Life with toddlers is always fun and exciting. And full of managing expectations. One of our biggest joys as parents is experiencing some of our own favorite childhood traditions with them. Recently, my toddlers and I carved up our pumpkins to make festively scary Halloween jack-o’-lanterns. Here’s how it went!

Managing Expectations

As with any project, it’s important to set realistic expectations both for yourself as well as for your children.

The process, according to your expectation:

Really tap deeply into your nostalgia to conjure up all the memories of fun you had with your parents carving pumpkins (at likely a much older age than those of your children). This will help to develop imagery of the activity in advance so that you can appropriately set high expectations both for their level of involvement as well as the final product.

Bonus points: another helpful activity is to monitor your social media feed for a week, enjoying the happy, smiling faces of all your friends and their kids with their jack-o’-lantern masterpieces. This also helps to set your expectations for the process and finished product.

The process, according to their expectations:

Your aforementioned nostalgia and social media feed will have led you to visit a pumpkin patch weeks in advance. Your children’s carefully selected pumpkins will have been on display since the visit so that you can continually remind them how fun it will be to carve them up closer to Halloween. ‘No, not today. Closer to Halloween.’ ‘Nope, still not today.’ Etcetera.

By the time you sit down to carve the pumpkins, they will have been lustily gazing at the pumpkins and imagining themselves clutching sharp objects and hacking away at their darling gourds for as long as you have, so that they too will have high expectations of both their level of involvement as well as the final product.

Other Really, Really, Really Helpful Tips for Pumpkin Carving Success:

  • Choosing a pumpkin: choose a really big, thick pumpkin. They’re more challenging, so you and your kids will get the most of the experience.
  • Timing: try to choose a time that works for everyone, like if they have a fever or have thrown up recently. Maybe they were even up several times the night before.

Related: it’s not you, Fitbit, it’s me. A hilarious breakup letter to a Fitbit – because sometimes your goals are bigger than the number of steps you take.

The Main Event: Actually Carving the Pumpkins

Finally, the day has come. Here’s a list of easy steps for tapping into that nostalgia, managing expectations and carving that pumpkin into a beautiful, shiny smiling holiday gourd with your children.

1. Cut lid off of pumpkin.

2. Give everyone a fair chance to refuse to touch the pumpkin guts. This will provide you with an excellent opportunity to do all that work by yourself.

3. Give everyone spoons to develop a false sense of participation.

4. While you diligently take out the pumpkin guts and separate the seeds, be sure to repeat the following phrases as often as possible:

  • “No thank you, honey. We are taking the guts out of the pumpkin.”
  • “We want the seeds in the separate bowl. No thank you!”
  • “Will you please open the pumpkin back up? Take the lid back off, please.”
  • “Please get off the counter!”
  • “That’s sharp! Don’t touch, please!”

5. Allow your children to pick a carving pattern from the book without limiting the complicated nature of their choice.

6. Rely on their inherent flexibility to change the plan once you realize the pattern is way too difficult, even for you.

7. Time for a show and snack! Everyone gets their favorites. Not you, though. You can now focus on the business end of the pumpkin carving kit while the kids are otherwise distracted. Don’t panic when the single carving knife snaps in half midway through your project.

8. By this stage, you will be obsessively invested in the project. Any requests from your children will seem like interruptions, so be sure to respond to them unnecessarily harshly.

9. Urgently change the laundry so that the vomit-covered blankie of your youngest will be dry by nap time.

Ok, I’m back. Where was I? 8?

9. Allow your older child to participate in wildly concerning ways. This will make your younger child jealous and fussy, providing your children with an excellent opportunity to argue.

10. After you worked so hard to make the perfect ghost jack-o’-lantern, (resulting in a mutilated pumpkin that appears to have a jagged hole in the front), watch as your son gazes with pride at the final product.

11. Realize he would have liked anything you had done for him, no matter how terrible it turned out. You easily reach this conclusion since this really couldn’t look much worse than it does.

Post written by FFC Oak Park personal trainer Marylou Tawney.

FFC Oak Park Marylou TawnyMarylou “Mama Lou” Tawney is a personal trainer focusing on prenatal and postnatal exercise at FFC Oak Park. She is a mother of two rowdy boys, and specializes in wrestling, tackling, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can find her on Instagram at @mamalou_fitness – or shoot her an email at mtawney@ffc.com to set up a complimentary consultation!

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