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Modern Dad

Being bored wears me out

This past winter, on a wet and cool Saturday afternoon, my kids and wife were off doing their own thing. It was winter so there wasn’t any house or yard work to do. It was after football season and before March Madness so there wasn’t anything to watch on TV.

For the first time since the Bush 43 administration no one was asking me to play catch with them or ride bikes with them. No one was asking me to make them food or help tie their shoes. They’d all left me and, suddenly, I realized I had nothing to do.

I think I was bored but, really, who knows? Boredom is an emotion I haven’t felt in so long, I’m not sure how to identify it.

I stood in the garage looking for something to move around or clean but there was nothing. In the moment I thought: “Do I need a new hobby? Do I even have hobbies?”

I used to play golf every weekend with my dad but I quit when he quit. Frankly I find the whole thing too boring now. Plus I have to tuck in my shirt. And it takes six hours. The only thing I’m committing six hours to now is sleeping.

My neighbor Colonel Nathan R. Jessup told me I should try F3, a workout thing for middle-aged dudes who live in the suburbs and want to work out with other middle-aged dudes. Sounds alright but hobbies are optional things that you do because they fill time and you enjoy them. At 43 years old, working out is less optional and more about lifespan management.

I could try gambling? A few weeks ago I was in New Jersey where you can place real time sports bets from your phone as specific as whether someone will strike out. It was amazing but based on the amount of money I lost I think gambling is probably a habit and not a hobby. Also I don’t want to move to New Jersey.

I used to have a wood shop in my house and made all kinds of things—clocks, lamps, benches. I proposed building a wood shop in our first floor guest room but apparently my in-laws have to have somewhere to stay when they come to visit.

I sat on the garage step, fresh out of ideas, pulled up my phone and googled “activities for men.” The first link listed chess, ham radio and ballroom dancing—three activities that haven’t been activities since I don’t even know … the ‘80s? The ’40s? I don’t think anyone can factually answer that question.

I clicked another link that listed martial arts, but I don’t really like robes or clutching other human beings in an aggressive manner. Firearm enthusiast? Meh, not really into guns. Refereeing? No thanks. If I wanted to have all my decisions questioned I’d take up home decorating.

I clicked on a link that led to a millennial website that suggested—and I quote—if I’m bored I should “Netflix and chill.” Proving that even when millennials coin what they think is a cool phrase for something it’s actually lame and uninteresting. In this case much like the activity itself.

Still sitting on the garage step, I looked up and noticed the sleds were hanging precariously off the wire shelving. I grabbed a ladder to straighten them out, and that led to moving a few things around on the shelves, and that led to reinforcing the bottom shelf brackets, and that led to throwing a few old things away. It was like the real-life dad version of “If You Give a Pig a Pancake.”

Next thing I knew, the Blonde Bomber was back. She wanted a snack so I gave her a donut and some apple juice to go with it.

The moment passed and I forgot about having nothing to do. Fast forward a few months and it’s summer with no shortage of activities when everyone takes off.

I can grab the boat and the dog and float around on the lake for a few hours and listen to music. I can grab my rod and toss a line in the water. I can take a dip assuming it’s not midday and the water hasn’t yet reached the temperature of microwaved urine.

I can sit at the pool and read a magazine instead of having to constantly keep my eyes on my kids. Do they even make magazines anymore? We’ve had the same three copies of Vanity Fair on the back of our toilet for four years.

I can shoot hoops in the driveway. Go paddle boarding. I can try (and sadly fail) to grow vegetables for the 14th consecutive year. I can go on a bike ride through the woods or ride my longboard around the freshly paved streets in my neighborhood.

Maybe I don’t need a new hobby? As long as the air is warm and the daylight is long there’s plenty to keep me occupied.

But Winter is Coming. And I’ve already watched all eight seasons of Game of Thrones.

Jon Show lives in Robbins Park with his wife, who he calls “The Mother of Dragons.” Their 10-year-old son is “Future Man” and their 7-year-old daughter is “The Blonde Bomber.” Their dog is actually named Lightning.