Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

I Don’t Understand Pumpkin Patches, and Other Confessions a Seasonally-Challenged Mother


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.

13 comments… add one
  • Lyra October 25, 2014, 11:39 pm

    I kinda detest pumpkin patches and apple orchards but that’s mainly because I’m totally spoiled and my parents have BOTH at their place. They grow most of their own fruits and vegetables. So yeah I totally see your point Wendy — what are you going to do at the pumpkin patch? I like that it is an option for people/kids who maybe don’t have the opportunity to grow a garden or experience what it’s like to pick your own stuff right off the vine/tree because it IS really cool. I take that for granted a lot. Like today — I was at home and I picked probably close to 5 buckets full of apples (I’m talking 5-gallon pails, not ice cream buckets). Of course I grew up with it so it was nothing, but for someone who lives in the city it could be a really cool experience.

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    • Addie Pray October 26, 2014, 7:39 am

      Yeah but WHY or how is doing the laborious work of picking apples a cool experience? I’d think that would get … Exhausting after a few picks, no!
      That said, I really enjoyed strawberry picking the one time I did that. But that’s because it only cost $1 for a carton you filled, and I filled 10 of them and so got like $100 worth of strawberries from the store for $10, and they were the juiciest strawberries ever!

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      • Lyra October 26, 2014, 1:39 pm

        Strawberry picking is the bomb! I love that.
        I think one of the coolest things about my parents’ gardens/farm is that it’s so fresh. Literally you can pick an apple off the tree and eat it. But the best thing for me is that I helped plant the seeds and seedlings and when I was at home full time I helped tend to the garden all the time. You literally could see the fruits of your labor. We also oftentimes will bring the produce straight into the house and make something out of it. For example last night my family and I made applesauce and a pie with 2 of the 5 buckets of apples. You can’t get much fresher than that!
        I think for me the best part of the experience is seeing fruits of our labor, so that’s kind of why I’m pretty “meh” about the pumpkin patches or apple orchards where you literally just come in, pick your pumpkin or apples, and leave. I love farms/orchards which educate so kids can learn about the work that goes into it before harvest time or the production of the produce after harvest. As an example I remember my class in elementary school toured a local apple orchard and I remember they taught us how cider presses worked.

      • Lyra October 26, 2014, 1:42 pm

        At the same time I also love that people eat local. OK I take back my original feeling of “meh” about pumpkin patches. 🙂

      • LadyinPurpleNotRed October 26, 2014, 1:47 pm

        When I stayed with call-me-hobo for a weekend, we went strawberry picking. It was so much fun!

    • d2 October 26, 2014, 8:54 am

      I grew up in rural farming area, where picking your own was the norm. Fresh-picked fruit, vegetables, berries, nuts, etc., taste so much better than store bought. Everything is genetically bred to survive the cross-country trip to your grocery store at the expense of taste.

      But, alas, even I now buy mediocre fruit, vegetables, berries, nuts, etc., from the grocery store because of the convenience. Most of the family farms are long gone, so there are few opportunities to pick your own these days.

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  • Addie Pray October 26, 2014, 7:43 am

    In addition to all the dang pumpkin photos and crazy over the top themes parties, know what else everyone with kids seems to do wayyyy too much of? Formal family portraits. Based on what I see in my FB newsfeed, it looks like they get professional photos done every season. That seems excessive, right? Plus I think the “couch in the middle of a field” pic is way overdone. Amiright?

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  • Kate October 26, 2014, 7:55 am

    I think it’s mostly about the photo op… But in New England 30 years ago before Instagram, pumpkin patch and apple picking were still a thing. As a kid, it was fun to pick out your own pumpkin, and mom & dad would take some snapshots that they’d never get around to putting in an album. Apple picking involves ladders, which is cool. And then there would be a pie, which maybe my dad actually baked? And the thinking is that the apples are fresher and better tasting than supermarket apples, but who knows.

    I do think the Pinterest-driven expectations on moms have gotten way out of control, and yeah, it seems like a professional photographer is hired to capture every moment, from baby bump to beach vacation and everything in between. We would just go to Olan Mills every few years and sit in front of a fake library backdrop or something. I wonder if kids lives start to feel scripted and fake.

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  • d2 October 26, 2014, 8:45 am

    I think that things like pumpkin patches or Christmas tree patches are indeed commercialized efforts to make money off holiday/seasonal traditions. However, I could argue that they are not as commercially extreme than things like Halloween, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny/Eggs, Valentine’s Day, etc.

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  • jlyfsh October 26, 2014, 10:15 am

    Growing up in a rural area pick your own places were all around. They were cheaper and you got to see how your food grew, etc. That and the brief time I lived in Missouri the farms were an experience they made their own sausage, ice cream, cider, etc. Going there and stocking up was just such a big part of my memories from growing up. I like pick your own places now because it supports local farmes and it brings back a small snippet of my memories from when I was young!

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    • Addie Pray October 26, 2014, 10:42 am

      Ok I’m on board now… I think next weekend I’ll go explore rural Illinois or Wisconsin!

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    • something random October 26, 2014, 8:25 pm

      That’s exactly it. When you live in the middle of nowhere (as we did growing up) you have a lot of nostalgia for these kind of things. If you didn’t grow up with an FFA around, you probably woudn’t get it. When I try to imagine a future Jackson based on nothing but what I know from Dear Wendy, I picture a man who feels nostalgic about the sights and smell of autumn in the city. I imagine him getting excited about dressing up his cats and taking his toddler to get Jamaican food along slushy concrete. I see him loving exotic travel and feeling at home when someone busts out an astrology chart. I dunno. I petting farm blew my mind when I was a small kid. And picking out a pumpkin was a huge deal for some reason. My own kids have so much stuff now that I don’t they really get it, either. But I think they have fun because I get so excited about it. And I always end up buying fresh cider or or doing a wagon ride. Its a nice time.

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      • Dear Wendy October 27, 2014, 8:05 am

        Jackson loves petting farms too! We always go to one near my parents’ place when we visit them. And on our last month, the farm had a fall fest going on, so there were pony rides, cow train rides, hay rides, and, all kinds of stuff. He loved it.


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