Festa Junina is a celebration of the month of June, which is harvest time in the rural Northeast of Brazil. Thanks to the Portuguese, it also includes the honoring of Catholic saints. Activities include a mock wedding gone wrong, in which the groom tries to escape but is dragged back by the soon-to-be father-in-law. (Ironic as the Catholics claim they established the concept of marriage. Makes you wonder if the indigenous Brazilians added this as a way to covertly make fun of their new Portuguese “friends.”)
Like any good festival, this particular celebration included food-on-a-stick, cotton candy, and alcoholic beverages to dull the noise of screeching children, in this case, mulled wine and some kind of hot cachaça drink. The children that attend the school performed a customary festival dance (something like the good ‘ol American square/line dancing). Super cute.
This party also had the blow-up creations for children’s entertainment that seem to be extremely popular in Brazil. I spotted a pula-pula, or jumpy-jumpy castle, and attempted to steer my daughter in that direction. But right next to the pula-pula was a huge blow-up slide contraption. My daughter decided that she wanted to go on it. After much discussion, and despite my mothering premonitions, I gave in.
Each group of kids got 5 minutes for climbing up a tall blow-up ladder and sliding down a quadruple wide slide. We stood in line for 15 minutes until it was finally our turn. I handed over my R$3 for 5 minutes of fun. My daughter made it up the ladder, slowly, with a team of kids chomping at the bit behind her. Not surprisingly, when she got to the top, she didn’t want to come down. She was afraid. But really, she had no choice.
She waited at the top until the first round of kids went down and she was alone. Then she sat at edge of the slide. She stared down. Her bottom lip popped out. Tears ran down her cheeks. I and the other parents began to call out suggestions on the best way for her to get down. Finally, she grabbed at my friend’s recommendation, turned on her belly and slid down that way. At the bottom, she just stayed there on her tummy, with her face buried in the blown up plastic, and sobbed until I was able to scramble over the other parents and retrieve her.
Yes, pathetically sad. But also, I’m hoping a good lesson. Although what the lesson would be, I’m not sure. (I just remember in these situations my parents saying, “Well I hope you learned your lesson.” But honestly, I rarely did.) She continued to cry “I was afraid! I was afraid!” as I carried her away until I offered some comfort in “I know you were afraid, but you did it anyway. That’s great!” That notion seemed to work.
Some chocolate covered grapes, minus the grapes, and a huge wad of blue cotton candy later, all was forgotten. For her.
Thanks to my own upbringing, I spent the last three years instilling fear in my daughter over situations such as falling out the window, being electrocuted and being hit by a car. (To the point where she actually recently had a nightmare about getting hit by a car, poor thing.) But today, I congratulated her on doing something despite the fact that she was afraid. As a mother, I would like to see her avoid at all costs anything that makes her even the tiniest bit afraid. But the adventurer, and the rational person, in me understands that is not healthy, not a recipe for happiness, and certainly not any fun.
So at what point do we start to unravel the fears and make our children brave? I realized today that I’m not ready for it, in spite of my encouraging words. I was afraid for her at the top of that slide. The idea that some other kid might bump into her and push her over the edge slid through my mind as I watched her climb up. But on some level, I knew it was important for her to make the journey.
I just hope the next one isn’t for awhile.