It has been a month since I posted because I was in Spain and I am posting at the end of my stay in each country. Also, I planned on going to Pamplona to run with the bulls, but the morning I planned to leave, I saw the protests of the festival in the news and the arguments against the treatment of the bulls convinced me not to go. I went to Barcelona that morning instead. Enjoy this post!
Buenos días Nigel:
Contesto a su correo electrónico de ayer, en el que solicita entrevistar a Su Majestad el Rey para el trabajo que está preparando para la Universidad de Vanderbilt (Estados Unidos), sobre cómo han influido y resuelto los problemas los padres del mundo como líderes.
A este respecto, lamento comunicarle que no va a ser posible complacerle. Es criterio consolidado de esta Casa que los miembros de la Familia Real no suelen conceder entrevistas. De hecho, Su Majestad no ha concedido ninguna, pese a que hemos recibido propuestas por parte de la práctica totalidad de medios españoles y los internacionales más prestigiosos. Hacer en este caso una excepción sería interpretado con toda seguridad como un agravio comparativo, circunstancia que en cualquier caso debemos evitar.
Esperando que se haga cargo de las razones que le expongo, le envío uncordial saludo.
This above email was written by Jordi Gutiérrez Roldán, director of communication. He is explaining that the Monarchy of Spain does not accept invitations to give interviews. One of my mentors and great friends, Michael Ainslie, recommended I reach out to local leaders and find out how their leadership styles have been influenced by their father, so I called and emailed the Monarchy of Spain. The Ministry of Finance and Public Administration, the Mayor of Madrid, the Ministry of Energy, Tourism, and Digital Agenda, and the Office of Social Services of Castilla y León each received an email or phone call from me asking for an interview. I even started looking for business leaders. I was in Madrid when I saw a skyscraper with IBM on the top so I walked in and asked if I could speak with someone for my research. I walked out of the building with two more contacts, and they all failed to turn into an interview. However, I could not be prouder of myself. I did not get any interviews with these leaders, but I found interviews elsewhere. More importantly, I learned more about the process of creating opportunity.
I lived in La Granja for the month, next to Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefonso. This beautiful palace was surrounded by a garden filled with fountains and statues. I wandered around the maze along with the other visitors for hours when I finally took a tour of the garden.
The bus from La Granja to Segovia is a 20-minute ride. In Segovia, I saw the aqueduct, the cathedral, and castle of Segovia, the three jewels of the town. I was in awe. Standing in the cathedral quickly became an emotional experience. I thought about how happy my mom is knowing I could see this place. I thought about how proud my pastor was 2 months ago when I told him I was exploring the world to study fatherhood. I thought about how I had visited Scott elementary school in Atlanta to talk with first graders about my trip and why it is important to learn about different cultures. I am sure many have felt moved when standing in that cathedral, but it is not every day that a black boy from my zip code stands in front of this organ.
For the entire trip, La Granja served as my home base while I traveled to Segovia, Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, and Cádiz. I must have spent over 40 hours sitting on a bus or plane crossing Spain. Palma de Mallorca was where I met Daniel, Danilo, Gerardo, Carlos, and Joshua. I saw them dancing to “Yeah!” by Usher, so I stopped to dance with them. They all went to school together but had unique relationships with their respective fathers. Danilo and Joshua were not raised by their father but moved from Ecuador with their moms when they were babies. Carlos’ father recently moved to Los Angeles last year after his parents divorced. Daniel and Gerardo each had their fathers all their lives. Despite the different circumstances, they were all friends and they all agreed on the core impact of fatherhood: "Fathers teach you about life."
I think fathers teach you a lot, but I want to know how. When fathers are raising their kids, how do they actively shape their relationship with their family to instill these values to create a positive impact?
My next interview with Ramón helped me understand how a father can actively shape his relationship with his kids. An Atlanta friend, Rachael, introduced me to Ramón. He lives in Madrid with his wife, Gloria, and his four kids, Marina, Leti, Gloria, and Ramón. Ramón invited me over for dinner, where I learned that he is an engineering professor and his wife used to teach but now works with a non-profit she started. Their two oldest daughters are studying engineering in college, and the youngest two are in high school. Marina and little Ramón were out of the country during my visit. We had some gazpacho soup and for dessert, pineapple ice cream and chocolate cake. After dinner, I began their interview.
