Labor Day weekend is upon us, and I am already dreading the annual family trip to the apple orchard, pumpkin farm, and corn maze. Don’t get me wrong—I love the idea of spending the day with my family, eating fresh apples in rustic bliss. However, I have a love/hate relationship with this fall tradition. The first year we took our son at 6 months, the day was truly perfect. A couple of years later, the day was not so great. Any trip with young children can be tough, but the apple orchard causes me the most anxiety. As a parent, it is a true “expectation vs. reality” situation. At least it involves cute boots!
The photo op. Being at an apple orchard or pumpkin patch is a great time to snap pictures of the children along with their adoring parents. However, taking fabulous photos does not just magically happen—it requires applying makeup, doing my hair, and generally getting everyone ready. The children need to be in cute seasonal outfits. There are generally a few prime spots for photos, and my husband and I will have to jockey for position since everyone everywhere also wants to enjoy idyllic orchard life. It’s a little hectic! That said, one of my favorite pictures of all time was taken in the pumpkin patch. One of my least favorite, but also the funniest, pictures of all time as well was taken at same.
Bugs. It is not just people who love the apple orchard. Wasps and beetles love it too. Nothing like relaxing, enjoying seeing my child eat a freshly-picked apple, or more likely an apple donut, while pretending I’m not vigilantly watching for an aggressive wasp to land right where he is about to take a bite. I am just not one of those people who can act nonchalant around wasps, and I think that they must smell my fear. This year seems like the yellow jackets may not be too bad. My guess is that the mosquitoes have gotten large enough in Illinois this summer to become the dominant species.
Carnival atmosphere. I am not sure how long most apple orchards have had rides, bouncy houses, and a general circus atmosphere, but can we all just laugh for a moment about traveling to “a day in the country” that is full of things that belong anywhere but the country? Petting zoo, hay ride, corn maze—these activities can get a pass. Bouncy house, however, I simply hate to see. Maybe I will feel differently when my children are the unsupervised 10-year-olds knocking down the little kids, but probably not. Let’s just fill the bouncy house with wasps for the perfect storm of parental apple orchard ire. Why can’t enjoying the beauty of nature simply be enough? If a place looks, sounds and smells like a theme park, it is most likely a theme park. I always end up feeling wistful that my children do not get to simply enjoy being out in the fresh air without all the distractions.
Childhood memories. As a parent, I see and feel all the challenges of the day, and they do at times, perhaps, overshadow the fun. Despite the bothersome bugs and bouncy houses, these types of trips are the stuff of family life. My children always enjoy the day. They will not remember mom and dad being exasperated or getting eaten alive by mosquitoes or annoying them by taking too many photos. They will remember eating the apple donut, choosing their pumpkins, picking apples, and going on a hay ride. They will remember that we all spent the day together. The magic of memories made happily exceeds all expectations. Maybe this will be my year to expect nothing and appreciate everything.