“Listen First!” Campaign – The Durans visit “Catalonia in Miniature”

A day in “Catalunya en Miniatura”

Iria and her husband, Marc, are young parents as much in love with one another as they are considerate towards their son, convinced that education is indeed a daunting task, but that all problems can be solved with kindness and understanding.

Last month, we left the Durans in the Pyrenean resort of Boí Taüll during a ski trip full of emotions. Today, our little family is getting ready to visit the Catalonia in Miniature Park near Barcelona, a unique space of its kind that combines discovering the architectural treasures of Catalonia (in models) with the excitement of a treetop adventure course.

Having left Barcelona, the Durans quickly arrived in the small town of Torrelles de Llobregat and from there, went to the Catalonia in Miniature Park. Ever since this morning, little Nil has been rather grumpy. Well before today’s outing, his mum explained to him that they were going to visit Catalonia’s most beautiful monuments – only in a tiny version! Nil had already imagined all the adventures that he was going to have, like a giant in Smurfland… And then this morning, they tell him that lifting up the roof of the monuments or testing the walls’ sturdiness is out of the question! “Playing with your eyes,” as dad says, that’s all well and good but it’s not very fun. Fortunately, he was promised that he could touch all the buttons he could find visiting the models, ride the little train, listen to music, see the firefighters extinguishing fires, and above all, take off all by himself from the big zip line in the treetop adventure course! At the time, he had clapped his hands in excitement. But now that the fateful moment was fast approaching, he was a little worried.

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    Girls’ Night Out

    Marc and Iria were also silent for most of the trip. For some time now, Iria had been feeling stressed. Between the race that was everyday life, her work, and little Nil, the days came one after the other at an exhausting pace, and she had the feeling that she was not giving enough time to her son. In order to take her mind off things, she had decided to get some of her best friends together, and to organise a memorable “girls’ night out.” So, she had to contact her girlfriends, check their availability, find a date, reserve a good restaurant, etc. A week’s worth of organisation and preparation, leading up to last night’s event. The event had been memorable, that’s for sure. But not for the right reasons. Despite the joy of the reunion, and despite the songs and the giggles, Iria couldn’t shake a vague feeling of guilt. her wonderful organisation had been marred by little Nil’s tremendous fit of tears when his mum left him to go out with her friends.

    And yet, Iria had arranged everything quite well. Little Nil had been duly informed that his mum would be spending the evening on her own, and he had appeared to have accepted the news calmly. But sadly, once faced with the situation, he could not bear to see himself left behind and, without hesitation, begged his mother to abandon such a horrible undertaking. Iria had not allowed herself to be persuaded, but despite everything, seeing her little man’s face so twisted by anxiety had weighed on her heart the whole evening. And even today, seeing Nil so grumpy, she imagined that he was still angry with her, even though the child was thinking of something else entirely.

    Meanwhile, in the young woman’s mind, a court has just sat and rendered its verdict. And the verdict is severe: “Iria Duran, I declare you guilty of having abandoned your child for your own selfish, petty pleasure!” »

    Parental Guilt

    More and more parents are concerned about guilt. Although the degree of intensity varies from one person to another, over time, this emotion can affect parental attitudes and self-esteem, and lead to anxiety. In addition, social networks are quick to point fingers at a certain number of “unfit mothers,” which adds to and amplifies the phenomenon.

    Parental guilt affects mothers more, but it would be wrong to think that it is a gender-based phenomenon. In fact, fathers may feel even more of it than their wives do. In reality, sociological variables explain the fact that mothers are more concerned, not the gender of the parent.

    Evaluating, or even questioning, our parenting is rather a good thing. On the other hand, the child must not become the ultra-dominant area of validation for the parent. A person with good self-esteem seeks validation from several other important aspects of life, such as work, leisure, friendship, etc. It’s normal and healthy. Otherwise, the parent puts himself or herself at risk (poor self-esteem, anxiety, etc.) when he or she feels that his or her parenting is unsatisfactory.

