After I graduated from veterinary school, I accepted a position with a pet nutrition company working in sales and technical support. For several years, I wore fancy clothes and travelled the world. And attended many sales training courses to become a Certified Sales Professional. And I was always taught that “perception equals reality”. For many people, their perception of a product or service formed their opinion, regardless of the facts. And this Halloween, I learned that my perception of parenting my toddler would differ greatly from the reality.
Halloween is one my favourite “holidays” of the year. Unlike Christmas or birthdays that are fraught with anxiety about gifts and family gatherings, Halloween is all about candy, pumpkins and costumes. I rarely encounter someone stressed about Halloween or trying to manage their Halloween budget. I particularly like carving pumpkins and admiring other peoples pumpkins. This was a tradition I was so excited to pass on to my son. Last year, he was 18 months, and did not quite understand Halloween. I was also under a lot of pressure from work, extended family and life, so we did not get around to carving the pumpkin until November 20th (yes, you read that right). This year would be different. My son was over 2 years old and had some understanding of Halloween and pumpkins. So, we purchased a pumpkin in mid-October. Miki was so excited about the pumpkin. For days, he looked at the pumpkin, touched the pumpkin and tried to carry the pumpkin. And finally, it was time to carve the pumpkin. I told Miki that we would carve the pumpkin after gymnastics and I could tell he was having a hard time concentrating at class. Granted, he always has a hard time concentrating because he is two years old.
We got home and I put the pumpkin on the counter top. Miki grabbed his chair and stood eagerly while I carved the top of the pumpkin off. Then, I showed him the inside of the pumpkin. And he screamed, jumped off his chair, ran to his bedroom, slammed the door and cried for 20 minutes. I could not console him. Suddenly, the pumpkin became a repellent. I probably could have exorcised demons out of him with that pumpkin. I put the pumpkin away and the next day I carved the pumpkin by myself.
We took Miki to a harvest festival the next week and he spent the first ten minutes trying to run away from pumpkins, but then seemed to grow comfortable around the orange vegetables. Although he refused to touch one. We took him trick-or treating on Halloween night and he quickly grew excited about the prospect of people giving him chocolate so our Halloween experience was not a total bust. But, three weeks later, I am still a bit sad about our pumpkin-carving episode. I am not sad that Miki could not experience handling sharp tools and pumpkin guts, but rather I am saddened by the knowledge that parenting will likely be full of unrealistic expectations. Miki will not always want to hold my hand and he probably won’t be cuddling on my lap in twenty years There is also good chance that Miki will not become a medical doctor and will not receive the Nobel prize in science. In all likelihood, he will find a career that brings him some satisfaction and a paycheque (I hope!).
For now, I will try to keep my perceptions in check and accept my reality. My son is a wonderful, smiling and happy toddler who loves Paw patrol, cats and trucks. But just not pumpkins.