A Force for Good?

If you were to ask me that number one inconvenience that bothers me during the fall season it's the traffic.  Every weekend I have to drive seventy miles one way to visit my horses in the rurual corner of northwest NJ.  This area (that also includes the area over the border in Orange County NY) is filled with apple orchards, farms, and parks.  This time of year the hordes of people seeking a day in the country clog the roads and double the length of my drive home.  I'm exhausted at the end of the day and I want to go home.  Instead I sit behind the wheel of my car shaking my fists at the "apple pickers" who impede my ability to go home to a hot shower, dinner, and bedtime.

There have been some perfect days for riding in recent weeks, but I often stay home to avoid the headache of traffic, even though I miss my horses.  For example two weeks ago I didn't have rehearsal on a Sunday (rare) and I stayed home anyway because it was the Warwick Apple Fest, as well as the final day of the NY Renaissance Faire.  I didn't dare venture out anywhere that needed to be reached via the Tappan Zee Mario Cuomo Bridge.

There are some areas that clog up more than others.  On my way home from the barn I have to pass the apple orchards at Ochs, Pennings, and Maskers.  There are often pockets of slow traffic as I try to pass these places on Route 94 and Route 17A. One of the worse offenders is Heaven Hill Farm.  This farm doesn't only have apples.  It provides carnival rides and games, a corn maze, and a hayride to its large pumpkin patch.  How can families resist it?  They don't.  The parking lots are full and the parking spills to side lots across the street. Traffic pours in and out of the lots, and police are needed to stop traffic for pedestrians who are coming and going from the parking lots.

In frustration I wrote a post two years ago begging anyone willing to read my blog to please consider other activities.

It's annoying.  It's frustrating.  It's also refreshing.

Too many of us are panicking over the belief that children and families are spending all their time tied to their phones and tablets.  Nobody is experiencing the real world anymore.  We don't go outside.  We don't do things as a family.

When I travel through these orchard-infested roads, I see that people are going out.  Families are getting away from their screens.  Humans are experiencing the world with other humans.  They are engaging with the world outside.

It's not only about apples either. Even though I wrote a blog post asking couples and families to consider other activities, I don't think there is any guarantee those activities won't be filled to capacity as well.  Kevin and I recently visited Hudson Horrors* at Rye Playland. Even though we bought our tickets ahead of time and signed up for a specific time slot, we still had to wait in a long line.  I would not be surprised if parking would be difficult to find in any of the activities I listed in that other blog post.  There are events happening and hordes of people are attending them.

I look back on my own childhood and try to remember if I spent a lot of time going to events like this with my family.  I have a few memories of a visit to the occasional festival or local attraction, but nothing was regular.  My brother once said, "Our family didn't take use places when we were kids." Today parents want to give their children magical childhoods.  When I was a kid, I had certain guardians who weren't interested in making my childhood magical.  They wanted my childhood to be safe, insulated, isolated and boring. But while I mourn the lack of activity in my own childhood,  I try to remember if any of my friends were out there attending local family event.  I don't have any clear memories of large numbers of kids talking about going to the same places.

Was I even aware of half the events I could have attended as a kid?  Advertising was done in the newspaper where it might have been ignored, or else businesses sent flyers that would be trashed as junk mail.  How did parents know about places to take their kids other than the the slow word of mouth?  I would bet if you walk into any elementary school classroom right now, half the kids would say their parents took them apple picking.  That wasn't how it was for me growing up.  Kids these days are doing so much more and experiencing so much more because they are so well informed.

This is why I think there is an upside to the internet and "Pinterest Parenting".  The internet doesn't always trap us behind our screens.  It opens up entire new worlds.  Sure there are social media addicts who only seem to attend events to take photos "for the 'Gram," but that Instagram photo might inspire others to go outside and explore.  Facebook advertises local events.  The internet reminds us there are so many new experiences out there.  Would you rather have your kids picking apples in a crowded orchard or playing yet another round of Minecraft?  Don't you think it's better for your own mental health to be exploring the orchards, farms, festivals, and historic sites than it is to be binge watching Netflix?  Do you want your children to grow up and reminisce about a childhood spent on fun outings with their family, or do you want them to say they spent their childhood texting their friends on the couch?

Then again, maybe my expectations are too high.  Do families enjoy this, or do they, as I predicted in my earlier post, always end up bored and overwhelmed by the crowds?  I sometimes think if I had opportunities like this, I would end up bored, disappointed, or angry over some trivial thing.  Then I would end up having a meltdown and making everyone's lives miserable.  That would stop future outings in their tracks. In fact, it probably happened and I blocked it out.  A Pinterest childhood looks best when it's on Pinterest.

*One of the best haunted houses I have ever been to and I have some friends performing in it.  Go see it before Halloween!

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