Soaking in October

On Sunday afternoon, our 6-year-old and I were walking along the trail behind our house. She had her little arm wrapped tightly around my waist. I held her close with my left arm around her neck.

“Mom, this is the best weekend ever,” she sighed.

It wasn’t the fall festival we had attended the night before. Or the trip to the party store to buy her Halloween costume.

Nope. The title of Best Weekend Ever had been achieved when I stopped to pick up a bright red leaf on our path. “Look how perfect and beautiful it is,” I told her.

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She found one a few feet ahead. We kept collecting as we made our way to the park. Three more reds. Then an orange. “I hope we can find some yellow ones,” I said.

She planned how we would press them all inside a book. We would need different pages for each color. One for red. Another for yellow. One for orange. And we would need a whole section for dark purple. We walked slowly, making sure we didn’t step on any leaves that we could add to our collection. The sun was shining brightly, warming up the crisp fall air.

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Earlier that day, the two of us had sat on the front lawn carving pumpkins. She was finally old enough to create her own design and handle a real knife with only a bit of assistance. I fought the urge to help. To make the carving go a little faster.

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I felt like the house was literally screaming at me with its piles of dirty laundry and counters covered in dishes. Messy rooms and dirty floors tried to convince me to come inside. Thankfully, I ignored all of their jeers as we separated pumpkin seeds, washed them and set them in the sun to dry.

Earlier in the weekend, I had convinced a few of my older kids and some of their friends to join us in making caramel apples. At first, I had decided just to provide a snack of homemade caramel sauce and some apples when they got home from school.

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But then I realized I couldn’t even remember the last time we had made real caramel apples. I knew we had done this when they were little. But no one — including me — could remember unwrapping the caramels and cooking them over the stove to cover our apples. I couldn’t remember ever melting chocolate or buying mini chocolate chips and toffee bars to use as toppings.

“Why not?” I asked myself. Why do I want to hurry through this? Sometimes it seems like they are too old to start a new tradition. But these are the days they will actually remember.

I’ve reached the point in my parenting journey that I’ve realized these opportunities are numbered. We only have two more Columbus Days with all of our kids living at home to take a trip to the corn maze. We only have three more Christmases before our oldest son goes off to college.

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I know I don’t have that many more Octobers until our youngest daughter won’t want to sit on the front lawn and carve pumpkins with me. How many more autumns will she see the joy in analyzing leaves for our collection?

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With our three oldest kids, it can be a struggle to get them to participate in these seasonal rituals. I consider myself blessed that I still have one little one who wants to jump in leaves or build a sand castle.

Other times, I simply require it. “We’re going to have some Forced Family Fun,” I warn the older kids before we head off to the zoo or a family hike or the pumpkin patch. Even if it’s not their top choice of what to do, these adventures often result in hilarious memories together.

Sometimes I wish I could extend the time or put it in a bottle so I could pop it open and experience it again later. Instead, I’m learning to soak it up. We live in an area where we get the joy of changing seasons. So, why not?

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Buy the real caramels. Drink apple cider. Walk slowly. Pick up leaves. Clean off the pumpkin seeds.

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How about you? Do you have any October traditions? Have your kids outgrown any of the activities you used to love to do? How do you convince your older kids to take part in family traditions?

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