It’s funny how sometimes life’s unprovoked events can teach you lessons that have the potential to make a world of difference in understanding your child.
A few days ago, I took the kids to Ardenwood Historic Farms in Fremont, CA. Since I had never been to this farm’s Pumpkin Patch, I only had a slight idea about what to expect at the visit. Still, in the days leading up to the visit, I build up the excitement for TJ and told him all about the fun things we were going to do there (I did have some idea) and we did most of them.
Except, someone needed to teach me to let things be as they are and should be and not try to shove “fun” down my two-year-old. Let me explain.
What I wanted to see happen:
In my head, TJ and I are frolicking in the Patch, hand-in-hand, hip hopping in the field of orange pumpkins that are somewhat quirkyly arranged in aisles fit for dancing around or shooting a Hindi movie song.
In my head, TJ is running around the field, huge smiles on his face, laughing and having a whale of a time.
In my head, he is actively participating in everything his new environment has to offer and taking it all in, making the most of this visit.
In my head, he is smiling willingly at all the pictures I take of him, and that my friends take of him along with those of their own kids.
What happened in reality:
…TJ did no frolicking and neither did I. At least not in the way I had envisioned it. We stuck to the Patch area immediately around us. Also, there was no dancing.
…TJ did no running around. He seemed to have a reasonably good time but he did not engage with as much enthusiasm as I might have liked him to.
…TJ WAS taking everything in but in a more reserved, introspective manner. He was quietly observing all that was going on around him. There were no outward displays of excitement.
…TJ did oblige me with a few posed pictures with smiles but he missed participating in most of the group pictures with the kids of the mothers with whom I went. It would have been nice to have some pics of him with the other kids.
Insights into the Patch Experience
Quite plainly, I was generally disappointed because my expectations did not meet reality. Yes, we did have a great time. We had a really fun (although painful for my back) hayride where we got to ride around the farm; go over the railroad crossing (inside their farm); see cows, pigs, and sheep; picnic outside; pick a pumpkin out; step into Muddy Puddles; and just be outdoors and do something different from our usual routine.
Yet, when I left the Patch that day, I had this weird feeling inside me where I felt like I had failed my child in some way.
It was only later that I realized that the root of my feeling like a failure that day was the fact that I was expecting him to “have fun” on my terms, in the way I was somehow defining fun without accounting for my child’s individuality and personal preferences for it.
I must’ve asked him at least 10 times in the 1.5 hours that we were there if he was having fun. Now, that is a strange question to ask a two-year-old whose grasping of an abstract concept such as ‘fun’ may still be in the works. At this age, what he considers to be fun is what we tell him it is. More or less.
Then, once we got into the Patch where there were a bunch of picnic tables set up, all he wanted to do was sit and eat. I saw one of my mom friend taking a picture of her sons sitting on a wheelbarrow with a pumpkin in it. Perfect picture prop! Did TJ want to do it? Nope. All he kept saying was, “Mommy, food” and so we ate some baked bunnies and raisins. (I had also packed apple and carrot slices, cheese sticks, and applesauce.) Disappointment # 1.
When he asked for still more food, I did what any good mother would do, packed up the food box up and said, “Enough for now, let’s go have some (yes) fun”.
Thankfully, he agreed and we walked into the Patch where he kept trying to pick up the heavy pumpkins, which was cute. We also took some selfies.
I asked him to stand by a big pumpkin cut out where I took a picture measuring his height. He posed
He even sat on a tire for two seconds. (see right)
Mostly though, we simply walked around. After I had mentioned that we could take home a pumpkin but needed a wheelbarrow or wagon, that is absolutely all he wanted to do.
I asked at least 3-4 times if he wanted to climb the huge haystack (see it in the pic below) that I was actually curious to climb even with Baby E on me. He refused every single time. Disappointment # 2.
I asked if he wanted to walk inside the corn maze. He refused. Disappointment # 3.
After that, we just sat and ate some more. I nursed Baby E and snacked a little myself. Meanwhile, my other mom friends and their kids who had joined us briefly had already left and were taking pictures of each other and their kids. My kid was still sitting and eating. He missed out on all those pictures. Disappointment # 4. (Thankfully, he did get in a few at the very end).
On our way out, there was a muddy puddle (we get that word from Peppa Pig) created by rains from the weekend and tractor tires. This was our chance! I had promised him muddy puddles. I was going to make sure my boy had fun in those darn muddy puddles. This was, without doubt, his favorite part of the entire visit!! Yay!!!
He was really excited about going into one but feeling a little hesitant, said, “Mommy go in” so I agreed. Later, I encouraged him into it by holding his hand. Once confident, he wanted to stay there for a little longer which was fine by me. He had the biggest smiles in these puddles and at least for those smiles, the visit was totally worth it.
After spending some time taking pictures on the tractor with the hayride wagon, we finally got back into our car and drove home.
So what were the lessons learned from our Pumpkin Patch experience?
-> That I want my son to have fun by my standards and definition and to feed my ego.
-> That I expect way too much from my 2-year-old.
-> That I am trying to rush him into growing up sooner than he should even though his behavior is absolutely and perfectly appropriate for his age.
-> That I am guilty of forcing a good time upon him just to make myself feel better.
-> That I want him to have an obvious extraneous good time just so I am not disappointed.
-> That he has his own definition of a good time that may come nowhere close to mine.
-> That he is sometimes willing to smile and pose for mommy but most other times, he dances to the beat of his own inner rhythm and part of that means NOT smiling for smiling sake.
-> That he sometimes gets too obsessed with any one thing or two and doing those things give him the most joy and that I should just accept it and be happy.
-> That simple things bring him a lot of pleasure and happiness (like a corn stick, a wagon, muddy puddles, food).