Every autumn when the air gets crisp, parents like myself yearn to dress up their babies and nestle them between pumpkins for darling photos. We dream of pretty preschoolers clutching their younger siblings who just discovered the magic of a leaf that changed colors. Surely our round, bald babies will flash gummy smiles in their jack-o-lantern onesies that show off those delicious rolls. And the baby pumpkin hats! Oh, those hats! Yes parents, Pinterest has taught us that annual pumpkin patch visits will make for photography gold! Won’t our Facebook cover photos be amazing!? We’re all like, “It’s October! I better grab the DSLR I barely use because if I’m being honest, using my smart phone is way easier.”
I’m here to tell you today, the pumpkin patch is bullshit. It is not the rolling orange paradise we have imagined. Want proof? Here, take a look at these photos of my family.
They are lies! They are photoshopped lies! These darling pictures are in no way indicative of our pumpkin patch experience. I’m exposing this annual tradition for the fall farce that it is.
We all go into pumpkin patch outings with dreams of gourds magically turning our children into Baby Gap models so this year’s Christmas cards will really pop. I dressed up my sweet babes and we ventured a few miles down the road to our local patch. The kids raced through rows of mums before excitedly picking up small, decorative pumpkins they could hold. It all started off cute enough. I asked them to do a few good pictures and then we could pick pumpkins of our own.
The questions began. “Mama, can I get three pumpkins!?” “Waz dis? Mama, waz dis?” Not unusual. They’re excited. No biggie. Then my 4-year-old spotted the ultimate distraction from our goal for this trip. She saw a chinzy version of her idol. There was a teenage girl dressed as Elsa painting faces. Ugh! Okay. I feigned excitement and took her picture with the artificial ice queen to remind her that PICTURES (and I guess pumpkins, whatever) are the point of this trip.
Then my son noticed how close we were to the road. He screamed,”Cars!” before barreling toward a six lane road under construction. Our pumpkin patch visit quickly became a mommy-daddy game of Block The Toddler. I thought about telling the pumpkin people that I would pay more per pumpkin next year if they fenced in the patch.
We corralled the kids to the photo area with special fall decor. That’s when it turned ugly. Our photo session became a mommy-daddy game of catch and release with our son. It turned in to bribery and verbal threats with our daughter. You know those sentences you never thought you’d say? “If you don’t smile and sit on this hay bale, we will NOT let Elsa paint your face!” He screamed. She whined. In fact, let’s take a look at some outtakes.
In my head I kept saying, “This is supposed to be fun!” “Relax, enjoy these memories.” “It won’t be like this for long! They’re your babies!” Then I smelled a poopy diaper and my preschooler talked back to me. I thought, “Shut up head. This sucks. Let’s get some pumpkins and get out of here.”
When my daughter, who did NOT deserve a pumpkin at this point, finally found the perfect one among the hundreds I picked it up. That’s when I saw ants swarm up her Mary Jane’s and socks. Yep, she picked the one pumpkin on top of an ant hill. I gasped and took her over to some grass to brush her off. As kids do, she saw the ants and flipped. “Get ’em off Mooommmmyyyy!” I was unbuckling a Mary Jane when I felt the familiar burn of fire ants on my toes. Yep. My shoes had little holes in them. She did not get bit, but I did. I limped over to my husband who had just finished an extra cardio workout after chasing the boy who now had mud on his face and on his fall sweater vest.
I slung the kicking, screaming toddler over my shoulder and literally carried him fireman’s style over my shoulder to the car while dragging my daughter. My husband, sweaty and angry, paid for our pumpkins. Her wails were indecipherable. They were something about not getting her face painted by the fake Elsa. I reminded her of the talking back and whining. This just sent her into more hysterics. Finally, being the fantastic parent I am, I said, “That wasn’t even the real Elsa!”
When my husband got to the car, the children’s cries continued and we lamented being victims of the “Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2015” after having paid $30 for three pumpkins. We resolved to put up the artificial tree for Christmas. There was no way we were doing this again in December.
Screw the stupid pumpkin patch. I could have quickly grabbed some from outside the grocery store and taken pictures of the kids on the front stoop with the pumpkins. Parents, do not be fooled by the photos you see on Facebook! I witnessed multiple crying babies and disgruntled middle schoolers begging to just go home. I heard other dads complaining about this year’s price per pumpkin. I saw moms just put the DSLR back in the bag and call it a day.
I will say, later that afternoon we were in the calm after the storm. After everyone had had naps and snacks, my daughter came to me. She said, “Mommy, I’m sorry I wasn’t good when we were taking pictures. I’ll be better next time. I promise.”
Sigh. I do love the smell of fresh cut Christmas trees.