There are no photos from last year's pumpkin patch field trip. I've found I don't take pictures in the midst of despair. In retrospect, it was probably one of the warnings signs for us, that Jack was different from the other kids in his preschool class. After all, there they were, jumping in the bouncy houses, petting goats, laughing.... And there we were, in extreme distress: Jack overwhelmed and shut down, me, overwhelmed and angry. Other than a quick foray into a bouncy house, Jack refused to do anything else. Reluctance morphed into tears and screaming, so we went home. He was so exhausted that he slept on the trip back from Half Moon Bay.
This year my expectations were low. Two days after an extremely windy rain storm, the day was warm and sunny. I hoped for a pleasant drive to the pumpkin patch, a quick tour through the pumpkins before Jack got overwhelmed and we headed home. It didn't turn out that way.
Maybe because of the recent storm, the patch wasn't packed with preschoolers. There was a pleasant amount of pumpkin pickers and lots of buddies from preschool. Almost immediately Jack asked to ride the "train" (an engine pulling faux train cars) and we did to his delight. Then he bounced in the bouncy houses. I asked him if he wanted to watch the ponies. When we got there he said, "I want to ride one!" He stood in line patiently, tolerated being lifted up and placed on the pony, and rode contentedly. I watched in delight, nearly crying, as he reached down to the pony and gently pet him. "Soft!" he said.
After another train ride and a second pony ride, we gathered with the other preschool families for lemonade and cookies. Then a quick group portrait and it was time to go home, pumpkins in hand. When we were getting in the car Jack said, "mommy, can we come back here again?" I said yes, asked him what he liked best. With a sweet smile on his face he answered, "riding the ponies."
I know he's not "cured." We struggle on a daily basis. But our pumpkin patch visit was a wonderful gift, perhaps a glimpse into the future, to a time where Jack will continue to embrace new experiences with joy. A future full of ponies; who can argue with that.