I recently spent the afternoon with my kids, Noa, 6, and Eitan, 4, at a local farm that pulls out all the stops in the fall. You could spend the whole day on the bouncy pillows, in the corn maze or driving around in little go-carts without even seeing the apple orchard or anything else that would indicate that you’re on an actual farm. But no matter; it was the kids’ kind of fun and a perfect fall day that makes you forget about the snowstorms around the corner.
As I was sitting on a bench, taking a break from my fifth time on the bouncy pillow, I wondered how I would describe our experience to my wife, Rebecca. The truth is that it was both an amazing, memorable day and so annoying at moments that I cursed myself for even daring to take the kids beyond the house! I loved watching the kids go from tentatively crawling onto the bouncy pillow to standing and bouncing to their hearts’ content. And Noa was so confident leading us through the corn maze that I almost forgot to pay attention myself. Her new, grown-up, take-charge attitude made me forget, for just an instant, that she used to be my tiny, chubby baby. And I never thought Eitan would even make it through the corn maze to begin with since he had simply refused to walk on his own across the street to the entrance. Was I surprised when he announced that he needed to go to the bathroom smack in the middle of the maze? Absolutely not! (But still, I was annoyed.)
But before I totally lost it and was about to throw us all back in the car, I was struck with amazement as I watched Eitan in the apple orchard on a mission to pick as many apples as possible, loving every moment. Of course, at the same time, Noa was whining—that special, 6-year-old high-pitched whine—about how boring apple picking is while simultaneously crying despondently about why she can’t marry her brother, even if she doesn’t want to have children. What could I do but laugh, and maybe cry a little? (By the way, I told her I’d get back to her with a well-thought-out answer, which I’m still working on.)
What ultimately surprised me about this three-hour experience was how high the highs were and how quickly the experience felt like the worst idea I’d ever had. But now, with a little distance, I can see that it was one of the more special days we’d had together. Some part of me still really hopes that raising kids will become easier as they get older, like many parents have claimed. Others say it just becomes different or the bigger the kids you have, the bigger the problems. But after this adventure I know I would rather suffer through parking-lot underwear changes and public tantrums if that’s what it takes to create the special moments in between that fill me with the warmth and wonder that come with seeing my kids grow and learn before my very eyes. This year I plan to breathe more deeply and exhibit more patience as we navigate these everyday moments.