They All Said, Don’t Blink: A Farm Market Causes an Existential Parenting Crisis

Our girls don’t have soccer games scheduled for the upcoming weekend, so most of their practices this week were cancelled (wait, do you hear the choir of angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus, too??). We’ve been running nonstop this fall with soccer and school and family activities (I’m preaching to that choir, surely), and I was SO EXCITED to have a week with my kids home in the afternoon.

HAHAHAHAHA. Nine years of parenting and I’m still delusionally hopeful. The reality is they’ve been fighting (with each other) and bickering (with me) and hollering (name your person) nonstop in almost every single supposed-to-be-peaceful moment we’ve had. Because real life is so not like the pretty, pretty pictures in my head.

Monday afternoon, Cian and I picked the girls up from school, and I surprised them with a little trip to a local farm market. We haven’t been able to make a lot of the fall-festival rounds, which is one of my most favorite times of the year, so this was our first excursion. You know the drill: crunchy leaves. Fresh apples. Corn pits and wooden slides and swings made to look like farm animals. We had the place to ourselves, and the kids ran through every single activity the farm offered. It was one of those perfect fall days: crisp enough to keep a jacket on (if you were a responsible grown-up), but warm enough with the sun that you wondered if you should’ve been wearing shorts (which the much smarter kids did). But then I noticed something:

The tire swing barely supported Saoirse, and she got stuck coming down one of the tube slides.

The walls of giant hay bales that used to intimidate my girls now were mere lumps they climbed up and jumped over like pebbles on the ground.

Each toy they picked up, like magic, suddenly became…miniature.

And even Cian clambered up onto a wooden toy tractor by himself, one that, just last year, I had to put him on myself and do that hand-guarding thing just in case he fell.

After an hour, they were bored, and as we strolled through the market on the way back to the car, Saoirse said, “Thanks for taking us, Mom. But for some reason that wasn’t as much fun as it used to be.” She was quiet for a moment, then shrugged and ran for the open door of the minivan. I was slower to come up behind them, suddenly sad. I have pictures of Saoirse at this farm from the very first time my mom and I took her, when she was seven months old and more interested in stuffing dried corn kernels into her mouth than digging in them. Three kids, nine years, one farm market…and we’re almost finished with an era.

Boy, did that happen quickly. 

We’ll still be going to the orchards and farms this fall. I’ll still pay money for them to go down the (bigger) slides and play in the (bigger) fields. And they’ll have fun, for now, until a year or two down the road when they’re finished with that, too. 

Is that when they’ll be finished with us? When a friend of mine moved into a bigger house, she lamented its size to me a couple of months in: “What were we thinking?” she said. “I don’t want them all spread out! I want them here, near me, so I don’t have to miss them yet.” I love my kids’ growing independence, I truly do (well, I’m talking about my girls. Cian still clings to my leg on a semi-regular basis). It’s neat to see them grow and get more confident and take some (healthy, non-collarbone-breaking) risks. Honestly, that part is super fun.

But they still want me to be a part of it, for some of the time, and I know how precious these moments now are. I still get to be a participant rather than a witness. I’m not sure when that will change–I pray it won’t, entirely–but in the meantime, I’m going to keep dragging them around to all of the family activities we can manage.

They’re not that big yet.