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Social Media Ruined Pumpkin Picking. This Year I’m Taking It Back.

Courtesy of Rachel Bowie

The clock hadn’t even struck October when I started asking my spouse about pumpkin picking. Pre-kids, this was a ritual we did, let’s see, maybe never? (OK, we went once—but the focus was the corn maze and next-level tomato soup.) Now, the act of “getting it on the calendar” was consuming my brain, and my social media feed was suddenly flooded with pic after pic of friends posing in fields of photogenic orange. The fall FOMO was real.

Then my husband had the audacity to ask: Do we really want to pumpkin pick?

How dare he! The answer was of course yes. Or…was it? Was I going for the pumpkin patch experience? Or the social media-fueled photo ops?

The truth feels ugly to say out loud. If I reflect back on past pumpkin pickings—this year will mark the fifth time with our son—I have to admit that the pictures often outweigh the joy.

A few examples: We live in Brooklyn, so the trek to any farm usually involves a good amount of travel time and traffic. (Our trip to Long Island last year took close to two hours each way.) Upon arrival, the lines are long. The price gouging is surreal—entry often includes on-site petting zoos, hay rides and donuts. And the crowds are…plentiful.

Simultaneously, my kid wants all of it and none of it. (His interest always wanes based on the length of the lines.) And while there are of course tons of photo-ready settings, it’s rare that my family wants to participate in them. Most of the time, it’s me forcing everybody to crouch down in front of a giant pumpkin and look happy, dammit.

To boot, this year my son loudly proclaimed that he doesn’t even want to go pumpkin picking because he has helpfully noticed that the hardware store a few blocks from us sells pumpkins and carries a variety of colors. Yellow is his favorite, thank you very much.

So back to my question: Why am I pushing so hard for this experience? Am I—as my Millennial counterparts so often joke—doing it for the ‘gram?

The answer is yes and no.

The yes part: I love taking pics of my kid. The more Instagram-worthy the backdrop, the better. Still, it’s less about some social media checklist than it is about documenting my baby-turned-toddler-turned preschooler, who’s growing way too fast. My photographer friend eloquently explained it: “We take photos to capture a moment in time, but it's only when you look back on those images at a later date that you truly feel their significance.” (#TBT to my own mother forcing the exact same pumpkin experiences, which definitely weren’t social-media fueled.)

But that brings me to the no part—and why I’m still all in on the annual trip, which is set for this weekend btw. The chaos, the part never pictured on IG, is what makes the best memories. I’m talking about 100 kids running wild after the candy cannon. The funnel cake powdered sugar all over my child’s face. The unfiltered glee when he chooses the pumpkin he wants to take home.

Still, I’d like to remind myself to put the camera down. After all, a few great shots are better than 150 not-so-great ones and I know I can’t be present with my family when I’ve got a phone two inches from my eyeballs. So, this year I’m vowing to let my spouse actually enjoy his donut fresh from the kitchen rather than making him wait for me to snap the perfect picture first. And if my son wanders adorably through those fields of orange, I’ll aim to take two photos, rather than twelve.

Bottom line: Maybe you’ll see me and my brood and our yellow pumpkin on your timeline this year…or maybe you won’t.

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