Autumn, “the season formerly known as my favorite,” is just not the same now that my kids are older.
Before I had kids autumn was amazing: apple picking with my husband seemed so romantic, driving through a picturesque little town to take in the dazzling fall colors was a highlight of the season, and there was nothing more fun than finding the perfect costume for a Halloween party. Then, once I had kids, everything fall-like got even better – and adorable!
Is there anything cuter than a toddler at a pumpkin patch,
Or a little kid in a furry Halloween costume trying to sneak a piece of candy,
Or hoisting your baby up as he reaches for the perfect apple at the top of a tree in an apple orchard?
No, there’s not.
Kids are adorable in the fall.
Sulking teenagers are not; nor, as it turns out, do they want to participate in those fun, fall festivities – especially not with their parents.
I found that out the hard way.
See, I love apple picking – any fruit picking, actually. My dad would take us miles out of our way if he saw a sign that there was fruit to be picked. We would head home with crates of strawberries, peaches, apples – anything we could pick that was in season.
I loved those days.
When I had kids I tried to recreate those moments as much for myself as my boys. Every September, from the time that my oldest was about six-months-old we would go apple picking. We would come home with so many apples that I would eventually get sick of anything apple related. But that didn’t matter because it was about so much more than just apples.
It was shared family time and the boys loved it (well, I’m not sure about the six-month-old but, boy, was it cute!). Post-picking we would savor warm cider donuts, pick out pumpkins to bring home and put on our porch, and even enjoy a pony ride!
Every kid’s dream!
Until they are 14-years-old, apparently. Who knew?
This year, at the first hint of cooler temps and falling leaves I felt the pull to head to the nearest orchard and fill a bushel with apples.
“Who’s with me?” I asked my family enthusiastically.
“Come on!” I said to my one and only teen who still lives at home. “It’ll be fun!”
“Can I bring a friend?” he asked.
“Sure! The more the merrier!” I said.
I’m an idiot.
(Note: When your teen asks if he can bring a friend (or two) that means that he will not be spending any time with you. Bring your own friend – just saying.)
I, of course, didn’t know this as I planned our outing. I was still optimistic. I had visions of the group of us rambling through the apple orchard searching for the as yet untouched tree dripping with apples, it’s limbs sagging from the weight of the perfectly ripened fruit. I imagined that my son, his friends and I would see this tree from afar and get giddy at the sight of it. We would rush to the tree and fill our bags to the brim with the most perfect apples – stealing a bite or three of one of the apples and sighing with delight.
This is how it actually went down:
We got to the orchard and they went ahead without me.
I let them go because I realized, as we piled out of the car, that my son wanted to be with his friends. Sure, I could have tagged along but no one would have a good time.
So, I let them go.
But I still wanted to find that damn tree with the perfect apples! I could have gone into the store and simply bought a bag of apples but it seemed silly to have driven all that way and not, at least, walk into the orchard.
As I trudged through the apple orchard – alone – carrying my little plastic bag I tried not to look too creepy while families with young children walked by. I figured if I looked up and down every row it would look like I simply lost my group not that I had been abandoned. The last straw was when the guy driving a tractor full of apple pickers yelled out to me, “Where’s the rest of your group? Did they leave you?”
All was not lost, however. I did find my perfect little tree full of apples and I filled my bag to the brim. I even got my warm cider donut – which I ate in the car, by myself, while I waited for the boys.
I think I’ll skip the pumpkin patch this year.
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