we fall. What do you think he makes us run like this and educate without asking us questions?
We are heirs to a nurturing culture and we apply it as best we can: in some things we imitate what they did to us, in other things we react against what they did to us, but we often act without thinking. For me, the clearest example is the famous concept of “you have to share”, which is something that we repeat a thousand times to children and we take away their toy to give it to another child, we make them cry… Parents often came to me to my tutorials commenting that his son did not want to share. And we talked a bit and right away we all said: “Why do we do it?”.
It also gives the impression that you have to fill every moment, take advantage of every gap. I think that this is a bit of the fault of capitalism, which forces us to do something. All the time we have to consume or produce. We cannot spend two hours lying in a park or simply taking a walk on the beach. That your children have Mondays off from 6 to 8 is a waste of time, it seems to you that those two hours could be playing chess, studying Chinese… If we stopped to think, we would say: “Man, it would not be bad to have two hours to be at home playing”.
Your book has a comforting and relaxed tone compared to other books on motherhood and fatherhood. She writes that it is not necessary to read all the stories about managing emotions, that tantrums are normal, that screens should not be demonized…
Is that this type of literature makes you feel horrible for letting them watch TV while you cook or for taking them to McDonalds one day. It’s very easy for Instagram accounts focused on this kind of parenting culture to make you feel bad. And I’m not trying to do that, I’m trying to say, “Let’s calm down. We are going to take our foot off the accelerator a little, use a little common sense”. This is not a competition for the best parenting, a tournament for the best child. You just have to make them feel happy. The Instagram accounts of super families that are in fashion live under the yoke of showing off and lack naturalness, relaxation, tranquility. For me it is very important: for there to be happiness, a child has to be calm and calm.
In the book, he encourages the reader to remember his childhood, but flees from the nostalgia that is so much in vogue. He talks about how, just as our older brothers used to meet in bars and we met in the parks, now they stay in Fornite…
I think we have to go with the times. It is not good to close your eyes and say that what is happening is bad without stopping to think. Actually, they are meeting their friends, they are playing, they are doing something super fun. When I was a teenager I would come home and pick up the phone and call my friends I had just been with and my parents would scold me because I spent hours and hours talking on the line. I imagine having the possibility of being connected with friends non-stop and it seems like a fantasy to me. I don’t think we can say: “These kids don’t know what they’re missing”.
It’s very easy to become rancid when you have this idea that now reggaeton isn’t music or this “before there were really good cartoon series”. This is a symbol of getting old: you think you lived through the golden age of culture. But in reality the possibilities that children have at a cultural level now are incredible.
Your children always have to feel that you are on their team. We have a cultural tendency to repeat what they did to us, that they forced us to give kisses to our great-aunt and the neighbor. And you put yourself on the side of the unknown
He talks in some moments about how we try to repress our children’s own criteria, as in the subject of “you have to share” or the subject of kissing. What consequences can this have and how can we stop doing it?
I believe that your children always have to feel that you are on their team. We have a cultural tendency to repeat what they did to us, that they forced us to give kisses to our great-aunt and the neighbor. And you put yourself on the side of the unknown. And many things happen there: first, you are teaching him that all the red flags that come up because he doesn’t feel like doing that, he has to ignore them and move forward. Then you are telling him that when he is going to have a problem you are not a person who is going to support him 100% of the time, which is what I think all children need from their father or mother. Maybe later when they are older they have a problem at school because they laugh at them and they are not going to share it with you, because when they laughed at them you played it down. Or someone asks you for a kiss and is worried about it and doesn’t tell you because you told him that he had to give those kisses.
It addresses some social trends, such as bilingualism, preparing them all the time for the future, birthdays that are increasingly similar to weddings, gender stereotypes… How do you think we can move towards a society that respects more relaxed childhood?
This book is my small contribution to this. I think we have to appeal, I don’t know if to your inner child because many people no longer listen to it, but to good sense, to remember when you were a child, what you liked, what your life was like and how you would have felt as a child with this pressure we have now. We don’t have to always be in a constant training process. You have to enjoy each stage. Your son is like a river, he doesn’t stop changing and you have to have free time and walk and play and have fun. Free time is the way in which you promote your hobbies. When I was little I watched a lot of movies, I read a lot of comics, but because they didn’t have me fried after school and I didn’t get home just to go to bed. I had cultural interests because I had time.
We don’t have to always be in constant training. You have to enjoy each stage. Your son is like a river, he doesn’t stop changing and you have to have free time and walk and play and have fun. Free time is the way you promote your hobbies
A common thread of his book is to remember our own childhood and ask ourselves questions. Why did you want this to be a constant in his book?
At the end of each chapter there is a series of questions with which to make a gathering, to chat with your partner, with your friends and even with your children. Because you go on reading the books on parenting and stripping, but there is not this act of stopping to think why we are doing it. And that is brought out through conversation, through debate. That seems important to me. I find it interesting that you stop to tell your children what your life was like as a child and if you think that was better or worse. I could tell him that I was on the street until 9:00 p.m. at night, by myself without parents, and we would go to another street and cross the road… It was not so idyllic. I could ask him what he thinks. You comment on it and learn from it.
In one part of the book he talks about care being undervalued and defends that it must be distributed and valued.
Many times it is said that equality is that women go to work and the other part is not also thought of, which is that men go to care. If we really want an egalitarian society, both work and care must be shared. The care is very complex: there is the mental load, knowing how to organize the pantry, knowing that you have to visit I don’t know who, that it is someone’s birthday and that the excursion is going to be and you have to have the clothes ready … That should be 50/50 shared.
You are a teacher and you are in contact with many children. How have you seen your situation with the pandemic and how do you see them now after everything we have experienced?
When you are a child, two years is a long time, it is like 10% of your life. These two years passed like a steamroller, children who are seven years old do not remember life as it was before. Now they are really learning what it is like to go to the movies or the theater or a show with ease. I think we all come out with emotional consequences of this and the children too. Without a doubt, the worst years of my educational experience have been seeing them at recess, each group stuck in their square meters, really crazy scenes, in class washing our hands every 40 minutes… It was a very big disruption for the educational process and for their upbringing . But children, which is something that the book also says, they adapt to everything.
He ends his book with the phrase “children have to feel loved and demanded”. Why?
This is something a teacher from my school told me. When I entered the school to work 20 years ago there was a group of teachers who welcomed me, they dedicated themselves to teaching me a lot of things. One of them told me that for a child to feel happy he has to feel loved, but also demanded. If a child feels that nothing is demanded of him, he lacks this point of self-esteem, tranquility and pride that he is someone useful, that he has a role in this family. If a child is lying all day, when he wants something you give it to him and you don’t demand anything (neither tenderness, nor that he accompany you, nor that he listen to you), he will never have that satisfaction.