Why Your Kids Should Pick Your Pumpkins

Last weekend my wife and I took our 20-month-old son to a pumpkin farm. We did this because the weather was perfect and because we live in the Midwest. Finding a pumpkin farm or apple orchard in the fall is about as Midwestern as eating an elephant ear at the county fair. This particular farm also has a train ride (pulled by an actual tractor!), emus, plenty of goats to feed, and a soybean maze just the right height for a wandering toddler. We had a great time.

However, there was more to this trip than to simply burn some energy out of our kid. We were also shopping for an acceptable collection of pumpkins to use as decoration for the house. Because nothing says autumn quite like a bunch of food left by the front door to slowly and steadily rot away.

My wife and I began our hunt the way we always do – wandering up and down the rows of pumpkins, looking vaguely for the ‘right’ pumpkins without having any idea what that meant. Obviously we didn’t want flattened or decomposing ones, but we also didn’t want to be too uniform in our decision. The last thing we need is for our neighbors to think we didn’t put the proper amount of time and energy into our pumpkin selection. They needed to be different sizes and colors in a combination that somehow works together.

Don’t ask me what that means. I don’t really know. You just know it when you see it, right?

Anyway, we eventually approached a large wagon filled with decorative gourds, all of them small enough for our son to pick up. Which he desperately wanted to do. So I cleared a space for him on the wagon bed and lifted him up so he could sit with his treasures. (And so that Mom could take a few photos.) He was beside himself. So many pumpkins, and so few hands! What to do with them all?

The answer, obviously, was to hand as many of them to Dad as he possibly could. Pretty soon I had an armful of tiny pumpkins, most of them indistinguishable from one another, with no care being paid to whether or not they would look good together in a pumpkin-y display. It was almost as though my son didn’t care which pumpkins we took home!

And you know why he didn’t care? Because he shouldn’t care. Nobody will care, ever, about which pumpkins we picked. Nobody is ever going to say to us, “Jeff, Laura, I think we need to have a talk. You guys doing OK? Because I noticed your pumpkin display, and I just want to you to know that I’m here for you if you need anything. You don’t have to suffer alone.” Nobody cares.

Including us! Once we’re home, away from the million pumpkin options, we’re not going to second-guess our decision. We’re not going to wish we could do it over again, that next time we’d have made better decisions. We want pumpkins, but even we don’t care which ones we get. Not really. It’s only in the decision-making moment that we start to wonder if we’re making the right choices, when in fact there’s virtually no way to make the wrong ones.

We ultimately decided to let Adrian pick all of our pumpkins. It made him happy, and it was one less unimportant thing we had to think about. Sometimes it’s nice that our kid isn’t smart enough to get paralyzed by inconsequential decisions the way his parents sometimes are.

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