Hayride Hell: Fall Family Outings Gone Bad

Aaaahh. It’s fall. A time for spiced lattes, sweaters, pumpkin patches, and apple pies. A season filled with outdoor activities for families – festivals, hayrides, apple picking, corn mazes, pumpkin patch visits. Glorious days in the golden sun of autumn, playing in the falling leaves and savoring the crisp air. Yep, fall is here and your family is suddenly effortlessly living life like a Gymboree ad or that amazing lifestyle Instagram account you follow.

Except not exactly.

In real life, those fall family outings are far from relaxing. Sure, they can still be fun in a messy, chaotic, not-very-Pinterest-worthy way. Just don’t expect them to be all apple cider donuts, cozy bonding, and cheerful children behaving like professional models.

Because you’re bound to encounter one or more of the following problems.

First, the fall outfits. If you’re like me, you probably spend way too much time picking out the perfect autumn attire (and accessories) to head to the apple orchards. Headbands, leg warmers, corduroy jackets, cozy sweaters, and adorable scarves in coordinated fall colors. After getting dressed for the occasion, you all look freaking AH-dorable. But by the time you actually arrive at the orchards, the headband is missing and graham cracker crumbs are embedded in the sweater.

Out in the fields, the sun is unrelenting. It feels like the middle of July, not the middle of October. You’re sweating and carrying your kids’ jackets, sweaters, and scarves. They’re wearing half their clothes and ruining what’s left jumping on rotten apples on the ground and rolling around on the pumpkins (ignoring your protests).

Pumpkin acrobatics!
Pumpkin acrobatics!

You try to quickly snap some pictures before they become completely undone, but your kids whine and look even grouchier than usual from squinting into the hot glaring sun. So much for getting that Gymboree style photo – your children look like angry assholes incompletely dressed in soiled garments.

And those rotten apples and pumpkins aren’t the only things messing up your kids’ clothes. The dust and sand from the fields covers EVERYTHING. And if it’s not dry outside, then mud will be everywhere instead. It’s pretty much a lose/lose situation. Best to bring a change of clothes and be ready to bathe your children immediately upon returning home.

You may find that this dust and/or mud is more appealing to your child than the apples or pumpkins. You’ll desperately try to coax them to hold an apple or sit on a pumpkin for one cute photo. But they’ll be too busy digging for stones in the dirt, tumbling in the sand, or throwing and eating hay. Fruit? Who cares? Hay is way more entertaining. So be prepared to vacuum too, since your kids will track about one bale of hay into your minivan.

Hay is very much like confetti and glitter...equally undesirable.
Hay is very much like confetti and glitter…equally undesirable.
"What do you mean I can't take this hay home?"
“What do you mean I can’t take this hay home?”

And this probably goes without saying, but fall family outings are not immune to temper tantrums. In fact, they go hand-in-hand. Because that cute little market shop that the hayride drops you off at is filled with toy tractors, plush farm animals and tasty treats. All of which your child will want. And when you say no, your child most likely isn’t going to smile sweetly and say “Okay, Mommy! Maybe next time.” Caution: If you choose to avoid a temper tantrum by appeasing your child with a toy purchase, you will likely shell out $10 for a small piece of plastic junk that’ll get tossed aside at home.

Then there’s the inconveniently timed need for your child to empty his bladder. As soon as the hayride takes you out into the middle-of-effing-nowhere, your child will announce that he has to go to the potty RIGHT NOW. Now you’re forced to make a choice — somehow find a way back to the port-a-potty by the entrance or tell him to hold it in and hope he doesn’t mark his territory on a pumpkin.

Out in the wide open spaces and fresh air of the u-pick orchards and the pumpkin patches, your children are free to run wild in nature. And rest-assured they will, with nothing to hold them back and plenty for them to hide behind. Friends, if there was ever a time for a child leash, it is now. Unrestrained, your child will probably get lost, stung by a bee, or pick every apple within sight, regardless of their degree of ripeness or rottenness. (They will also probably lick or take one bite of each and every one of these apples before throwing them recklessly in a bushel.) Then you’ll head home with about $45 worth of bruised and bitten sour apples. Hope you’re ready to make some applesauce!

Taste testing every single apple found on the ground.
Taste testing every single apple found on the ground.

At the pumpkin patch (i.e. a vine-less dirt field littered with pumpkins dumped off a truck), you can count on your child to pick out the ugliest pumpkin you’ve ever seen. You likely get one “free” pumpkin included in your admission and it’s wasted on a bumpy yellow-ish gourd that won’t sit upright. Alas, your child will insist this is the one he wants. You can try to change his mind and tempt him with other more attractive pumpkins, but this will only backfire, making your child hoard every pumpkin on the field.

Eyeing the giant 100-pound, $70 pumpkins. Toddlers have expensive taste.
Eyeing the giant 100-pound, $70 pumpkins. Toddlers have expensive taste.

You’ll have no choice but to let him get at least two or you’ll be left behind with a wailing terror as the hayride departs. You’ll later find out that the extra not-quite-so-ugly pumpkin costs a whopping $12. The price of seasonal activities. Take comfort knowing that these joyful memories are priceless for your children. Then force your screaming child who doesn’t want to leave the u-pick farm into your minivan and get out. Happy Fall!

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