It’s October and I’m in my mid (ok, fine, late) 30s, which can only mean one thing (or 30 things, actually): my Facebook newsfeed is suddenly clogged with an astounding number of family photos taken in pumpkin patches. In the last five to seven years, about 89% of everyone I have ever met in my life, from preschool to mutual friends’ 40th birthday parties, has had a kid or two, myself included. And this time of year most of these fellow parent friends and acquaintances are strapping their babies into chest-hugging Ergos or buckling their older kids into car seats and heading out to the nearest pumpkin patch for an afternoon of… well, I’m not sure what. What goes on at the pumpkin patch? From the looks of these photos, it seems like you sit in a field and … take pictures? Is that it? Is there anything more to the event? I mean, don’t get me wrong, my Facebook friends look adorable in their local pumpkin patches with their kids, but I’m just wondering what else I am missing from going to one myself beyond an awesome photo opp.
This is my fourth October as a parent, if you count the very first October, in which I spent the first week very pregnant and the last three weeks feeling very sleepy and bewildered. This October my son turned three, and now he knows the phrase “pumpkin patch.” Only, he’s a city kid and we don’t have a car and we aren’t fun enough to rent one for a day of autumnal activities, so that means his idea of a “pumpkin patch” is the pile of pumpkins that sits outside the door of our neighborhood super market. And so I guess that’s one more thing to add to my list of potential parental failures, if neglecting to take your toddler to a real pumpkin patch is, in fact, a failure.
You know what else my husband and I have neglected to do with our son every autumn so far? Go apple-picking. Because, as with pumpkin patches, I don’t understand apple-picking. You pick apples from trees? And then you take them home and eat them? So …it’s sort of like grocery shopping, only it’s just the one item you’re getting? But it’s fun because you’re outside? Why not just go to the park for a while, and then go grocery shopping on your way home and pick up all the stuff you need and not just apples? That’s what I want to know.
In our home, October also means birthday party season. Not only does my son have a birthday this month, but about 75% of the children he’s befriended at the playground or through the moms group I organized when he was a newborn, were born in October. And so, for the third time so far, I was reminded this month how I don’t particularly like throwing a kid’s birthday party, nor am I any good at it. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I throw my son a birthday party with love; I just can’t wait for the damn thing to be over. I am like the anti-Pinterest Mom who pins clever party ideas with gusto for months leading up to her kid’s big day. My son’s birthday parties have no theme. Or, more correctly, the theme is always: “You’re a year older! Happy Birthday! Now blow out your candles!” I buy a cake from the local bakery, haul a folding table to the nearest park, throw a few bagels on a platter next to some juice boxes for the kids and mimosas for the parents, and call it a day. This year I got wild and crazy and brought a “Pin the Nose on a Pumpkin” game for the kids to play, only I forgot to bring scissors to the park and so I spent 15 minutes gently tearing each nose into not-very-neat triangles and then another five minutes explaining the rules of the game to 12 3-year-olds who stared at me blankly before yelling for birthday cake and more bubbles.
Now we have Halloween to look forward to in a couple weeks. It’s probably a shock to no one that I won’t be making my son’s costume. I did surprise myself and actually ordered his costume weeks in advance. This year he’s going to be Daniel Tiger, the furry preschooler in a red sweater who used to live in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood but now has his very own spin-off series. We have the costume itself, red Converse shoes sold separately — both procured on eBay, because I’m frugal — and a little blue stuffed tiger just like Daniel’s own “Tigey” whom he sleeps with at bedtime. Even though I’m not crafty at all, I have an irrational fear of scarring my child for life if there isn’t at least one DIY element to his Halloween costume, so my husband and I are going to turn a brown shopping bag into a red trolley, which will serve as our son’s trick-or-treat bag. This was my idea, but now, because we have only two weeks to complete the project and we’re also moving to a new apartment at the same time, no big deal, and we have other, more pressing matters to deal with, like figuring out where we’re going to put the litter box in the new place and whether we should get blinds or shades for the living room windows, I’m thinking maybe we should just get a plastic pumpkin for trick-or-treating and be done with it, long-term emotional scarring be damned.
I’m not alone here, right? In being a special occasion-challenged parent, I mean. Even if my Facebook newsfeed would lead me to believe otherwise, surely there are other mothers out there who do the bare minimum when it comes to seasonal activities and special events. Surely there are other non-crafty, non-pumpkin-patch-loving, theme party-hatin’ moms who will band with me in an effort to de-stigmatize our lot. Because, hey!, it’s not like we hate fall or birthdays or special occasions at all. I’ll crack open a pumpkin ale at Oktoberfest with the best of ‘em. Just don’t ask me to bake a cake for it.
Wendy Atterberry writes the relationship advice blog, Dear Wendy. You can follow her on Facebook.