One day last week I was feeling bored, melancholy, down in the dumps. Nothing in particular was going on, just another day of fruitless job searching and web surfing. I got it into my head that I should run to town and bum around. I could go to the electronics store that’s going out of business to see if I could find any good deals. I could go to the book store and poke through some new titles. I could grab a sandwich at my favorite lunch joint. And just so it wasn’t a completely wasted trip, I could stop at the grocery store and pick up some things my wife wanted. It would get me out of the house, give me something interesting to do, and I wouldn’t have to eat leftovers for lunch. A perfect plan.
The plan started to fall apart, however, when my son asked if he could go along. It seems hanging out with mom all day is no longer real exciting for an eight year old. If I was going, he was going too. But this was no longer exciting for me because I couldn’t linger over the Bluetooth headsets and the just-released hardbacks. He would be bored. Also, if I bought anything for myself – like lunch – I’d have to buy one for him too. Being out of work, I could justify one lunch, but two? That would probably break the bank. And to top it all off, my wife thought of a couple other things I could do for her in town.
So now I had a choice. I could go to town, but not do any of the fun time-wasters I had in mind, or I could just stay home, disappointing my wife and son.
Wanting to get out of the house more than anything, I chose to take my son and do the errands laid out for me. In the end, I didn’t spend a bunch of money I didn’t have, I saved my wife a lot of running around on her own, and I got to spend some significant time with my son. Although we didn’t have any earth-shattering conversations or discover the cure for cancer, we were together – which was all he wanted. The day was spent much better than I had planned, and I was much happier than if I had spent a bunch of time by myself and bought a bunch of things.
It turns out, being selfish isn’t really what I wanted. I wanted to be useful. And needed. If you’re out of work, or otherwise have a bunch of time on your hands, look for ways to give of yourself. Sacrifice your time and money and desires. Don’t waste the opportunity to create situations and relationships that you’ll value for years. Boys need their dads. And I think dads need their boys just as much.