Okay folks, summer’s over. And just in case this is your first rodeo, I’m going to explain the ins and outs of momming in autumn. There are a few basic things you have to do between now and Thanksgiving, or you risk surrendering your motherhood badge. And it doesn’t matter if you have a 10-year old or a 6-month old. You MUST complete this checklist because it’s fucking fall. So get on board.
1. The obligatory pumpkin patch visit.
Oh, your child is like 11 seconds old and has no idea what a pumpkin and/or patch even means? Too bad. Pack up that diaper bag and fill those sippy cups, my friend, because you’re not really a parent until you’ve paid $10 to push a stroller through the mud so you can take a picture of your baby holding a tiny pumpkin.
Also, there’s a mandatory hay ride. Your kid will hate the hay scratching his legs and will cry and try to jump off as you torture him with this “fun fall family event” for 10 minutes. And he’ll poop himself, but there are only porta-potties that haven’t been serviced since Bush was president. Oh, yeah, and he’ll beg for a candy apple, which you’ll agree to (because you’re FUN, DAMNIT), but the line is like 36 minutes long and when he finally gets ahold of it, he’ll snatch it out of your hands greedily and all the moms will judge you for not slathering him in hand sanitizer because he touched a goat two hours ago.
Side note: Some moms try to get away with an apple orchard visit instead. You may do both (you really should, TBH), but the pumpkin patch is not optional. So don’t try to squeeze in a last-minute apple picking adventure on a Saturday in September and call it good. That shit ain’t gonna fly.
Come October 1, if there is not a witch or pumpkin or “fall harvest wreath” or “Give Thanks” sign adorning your front door, you can just hang up your mom cleats now because you’ve failed. What, are you NOT thankful? Get your shit together.
Also, while you can purchase said fall/Halloween decor at Target, you really should ensure that your beloved children make some things to hang about the house as well. Like ghosts. Or bats. Or creepy spiders. It’s super easy—just ask Pinterest. Oh, you don’t want to decorate and craft because it fucking sucks? Fine. If the ghosts are too much, you may redeem yourself by putting no less than eight gourds on your mantel, making your kid write down 20 things he’s thankful for, and burning a pumpkin scented candle in the bathroom.
3. Pumpkin carving—guts and all.
Yeah, we know Melanie down the street just let her kids paint their pumpkins. Well, Melanie sucks and clearly doesn’t love her kids. If you are a real mom, you carve that shit out and roast the seeds so you can all enjoy a healthy snack later that tastes like bite-sized morsels of sadness. Your kids will start off strong, interested, excited about the Belle or Darth Vader face you’re going to carve out, but they’ll get bored (or grossed out by the slimy innards of pumpkins) and go play on their iPads while you finish carving their masterpieces until midnight.
You can’t quit, despite your hand cramping and kitchen being completely trashed, because these suckers are going on the front porch for all the world to see. Will they rot in 48 hours and have to be tossed in the trash? Probably. But this is what motherhood means, people. So roll up your sleeves and get in there.
4. Fall family photo shoot.
Okay, does everyone have boots? I repeat: DOES EVERYONE HAVE BOOTS? Don’t even try to hire a photographer and drag her ass to the park if you’re showing up in anything else. She’ll walk right out. Oh, your daughter’s new boots hurt her feet? The ones she begged for that cost the price of a trip to Alaska? Suck it up, little girl. Smile through the pain. It builds character. Also, you all need matching fall sweaters (or an orangey-red dress is fine).
For the picture, you’ll need to select an area with lots of trees, so the gently falling leaves will be scattered about your feet. Ignore the mud. I know the boots are brand new and probably ruined. Pretend you don’t know that as you lovingly toss your toddler into the air in his little flannel shirt and jeans that took you 20 minutes to button. This is THE picture you’re sending out as the holiday card, so don’t fuck it up.
5. Preparing for temperature changes.
When you wake up tomorrow it will be 41 degrees. By 3 p.m., 70 degrees. The next day it’s going to snow. Any good mom is fully prepared for the exhausting temperature roller coaster that is fall, and ensures her car is stocked with back up pants (and shorts), light jackets (and heavy jackets), hats, gloves, snow boots. And bathing suits.
6. Cooking shit in the crockpot.
First of all, if you don’t own at least one Crockpot (or even better, an Instant Pot), stop reading and get your ass on Amazon. Good Lord. What are you doing with your life? You have a few choices, but by fall’s end, you must have cooked AT MINIMUM three of the following:
– chili (extra points if you make three different kinds for a football party)
– hot apple cider
– chicken noodle soup (you may make other soups as a secondary choice, but only after the chicken noodle)
– some sort of beef stew / pot roast with potatoes
– dessert with apples you hand-picked at an orchard
7. Watch football.
No one cares if you hate it. It needs to be on all day long on Saturdays and Sundays. College, NFL. Whatever. You don’t have to watch if you don’t want to (use this time to make those hanging ghosts!) but this is no time for a Fixer Upper marathon, okay? Be efficient with your time and drag out that Crockpot for game days. Or put out your freshly roasted pumpkin seeds! Your family and friends will love eating snacks that taste like ass, and you’ll be mom hostess of the year.
8. Burn something.
You must do something with a open flame between now and Christmas. This one’s flexible—roast marshmallows, have a bonfire, roast marshmallows in a bonfire, whatever. Obviously, you need to perfectly time your photos to capture that moment your small child holds his roasting stick just close enough to get an Insta-worthy shot, before he drops it into the fire or you scream and grab him because he gets too close. It’s tricky, especially for first-timers, but you’ll get it.
Side note: This is a good one to loop in with the pumpkin patch visit, as some of them offer small fires for children, but not for family picture day, since melted s’mores will end up all over their clothes. Priorities, Mommy. Priorities.
That’s pretty much the list. Eight small tasks. Not bad, right? Just make sure to get it all done by Thanksgiving though, because the winter holiday list is a real bitch.
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