We took Saoirse and Quinn to pick strawberries yesterday during our CSA‘s open farm day (yeah, yeah, I hear your jokes about patchouli and Birkenstocks). And as usually happens while harvesting one’s own produce from the earth itself, we spent a lot of time in an open field (shocking, right?), under a hot sun (in June?! No way!), a solid 10-minute uphill walk from the “house” part of the farm itself. As this little event strays from the norm of our air-conditioned, Wegman’s-shopping life, I was expecting a meltdown of sorts, but really, I did okay.
Har, har. You thought I was talking about the girls, right? Nah, they had a grand ol’ time. It was a good–albeit, long, exhausting, sweaty–morning, out of which I gleaned a few specific tidbits for the life lesson books:
- When there is a 24-pound baby who will need to be carried on someone’s back in a carrier that, while practical, clasps over your collarbone in an unforgiving way and produces enough sweat to fuel a slip-n-slide, opt to make sure your husband does the carrying. He’s bigger, anyway.
- And when your husband suggests that you bring a stroller up the hill, don’t stubbornly stick to your initial inclination to say it’s not necessary. It’s necessary. Don’t be stubborn, because sometimes he’s right about this kind of stuff. Bring the damn stroller.
- Make sure to meet up with friends named Susannah and Brian, because not only are they just lovely people with whom to bang around a strawberry field, they have delightful children who just happen to get along with your kids like gangbusters. See how it works? The parents are happy, the children are overjoyed, and there’s nothing like catching up with a buddy while hunched over fields of teeny-tiny fruit that will spoil the very second you step into the house.
- Another bonus point for meeting up with friends who’ve done this open farm day thing before: they will think to bring the stroller. And extra bags. And snacks. And a picnic blanket. You will feel like a giant schmuck for neglecting all of these items, but if you make sure to meet up with truly kind friends, they will very tactfully not rub it in your face that you are indeed a neglectful schmuck.
- Don’t be lazy and not bring extra water up the hill with you just because you’re carrying the 24-pound baby on your back and can’t bear to be bothered with extra sippy cups. It’s a lot hotter up there than you realize, and nothing’s worse than your child saying, “Mom, I’m thirsty. Why can’t I have something to drink?”. Also, your husband might mention that if you’d brought the stroller like he suggested, your child would not be gasping for hydration like a beached fish, and you can’t really come back with anything because you’re already feeling guilty that your child has resorted to licking the sweat off of her own arm and dagnabit, you hate it when he’s right.
- Do not make eye contact with your husband for fear of chuckling so hard you snort when your 3-year-old asks to be carried back down the hill after your epic berry-picking session, and he has to carry her because, as mentioned, there is no stroller.
- Do feel proud that you’re doing something right when, at lunch (on the picnic blanket your friend provided because you didn’t think of it yourself), you offer your child some homebrewed root beer as a treat, and she replies, “No, I don’t want root beer. That’s a grown-up drink, Mom. I can’t have that.” Try not to feel shamed that your daughter reminds you that she’s not allowed to drink soda. Just focus on the fact that her response is pretty awesome, and if she can keep up that kind of attitude in the face of beer and boys and golly knows what else when she’s a teenager, you will sleep better at night.
- When your child wants to go ask the farmer if he has any blueberries, let her. Because you are a parent, and moments like that are adorable.
- Also remember forever the moment when your child’s friend Ben says to her, “I’ll be a farmer, and you can be a farmer,” and she replies, “Okay, that sounds great! We can be farmers together.” Because one day, she’ll be 22 and might not have any idea what she wants to do with her life, and you’ll both need to be reminded that sometimes it’s not that complicated.
And finally, when you get home from your farming adventure (trying not to picture your farm-boy father rolling his eyes and chuckling at your exhaustion from one lousy morning) and your oldest daughter wants to eat three-fourths of a quart of strawberries, let her. Because it’s fun, and now she knows that fruit doesn’t come from a plastic container on a store shelf, and it’s worth the risk of a sick belly when she looks up at you with a sticky face full of juice and says, “Mmm, these strawberries are delicious. But Mom, I’m a little sleepy now. Can I take a nap?”
Totally worth it.