Though I have been writing this parenting blog / daddy blog for years, I have to say that I don’t really feel like part of the daddy blog community. In fact, I only read 2-3 dad blogs at this point. That’s why I was so delighted when Kelly Crull, who blogs as Spain Dad, reached out and sent me a lovely email to initiate a friendship between us. But Kelly blogs about his family in a way that I can’t imagine, particularly in regards to how much private information he posts, so I asked him if he’d consent to being interviewed on my blog. This posting is the result.
Dave Taylor: How did you get started blogging, Kelly?
Kelly: I first published online in 1994. Since then, I’ve been writing in one form or another on the web. I’ve always been a firm believer that good stories are more important than the medium you use to tell them. As more people read online, it makes sense for me to tell my stories there.
However, I didn’t start blogging until 2004. I started with kellycrull.com, a blog about my first years in Spain, and later Spain Dad, a baby blog, which I started writing as soon as my wife and I found out she was pregnant–even before we told our family or friends.
I was reluctant to start blogging initially because, as I said, I’m a firm believer in good stories. It wasn’t until I ran across blogs like The Attachment Parenting Blog or Dooce or Waiter Rant that I saw how to blog and be thoughtful. Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer to read blogs that have been written with care, even if that means the authors post less often.
DT: You disclose quite a bit of personal information on your blog. Whatâs your view on privacy in this regard?
K: As an American who has lived outside of the US for five years, I think what concerns me the most about my country is that we’ve cultivated what I call a “culture of fear.” We are afraid of almost everything–our neighbors, our doctors, the water we drink, the schools where we send our kids, even ourselves.
So many of our stories (the ones we watch on TV or read online or hear from our co-workers) beg us to be afraid. I think I’ve only begun to see this since I’ve been outside of my culture, and I’ve also seen that there is an alternative. Spain is one of many countries I’ve visited where people are not afraid of each other, and I find this incredibly refreshing.
Most of my readers are American, and as a result, I share a lot about my family. Not because it’s always comfortable, but because I think we as Americans need to be courageous in our daily decisions to trust each other in order to overcome our fear. The way forward is not more fear, it’s more trust.
DT: What about confidentiality? I was surprised to see pictures of your (beautiful) daughter and wife on your blog. I might be an extremist in this regard, but I have no pictures of my kids on my blog and donât even mention them by name. Do you ever worry about who is looking at these pictures?
K: Because most of my readers are from the US, not Spain, that puts some distance (an ocean, actually) between them and me. I’m not sure whether I would disclose less if I knew my neighbors were reading my blog.
I do, however, have rules I follow about confidentiality. I don’t use specific names of places in my neighborhood. I’ll use “the park,” “the plaza,” or “our breakfast place,” etc. Also, my wife reads all my posts before I post them, and she always has the right to tell me not to post something–no questions asked. I change names if I’m writing about someone I don’t know well or who hasn’t given me their permission. As for photos, I guess I don’t see the harm in others looking at our family photos. I’m fairly modest anyway – no shots of little Alleke in the bathtub for everyone to see.
DT: How did your family end up in Spain? Youâre from the midwest US, right?
K: When April and I were dating in college, she told me she was going to Amsterdam for a semester on a study-abroad program. I couldn’t stand the thought of being without her, so I signed up to go along. Since we were going together, we decided to get married. Makes sense, right? Anyway, we had small work-study jobs while we were in Amsterdam, so with the little money we made, we lived as cheaply as we could during the week (aka eating Dutch potatoes for every meal) and traveled around Europe on the weekends. We saw parts of Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and Italy. I remember Rome being my favorite city.
We returned to college the following year with no intention of returning to Europe, at least not until our 25th wedding anniversary or something, but it didn’t take long for us to realize that we had changed while we were abroad. Even though we were from Iowa, we felt more at home in Europe. I don’t know if that makes sense. Some people (not many) actually feel more at home in a foreign culture, and we’re some of those people. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes us feel at home here, but I think part of it is we get to live our lives on a small scale–less department stores, more local vendors; less cars, more walking; less yards and fences, more parks and public spaces, etc. We mostly live our lives within a five minute walk of our front door.
DT: How do you see Spaniards parenting differently and what do you think we can learn from their approach?
K: A Spanish friend of mine was telling me about a trip he took to New York. He was in a mall and saw a cute little girl, so he picked her up and started playing games with her. Of course, when the little girl’s mom noticed, she went ballistic and grabbed the little girl out of his arms.
Unfortunately, Americans don’t have a reputation for being friendly with kids, and I often have to explain that it’s because we’re trying to protect our kids from strangers. And while I think there is merit in teaching kids about strangers, I also appreciate how much the people on the street in Madrid engage with Alleke. They’re constantly telling her how beautiful she is, playing games with her, letting her pet their dogs, and showing her pictures of their nieces and nephews and grandchildren.
In other words, I think Alleke is learning that she is a valuable part of society. She belongs here, and people are happy to have her, even if she doesn’t look like them or share their cultural heritage.
DT: Finally, like me, youâre apparently not much into sports and other prototypical male pursuits (at least here in the States). Do you find thatâs more of a problem as an expat, or is it really no big deal?
K: It’s not a big deal. The blessing and the curse of being an expat is that no one expects you to follow the rules of the culture. You’re allowed to be different and find your own way to do things.
On the other hand, the best-selling newspaper in Spain is Marca, and it’s only about soccer. If I wanted to get to know more dads, probably the best way to do it would be to head down to the local pub for the next soccer match!
Very interesting and thought provoking, Kelly. Thanks. I will end this by sharing an experience I had years ago as a partial explanation as to why I am far more oblique in my personal information on this blog: When I published Creating Cool Web Pages with HTML my eldest daughter was about 2 and since I had written a book about HTML, I naturally created a humble Web site to go with it. On the site I thought “why not, I’ll put up some family pictures” including a quite innocent picture of A- when she was about Alleke’s age.
So far, so good. But one day I got email from some wierdo accusing me of “exploiting my child’s sexuality to gain traffic on the Web” and realized that my family album wasn’t just viewed by nice people who enjoyed learning a bit more about me as an author, but strange and troubling people, people who I didn’t want to have learn more about my life. That same day I took down the photo album and have since done my very best to keep all pictures of my family offline.
Anyway, I’m sure we have a range of experiences in this regard and I will just wrap this up by saying thank you! to Kelly for both reaching out and sharing his perspective with me for this interview. If you’re a daddy blogger – especially a single dad or one going through the roller-coaster of divorce with younger children – I really do want to connect with you, so please don’t hesitate to drop me a note.