It’s fall. The scents of fallen leaves and pumpkin spice lattes are in the air, the nights are growing longer, and my Facebook feed is full of photos of tots at the pumpkin patch.
Last year, we took Bean to a popular pumpkin-picking destination for what seems to have become an Annual Toddler Rite of Passage: picking and posing for pictures with pumpkins (whoa, alliteration!). But it wasn’t just the pumpkin patch. The farm we went to was a seasonal extravaganza of toddler meltdowns waiting to happen. Petting zoo! Bouncy castle! Train ride! Playground! Corn maze! Mini donuts! Hayride to the pumpkin patch! And then… the pumpkin patch. A picked-through field of misshapen pumpkins, the most attractive of which were piled in big cardboard boxes at the edge of the field, ours to take home for $5 apiece.
After the fun of everything that had come before, the actual pumpkin patch was decidedly underwhelming to Bean. We eagerly followed him with the camera, snapping shot after shot as he picked his way through the muddy field over and around pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, not quite sure what he was doing there.
Yes, we did get the obligatory photos of him surrounded by all of the non-rotten pumpkins we could find (we went kind of late in the season, as I recall). But afterwards, the two things that Bean remembered and cared about were: 1) that the hayride involved a REAL TRACTOR!!! and 2) mini donuts. Nothing about the pumpkins.
When did the pumpkin patch become a thing? I know it’s not new, but when did the pumpkin patch become a must-do pre-Halloween family activity? Is it because we have the ability to share photos of our darling offspring with everyone we know through social media, and so we must find new and adorable situations for those photos to occur? Is it because, again through social media, we can see that all the other parents we know have taken their tots to the pumpkin patch and so we must do it too, because if we don’t our children will be deprived of some incredible experience? Are we just keeping up with the Joneses?
I think things were simpler when I was a kid. There were no big outings to the pumpkin patch – just a grocery store pumpkin inexpertly carved by Dad and the kids at the kitchen table, probably while my Mum frantically put the finishing touches on our homemade Halloween costumes. (Not Pinterest/Martha Stewart-homemade; four-kids-no-money-do-I-have-to-wear-that-again homemade.) And the only way we knew what the Joneses were up to was if we saw them in person on our trick-or-treating adventure – there was no Facebook feed to let us know what kind of fancy costume the Joneses’ kids were in, or how much fun they’d had at the pumpkin patch.
For the record, we’re undecided on the pumpkin patch this year, but leaning towards not going.