As summer approaches, parents who forgot to sign their kids up for seasonal activities enter their annual panic, during which they scramble to find anything to fill the long weeks until school starts anew. And as a dad of a young boy, the dual pressures of proving to society that dads aren’t incompetent nincompoops and your nincompoopish promise that you’d do stuff like go fishing or build a treehouse increases your stress.
Rather than plop your son into the last spot in the only program with a vacancy, Resource Accounting Day Camp, I recommend something fun, easy and chock full of just as much Americana as roasting s’mores over a campfire—a father-son trip. With just a car, some supplies and money enough for bail, you and your son can enjoy one of the following adventures that form the kind of familial bond only found in laundry-detergent commercials.
Your son loves Batman, so why not take him to a real bat cave? Loyal Alfred will be nowhere in sight, but your little one won’t know that because of the shocking lack of any light whatsoever. And nothing will earn you long hugs like the chilling sound of thousands of flying rats squeaking overhead as they hunt for fresh blood. Just be sure to bring a night-vision camera to catch all the wide-eyed fear that the possibility of rabies creates. Then, upload that video and you’ll put the “viral” in viral disease.
You’ll have plenty to discuss with your boy about economics, chemistry and humanity’s slow spiraling decent into moral abandon.
2. Drag races
Your son loves Hot Wheels, and you love hot rods. Combine the two at an NHRA drag race, where top fuel dragsters rocket down the track at more than 300 miles per hour and the decibel level is so high you’ll both uncontrollably evacuate your bowels. Yes, all those rumors about the “brown note” assume it’s played on a musical instrument. But no, the colon-cleaning tone thunders from a 7,000-horsepower engine that literally creates an earthquake registering at 2.3 on the Richter scale. This day at the races proves everyone involved leaves a skid mark.
3. Reno, NV
The Biggest Little City in the World offers a world of educational opportunities for your son. From the senior citizens methodically cranking the penny slots to the toothless meth addicts lining the city’s many scenic alleys, you’ll have plenty to discuss with your boy about economics, chemistry and humanity’s slow spiraling decent into moral abandon. And don’t forget to visit the plaque on North Virginia Street commemorating the “birthplace of denim jeans,” because everyone should know where their pants were born.
4. A truck-stop diner
No one asked to create a burger with cheese, bacon, onion rings, and barbecue sauce, topped with a fried egg. But, the fine cook at the diner off State Highway 74 did it anyway. His ingenuity in the kitchen seems matched only by the thickness of the hair on his forearms and he’ll be damned if anyone so much as whispers the word “quinoa” in his establishment. Everything comes with butter—the biscuits, the potatoes, the peas, even the water. And your son will finally understand what down-home cooking really means when he bites into a chicken fried steak that is neither chicken nor steak, smothered in country gravy with a side of hot wings and a plate of greasy fries so tall he’ll need a Sherpa to navigate it. You’ll end the excursion with your son in the infirmary, each of you nursing your first acute myocardial infarction. But, damn, that closing slice of apple pie (with butter) makes it all worthwhile.
5. That tree next to the reservoir that you jumped from as a teenager
The truest form of father-son bonding comes as you impart stories of your youth as your son experiences his. But, after your finish off your fourth bourbon, your tales meant to guide him through the confusion of growing up give way to reminiscing about your heydays. So, go ahead and walk him down the road and through the woods by the house where you grew up until you get to the tall oak that bends over the town water supply. There it stands, inviting you to climb its thick trunk just as you did that time in junior year when all of your friends were too scared to do it. Show him how you leapt from the highest branch, slicing through the air until you disappeared beneath the cool waters. And as this older version of yourself tumbles somewhat less gracefully through the air than your younger self did, you realize the unintended wisdom you’re imparting to your son, namely physics—that heavier objects dropped from a great height travel further through the water, perhaps to the shallow rocky bottom, than their lighter, younger counterparts. Hopefully, you’ve imparted enough wisdom for him to be able to send for help—or at least more bourbon.