    Saying “no” to one’s child

    “Don’t eat with your fingers, don’t run on the sidewalk, draw on your sheet of paper…” Parents often feel like they are curbing their toddlers’ spontaneity. And yet, their role is to provide and maintain structure. For the child, this is a psychological need; setting some rules and mentioning them constantly allows the child to internalise them, and thus, to acquire independence. Being independent means learning to control one’s impulses, and being comfortable with common social rules. Saying no to one’s child also helps him or her to become independent. If the child sees all of his or her desires fulfilled, he or she will become a slave to them. Subsequently, he or she may become an adult who is incapable of accepting life’s limitations, which may be a source of anger and violence.

    Discovering the models

    For longer than an hour, the Duran family has been walking among the models of the most beautiful monuments of Catalonia, while Nil has been gambolling about in all directions. His favourite is the Sagrada Família (Church of the Holy Family). Although he has already visited the famous basilica, he is impressed by the model’s thousand little details, imagining himself as a giant from another world visiting the little people’s homes. Always ready to transform an activity into a lesson about life – this time, it’s architecture that occupies the place of honour – his dad explains to him that the “poor people’s cathedral”, the real one, once completed, will include eighteen towers and that, at this very moment, construction workers are building the great tower of the Virgin Mary. Nil has a hard time understanding how years upon years were needed to build something that isn’t even finished, since almost anything can be made in a few months…

    And anyway, he doesn’t really care about Gothic or Romanesque art or about this gentleman, Gaudí, who has the same name as his school’s headmaster (a large man who is always dressed in black and who scares him a little). Besides, he’s beginning to grow tired of imagining himself as a giant. Now, he feels like seeing things from a little higher up – from the top of the trees, for example – and his gaze drifts to the side of the treetop adventure course a little farther on. When he listens, he can even hear the cries of joy (or of fright) of the children who are having fun in the branches.

    Marc is a little disappointed to see his son so disinterested in his explanations. “You have to understand, he’s only ten years old,” Iria stresses, pragmatically. The man sighs; he’s not very convinced. He remembers the models he used to make at his age with the help of his father, and his passion for fortified castles, drawbridges, and other knights in shining armour.

    What should we expect of our children?

    The child often bears a heavy responsibility; he or she is there to repair a part of their own parents’ story! The parent didn’t have access to post-secondary education? It’s the child who will have to set about doing that. The parent suffered a traumatic abandonment in his or her childhood? He or she will attempt to repair this past by becoming ultra-protective of his or her child.

    Parenting involves many issues related to the parents’ wish to pass on a certain legacy to their child, and to the child’s resistance, greater or lesser, when faced with the parents’ wishes. Thus, the expectations parents have towards their child can be immense, and many strive to lay the foundations of this future: artistic activities, music, sports, tutoring, language study holiday, etc. “We are doing it all for him/her,” and in return (on investment) we expect him or her to succeed in life: a prestigious profession, a beautiful marriage, etc.

    Accompanying one’s children in their own wishes, not ours

    Hoping for the best for one’s child is not a bad thing, because the parents’ expectations are also a driving force for the child, and then for the adolescent, who will thus feel pushed to do better. On the other hand, care must be taken to accompany him or her and to bring him or her as high and as far as possible, but always in the direction of his or her own wishes, and not ours. If little Nil is not an intellectual, no matter! There are a host of exciting and creative professions that are not, in principle, meant for intellectuals.

    If the parents’ expectations are too rigid, this will often give rise, as the child gets older, to a crisis of opposition, allowing the child to call into question the parental wish and, eventually, to choose another. By opposing, the child turned teen or adult will then do their best to disappoint his or her parents, in order to preserve his or her freedom and individuality. And later, it will be up to the parent to finally accept the loss of this “dream child”.

    At the foot of the trees

    Little Nil has finally got his way, and the whole family is now gathered at the foot of the trees. Nil and his mum are already kitted out, both strapped in their harness. And now, they listen intently to the instructions given by Tony, the treetop adventure course monitor, who is explaining the safety rules to them.

