In Canada, we look forward to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – a day for children to express love for their parents. Mexico celebrates those days too. But every April 30th since 1925, Mexico has also celebrated Children’s Day, El Dia de Ninos. It is a day – a few days actually – where everyone stops what they are doing to honor children. We noticed that even in the poorest neighborhoods, homes were decorated with balloons and children were hauling around bags of candy. I spend a lot of time with children here and I tend to see all the things that are wrong – poverty, disease, lack of decent education and medical care and shelter. But when I let myself relax a bit I also see a country where family is important, where children are allowed to play with abandon and where laughter is loud and common.
This weekend we celebrated Dia de Ninos twice – once with the children of Casa Hogar and one with the children in our community. Because Natalia’s birthday fell on Thursday and the children had Friday off school, we had a combined Birthday/Children’s Day party. Natalia and her brother and sister live at Casa Hogar during the week to help their mom who works at night during the week. She is young and had her first daughter as a very young teen. But she loves her children in the best ways she can and they love her too. On Friday, she brought a giant pot of pozole and a cake for all of us to share. We played some games, had a dance party and eventually filled up the water balloons for a giant water fight. It was a super fun day for the children and the grown-ups too.
Natalia’s mom (top) brought delicious pozole for us all to share
Water fights and dancing party – yup I was soaked too!
On Sunday night, the local church had a community Dia de Nino’s party – over 300 children showed up to play games, eat hotdogs and cake and watch a bunch of Trolls tell them that Jesus loves them. We picked up Jose to come to the party and while we were waiting at the house his 3-year-old nephew Kevin gave me the ‘look’. The ‘please don’t leave me here while you take Jose to a party’ look. “Do you want to come too Kevin”. Giant smile. His 16-year-old pregnant mom gave me a tired smile and a nod. So Kevin came for his first big outing with us. I don’t think Kevin has been out of his neighborhood often and he clung to Grant and I as he tried out the activities. I have never seen a child ravage a hot dog like that and by the end of the evening my dress was literally dripping with green juice, snot, and catsup. Once I asked Grant, “Do I even want to know what I feel dripping down my leg right now?”. Twice he wiped out on the play structure hard enough to make most children cry – instead Kevin got up and kept going, not wanting to miss a second of this new freedom.
Kevin’s first adventure
Obviously, I still worry about the children in this country. Every day Grant and I get up and we work to find ways to help the children in our lives experience futures with hope and opportunity and possibility. But this weekend we put that all aside and we joined with our community in celebrating these little people and the simple lives they live today. Feliz dia de los ninos mis amigos!