Parenting Guru: Why I Insist on Visiting a Real Pumpkin Patch Every Year

It's not unusual for families to gather up their kids, load up the wagon, and head to the pumpkin patch in search of the perfect pumpkin, taking full advantage of fall photo opportunities along the way. Our family is certainly no exception, but of all the years we've taken advantage of this family fall outing, we only ever visited pop-up, man-made pumpkin patches with their bounce houses, inflatable slides, crafted scarecrows, fall wreaths, and expertly stacked hay bales.

And while our annual family outing to establishments such as these yielded precious autumn-inspired pictures, the experience somehow always felt mildly shallow. I was giving my kids the appearance of a fall experience without actually allowing them to experience the full wonder of the season. After a bit of investigating, we discovered we live within driving distance to a real, bona fide pumpkin patch, the kind with pumpkins as far as the eye can see that my youngest likes to call "pumpkin heaven."

There's just something about visiting a genuine pumpkin patch. It's not perfect; heaven knows we've carried the goo of more than a few smashed pumpkins on our shoes. It is also not necessarily easy, as the right pumpkin likely exists somewhere within the far reaches of the sprawling patch, but it is authentic and thereby a little more special.

Long ago, I abandoned my need for the appearance of perfection in parenting. No longer do I adorn my boys in matching flannel autumn-inspired clothing for our annual pumpkin outing. No longer do we stage perfect fall photos, or even search for the most perfectly round pumpkin. Today we visit the pumpkin patch as ourselves in search of the most unusual pumpkin we can find among the random sprinklings of what look like orange confetti from afar.

Real experiences, such as this, are what I want my children to remember as they grow: the thrill of the hunt, the mud, the tattered leaves, the weight of the pumpkins, and the smell of the patch.

For us, fall is more than the picture-perfect rendition of a crisp autumn paired with an expertly styled family; fall is about family, togetherness, and gratitude for all that real and good.

Mommyfriend goes by Lori Garcia in real life and is a Shine Parenting Guru. She writes at www.mommyfriend.com where she's busy finding perfection in imperfection daily. When she's not fussing with her bangs, she's shaking her groove thing for Babble.com.