    Marc has put himself on the sidelines slightly – the climb through the trees shall be without him, thank you very much. The idea of leaving solid ground gives him cold sweats. In truth, the only sport that he practises willingly is skiing, and even then only on a very occasional basis. At school, they were already calling him “nerd”, but that was not as a compliment… Nil is the total opposite of him. “He takes after his mother, that one,” Marc says to himself. While he himself is calm, thoughtful, an enthusiast of readings and quiet-times, his son is fired up with enthusiasm, always willing to take part in any physical activity.

    Marc and Iria therefore decided to channel this surplus of energy by enrolling their son in all kinds of extracurricular activities. Nil already has tennis training three times a week, and Iria just enrolled him in Krav Maga classes that recently opened just around the corner from their home. On top of that, in two weeks he will begin an introductory course to circus arts!

    Not to mention the guitar lessons… Oh no, that’s right; he quit the guitar…Marc is very sceptical. Tennis is okay. Nil has been practising for three years already, and he’s rather good. Marc is very happy to see his wife’s eyes gleam at the little boy’s achievements. He is happy for her former female tennis hopeful’s tremendous pride; Iria is also an accomplished sportswoman. Circus arts? That still works. Learning to walk on a big ball, juggling or making perilous jumps; Nil will take to that like a fish to water, that’s for sure.

    But Krav Maga! Marc has trouble understanding that one. “Learning to defend oneself,” “striving for minimal movement, similar to instinct…” It’s all Greek to him. And even though his wife is constantly telling him that it’s got nothing to do with it, he still associates this martial art with the dreadful duels engaged in by modern gladiators who are mixed martial arts professionals.

    “I mean,” he sighs, “Iria is most probably right.” And their son won’t end up in an octagonal iron cage. But still, are all these activities really good for him?

    Extracurricular activities: how far to go?

    The current enthusiasm parents have for extracurricular, out-of-school activities is closely linked to contemporary social changes, especially in family models. Employing an extracurricular activity is a good way to make up for the absence of mothers – who are more and more professionally active – to better arm children faced with a very competitive job market, and to promote practices deemed good for their health or creativity.

    At the outset, these intentions are very laudable, but unfortunately, they hide a reality that is probably less so: these activities are sometimes very expensive; they are time and energy-consuming, and can be exhausting for the children. Yet, the act of enrolling one’s child in 2, 3, or 4 extracurricular activities per week (and sometimes even every day) has become one of the essential markers of “good parenting” (along with the organising of grandiose birthday parties), a phenomenon that is self-perpetuated by expansion when it comes to supply and a definite one-upmanship between families.

    Where to set limits?

    Extracurricular activities must not harm other spheres of the child’s life or those of the family, such as homework, social life, free time, or time spent with family. It is crucial to maintain family balance! When the child wants to do an activity that may upset this balance, there is a need to discuss this with him or her, to identify one or more of the other activities that they could do without.

    It is also worth taking care not to put too much pressure on the child, for example in relation to his or her sporting achievements. When an activity becomes a source of stress, the child will put up with it, rather than find a source of pleasure in it. Finally, leaving the child some spare time is essential to his or her development. Relaxing, flipping through a comic book, or simply doing nothing, even being bored, is good for his or her mental health!

    The Zip Line

    Nil and his mum have successfully gone through all the steps in the treetop adventure course, sometimes even at full speed. Nil is red with excitement, proud of having succeeded at mastering his fear and doing better than certain big kids who barely dared to put one foot in front of the other. The last phase of the course has finally come, and he is ready for the big zip line! Despite his stomach being in knots, he calmly allowed himself to be harnessed by Tony, the instructor, under Iria’s watchful eyes.

    And they’re off! Slowly at first, he quickly gains speed, and now he’s zooming along at full tilt on the steel cable. His arms outstretched, he imagines he is an eagle flying over Catalonia. He breathes hard, then closes his eyes. He is happy.

    Find the continuation of the Duran family’s little adventures in the next episode.