Recently, I read an article that rated Portugal as one of the top countries in the world to raise children. Initially, this article struck me as odd. My daughters would tell you that the children of Portugal, in general, can be pretty physical. Both of my girls have been involved in minor altercations this school year, with my younger daughter getting into a serious beat down.
Of course, addressing aggressive children isn’t one of the main criteria in determining the value of a country for families. I am sure they used some scientific way to determine that Portugal is an awesome place for kids. Today, I witnessed a pretty solid reason. It was the Day of Children in Portugal. In towns and cities across the country, free festivals celebrated kids.
When I decided to take the girls to the festival, and some of their friends, I had loaded my wallet with small change to pay for rides, bouncy castles, the standard ‘fair attractions.’ When we arrived in the main square of Cascais, we were greeted by a serious party. Balloons everywhere, music, bouncy houses, bikes, trains, skateboards, wooden stilts, homemade wooden board games…the list continues. My children’s eyes were like enormous pancakes scanning the scene and preparing to conquer. I braced myself for crazy.
They first saw a skateboard/scooter/rollerblade course and headed over. Maggie has never rollerbladed before, but she waited in line and got suited up. This included a hairnet so that there was no chance of getting lice from the helmet sharing. This brought tears to my eyes. I fear nothing more than lice (sadly, this statement is pretty much true). The young girl who assisted Maggie was awesome. She looked genuinely pleased to have my gigantic daughter lean on her and she was truly excited when she finally seemed to skate alone.
The girls won prizes at another booth and even planted pots of vegetables to take home and grow in their own gardens. All of this cost me nothing. NOTHING. There wasn’t even vendors selling crap. No food trucks. Just tent after tent of free activities and games.
I was starting to wear down because normally I tell the kids that I will only spend so much money and then we leave. I didn’t have a good barometer as to when I should escape this festival because it was costing me nothing. They ran from one cool thing to the next. Maggie was even interviewed by a Portuguese radio station that allowed her to answer in English and praised her when she spoke the little Portuguese she knows well.
If today is any indication, children are celebrated in Portugal. I didn’t witness one parent yelling at their child, nor did I see any kid acting bratty. I am sure it happened, but thankfully I avoided anything that might mar my glorious afternoon. People were happy. They were enjoying a sunny day with their offspring.
The only downside was that I never found food to feed my kids because there were no commercial elements at all. At first, I was thrilled to not spend money, but we did get hungry. If my priest had been with us, he would have gone insane seeking out food….the man gets hungry. We satisfied ourselves with some churros (Portuguese invention) and ate lunch like Euro trash at 3 pm.
According to Save the Children:
Top 10 Places Where childhood is least threatened
10 Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, South Korea