Autumn is far and away my favorite season. As a nerdy child who actually preferred reading to running outside, I always welcomed the return of school. Once the novelty of being back in school wore off, I loved that fall consisted of multiple "days off," sprinkled throughout the calendar. All of my favorite holidays happen in the fall, most of the things I like to do outside are fall-specific activities, and fall is the season of tall boots and sweater weather. Now that I'm a mom, I notice that parenting in the fall is different than the other seasons, too.
Fall is really rich with opportunities for family traditions big and small, from a big-deal Thanksgiving dinner, to weekly college football rituals. Passing on traditions that make us happy is easily one of the best parts of being a parent, so I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to help our kids feel as excited and happy about this time of year as I do. Especially now that my youngest is a toddler and is better able to participate in things (and can form memories), I get so excited just thinking about all the things he's going to be able to experience for the first time, like actually picking his own apples when we go apple-picking, and getting to play with his own pumpkin when we visit the pumpkin patch.
Of course, fall also features a few unique quirks that require a bit of extra patience and grace as a parent. Fall is itself a season-long transition, and there are also plenty of social and schedule-specific transitions that can be challenging for kids, which in turn is challenging for us as their parents. While fall for parents may not be as simple as fall for kids, there are at least two major advantages to experiencing fall as a grown-up: mulled wine and Oktoberfest. Prost! May your autumn be as sweet as cider, and may your kids actually let you enjoy an extra hour of sleep when Daylight Savings Time ends. (Fat chance, I know.)
So Many Indulgent Treat/Food Occasions...
There's Halloween candy and treats, of course, as well as the mother of all food holidays (and my all time favorite holiday more generally): Thanksgiving. But there are all sorts of other little fall indulgences that make the season extra tasty, like apple cider donuts after pumpkin picking and mulled cider basically whenever. Sure, it’s kinda tough to keep kids’ sugar intake to reasonable levels, but it's a lot of fun, too.
...And Opportunities For Kids To Be Spoiled By Friends And Extended Family
It's even harder to fight the sugar rush when there are plenty of other people who love to spoil your kids tagging along to all the Halloween celebrations, a long Thanksgiving weekend, pumpkin picking, apple picking, corn mazes, and so forth. Oh, well. As long as they're willing to babysit after, right?
Fall Coincides With The Back To School Rush…
Back to school season is both a relief — yay, no more summer camp/childcare drama — and hectic, in its own right. There's all the scurrying around for new clothes and new supplies, plus making sure everyone has all the documents and registration forms they need to actually attend school. Once that's more or less settled, kids have to adjust to new teachers and new activities, which means we've got to help them deal.
...And Heightened Parenting Expectations
Helping kids transition from the relatively easy going feel of summer to the rituals and routines of school means having to bring your parenting A-Game, especially when it comes to setting limits. Plus, if you're involved at school, then everyone is all energized from the summer break, so they have totally grand intentions and inflated expectations for all the things they and everyone else (read: you) will be able to accomplish and contribute. Pinterest is about to become a way bigger part of your life.
Your Evening Routine Gets Weird Because Daylight Hours Are Shorter
If kids are used to getting to play outside later because 1) summer vacation and 2) it wasn't dark so soon, fall can be kind of hard. If your little ones need that extra outside playtime to get good and tired before bed? Well, Godspeed.
So Many Days “Off”
As a kid, one of my favorite parts of fall was how many one and two day holidays were sprinkled throughout the fall. As a parent, though, that can be rough; especially if you work and don't have other childcare arrangements. Days off for kids mean days on for parents.
Everyone's Sense Of Time Gets Wonky In General
All those little interruptions to the week, plus less sunlight, plus an actual time change, means we have to work harder to keep a routine and a sense of normalcy at home. Apple cider donuts and mulled wine definitely help after particularly epic bedtime battles and other wacky schedule-related meltdowns.
Tiny Fall Fashion
As far as I'm concerned, fall is hands down the best season for dressing. Sweaters, layers, and boots? Yes, please and thank you. Extra layers — which don't necessarily have to be as functional as they do in the nasty, cold winter weather — offer lots of fun options for styling kids, especially the littlest littles whose clothing you still get to totally control.
Changing, falling leaves are pretty and irresistible to little kids. Dressing kids for leaf stomping, rolling, and crunching is essential, as is having your phone handy for adorable photo opportunities and arming yourself with a strategy for keeping leaves outside of your home. They tend to creep in via tiny pockets and shoes.
All Pumpkin Everything
Pumpkin picking, pumpkin carving, pumpkin decorating, pumpkin-shaped crafts, pumpkin spice treats; basically everything becomes pumpkin-themed for a few months. If you love pumpkin like I do, then this is great. If you’re a pumpkin hater like my partner, then you kinda have to suck it up ‘cause pumpkin stuff becomes an unavoidable part of life when you’re parenting in the fall. (And you have to dress a small child as a pumpkin for Halloween at least once. I'm pretty sure it's the law.)