Besides teaching them how to ride a motorcycle when they were 10, Ramón taught his kids to be gratuitous. “He taught us to do things by yourself and not wait for someone to tell you,” said Gloria. The philosophy was not to believe in taking turns but everyone is responsible for everything. This philosophy started with Ramón, descended to his kids, and his kids take it with them wherever they go. “I think it is very important not to calculate the tasks that you have to do because saying ‘You have to cook and I have to work,’ to my wife – I don’t like that. You lose something. You are not sharing all the things at home,” said Ramón. The whole family was on the same page about what Ramón was saying. It was amazing hearing how Ramón had worked with his wife to teach this core value to their kids. The kids were grateful for this upbringing, and their parents were proud to have succeeded in raising kids with character.
The next morning, Gloria had set up another interview for me with her old friend, Pilar. She dropped me off outside her apartment building and I went up to meet Pilar and her daughter, Theresa. Pilar never married Theresa’s father, and he lives in Barcelona. Pilar said they work together to raise their daughter. Pilar was adamant not only that Theresa’s father was great, but Pilar also told me she wants Theresa to find someone with his character to marry when she’s older. This is how they chose to raise Theresa and it almost completely conflicted with my principle of needing the father in the home, but I could not deny how content this family was with their father.
Cádiz was my favorite stop because of the people I met there. After a 9-hour bus ride from Madrid, I showed up at Maria Jose’s door. She hugged me and introduced me to her mom, who also hugged me. Her mom showed me to my room and then took me to the kitchen. Maria Jose pulled out food to make me cheese burgers while her mom asked me where I was from. When I said I am from the U.S., she turned to her daughter to say, “Maybe he knows Katie!” Katie is my mentor from my business fraternity at Vanderbilt and a good friend. She introduced me to Maria Jose, so her mom’s comment revealed that not only had Maria Jose’s mom not known why I was visiting but she also did not hesitate to be sweet to a stranger in her home.
My last interview was interesting because Antoni went into depth about how he had to change from a traditional Spanish father to a modern one. (He and his wife declined to be mentioned by their real names or take a picture, so "Antoni" is a pseudonym.) Ramón had told me how his father was traditional because he worked and his mother took care of the house. Pilar noted that when she was young, it was traditional for men to be “authoritarian” as a father. Alejandro (pictured above on the right) said his own father was great but he was so strict that Alejandro feared he would do the same if he had his own family. In my last interview, my host introduced me to his old neighbor, Antoni, who described an active shift in how he took care of his family. In his 20s, Antoni was not home often because he worked to build his real estate business, but he realized he needed to be more involved with his kids. “It took a lot of time and effort,” said Antoni, but eventually he found an important role in bringing security and tranquility to his kids’ lives. His wife explained to me that they talked about everything in their house, “Politics, sex, the economy, emotions.” Antoni said he did not talk to his kids about sexuality but his wife did and he would ask her how his kids were doing in private. Although Antoni decided to break away from many traditional “macho” ways of fathering his kids, he continued the tradition of staying away from the sex talk with his kids.
I find topics such as sexuality, gender, and emotions so interesting in the context of how a father teaches his kids about them. I thought I struggled to understand things like masculinity and my own emotions because my father was not there to walk me through these complex parts of the human experience. However, I have seen a pattern of fathers being there to discuss these things with their kids, but they are not having these conversations. I suspect this relates to the stress many put on the father to represent strength and masculinity in the home.
This impact of fatherhood has pros and cons in my opinion. It is great that 3 of the men I talked to show ideas about fatherhood transforming, but I still think fathers could take on a stronger role in demonstrating that men can feel complex emotions. However, in the face of not getting an interview with any government leader, resilience served me well which is considered to be a value taught by father figures. Fathers are not talking to their kids about everything, but I am optimistic that fathers will continue to break the traditional codes of silence on certain subjects.