You need a hobby

Parents tend to have very mixed feelings about this time of year. I was talking to a fellow mom at church on Sunday. “This is my favorite time of year. I look forward to this time of year for months. So I hate to admit it… but I’m looking forward to the start of school.” The situation is less pronounced for those of us who send our children to summer camp for the summer, but still present.

Several days the last week, I’ve gotten a call around 3:30. This call has become so reliable that when I see an unknown phone number on caller ID, I know who it is. That eldest son of mine who has the remarkable ability to convince grownups to do what he wants.

“Mom, can I go out to ice cream with Andrew and his mom?”
“Mom, should I meet you at the Farmer’s market tonight?” (he’s only this summer gotten the right to walk home by himself after summer camp)
But most often, “Mom, I’m sooooo bored. Can I bring my DS to camp tomorrow? ALL the other kids are playing Pokemon and every single fun thing there is to do has a huuuuuuge line and I’m the only child who’s bored waiting, so I can’t get anyone else to plaaaaay with me!”

It’s the end of summer blues.

I told him to talk to his counselors. I talked to his counselors. I offered to send him with books. “It’s too loud to read.” Games. “No one will play with me!” Role-playing games “I tried, but it wasn’t fun.” Art supplies. “Lame!” His camera (to take videos). “We’re not allowed to have cameras!” A million options, but the only acceptable solution is his DS. And you know, I understand. That’s what he wants to do. I’ve had things I wanted, and nothing else was acceptable. (See also: pregnancy cravings when I was knocked up with this kid. Started early.) But he gets SO MANY screens already. With a pair o’ programming parents, there are tons of screens, all the time. I want running around and imagination and things he’ll form memories with.

He wants screens.

For his birthday, he’s asked for a video game recording rig. I reminded him he can’t have a YouTube account until he’s 13. “I’ll have three years to practice and get really good!” Adam and I are wrestling with the request. On the one hand, his beloved PewDiePie apparently earned $7 million playing video games for YouTube last year. (I banned PewDiePie after hearing a few too many expletives, but he still gets to watch Stampy Longnose who has a cute British accent and a slightly cleaner mouth.) So on the one hand, I support his artistic endeavors. On the other hand, I really want him to have a rich internet life AND a rich life without any screens of any sort. I’m doing better on one of these than the other.

“The kid needs a hobby!” I announced.

A harmonious Thane
A harmonious Thane

Adam sent me a list of 24 hobbies a 10 year old boy might enjoy:

Stuff he’s done in the past:
Biking was working well (but requires parents and weather cooperation)
Legos are fine (but he is less interested than he used to be)
Drawing/Art is great (but he’s only sometimes excited)
Reading is great
RPGs/Boardgames are good (but require other participants)
Programming / HTML / Blogging (but screen related)
Video / Photography / Stop-Motion animation (somewhat screen related)
Writing (he’s talented, but unmotivated – maybe NanoWriMo?)
Cooking (needs parents part of the time)
Electronics Kit (tried but didn’t love it)
Metal Detecting (tried but didn’t love it)
Martial Arts (no local aikido dojo)
Musical Instrument (tried twice, but maybe try again)

Other thoughts from my hobbies:
– Origami
– Clay/Sculpting
– Yo-Yos
– Juggling
– RPG/Boardgame Design
– Soccer / Sports / Outdoor play (weather and possibly other people required)
– Woodworking / Whittling (required parental supervision)

Other Ideas
– Learn / Create a New Language
– Suduko / Crosswords
– Codes / Cryptograms (he seemed to like the one Grandma created)
– Geology (the kids like rocks, but maybe start a nice collection?)

I nodded my head and bought him a Yo-yo. This is the perfect time of life for perfecting obscure skills to entertain people with in college. I wish hackeysack was still a thing, because that’s what he needs. His cousin rides a unicycle, but that’s hard to do at the Y. I honed in on the portable hobbies, and got Grey a learn to Yo-yo kit. Thane got a harmonica kit. Pro tip: harmonica is better than most other instruments you can give a six year old due to it’s harmoniousness.

So tomorrow I’m not sending Grey to the Y with his DS, much to his disappointment. I am, however, sending him with a Yo-yo and a how-to book. May he learn to walk the dog.

Adam has a million random hobby skills
Adam has a million random hobby skills

So what are some good hobbies we haven’t thought of? What’s a skill you picked up at the bored stage early in life that you’re grateful for now? What do your kids like doing that don’t involve screens?