We were a mile away from our annual trip to the pumpkin patch when it dawned on us. “Did you ever go to a pumpkin patch when you were a kid?” my husband asked. “No,” I said, “we were the pumpkin patch.” Our house was across the street from the elementary school, and my mom would put all the pumpkins she had grown in the garden out in the front yard, organizing them by size and price, attracting all the students and their parents as they left school.
Things are different now. As a parent, I keep having to remind myself of that. Birthday parties are big business, and they happen for every kid, every year. Easter baskets come with gifts in them now, like t-shirts, toys and iTunes cards. Pumpkins come from a patch, and they are part of the experiential entertainment world that we are raising our kids in, which I’m still getting used to. Many of these changes aren’t good and make it hard to raise children who are grounded, humble, caring, and have an appreciation for hard work and the value of the material possessions that surround them.
Be careful, I tell myself, though. Not all of these changes are bad, either. My children, when they learn to drive, will almost undoubtedly be driving a nicer, more reliable car than the one I learned to drive on. Should I subject them to a 1983 yellow Pinto to teach them a lesson? Maybe not. Should I make sure the Easter baskets don’t have gifts in them, but instead have the mounds of jelly beans, marshmallow chicks, Hershey kisses, cream-filled eggs and the hollow chocolate bunny that mine had in it? I wouldn’t want to deprive them of the childhood nausea and stomach ache I had every Easter morning. Maybe if gifts take up some of the candy space, they’re not such a bad idea.
Perhaps even pumpkin patches have their place. Corn mazes, corn baths, corn shocks, hay rides, hay pyramids, hay tunnels. An old Fiat 600 pulling a tractor, surrounded by pumpkins and gourds, on top of a wall of hay bales. We didn’t have any of those in our front yard, but then again, things are different now.