20 ideas for fathers and sons

This past weekend, as I was rummaging through some photos, I came across a few from a trip to Chicago that my oldest son and I took last year.

Matt Fulks and his oldest son before a Royals-Cubs game at Wrigley Field in June 2015.

See, my wife and I decided about 10 years ago that when each of our three children turned 13, we would take each on a trip of their choice — within the continental United States. My wife took our daughter to see some boy band in concert in Florida a few years ago. Last year, it was my turn with our oldest son, who decided to go on a baseball trip to Wrigley Field when the Royals happened to be there. So, after a few months of planning and saving, the two of us boarded an Amtrak train at Union Station and chugged north for a “guys’ weekend.”

As it turned out, the weather was brutal — rainy and cold, even by Chicago standards on June 1 — most of the weekend, even postponing the Saturday game. It didn’t really matter. My son and I were spending a weekend together, just the two of us, in a father-son bonding-as-he-turns-into-a-“man”-weekend. It was full of baseball, “L” riding, and, of course, Chicago-style pizza at every meal. (As a Blackhawks fan, I’ll add that it was cool to watch on a restaurant TV with other Hawks fans as the team closed out the Stanley Cup championship.)

My oldest son and I have always had a great relationship, so the trip was an extension or a reinforcement of that. The photos from that trip, however, made me think about ways my sons and I can and do spend time together.

Here are 20 things fathers and sons can do together. The purpose isn’t necessarily for deep discussions about life, although those come with the territory. The purpose is to be together — to guide him and to learn more about him..and vice versa.

  1. Go on a weekend trip together. This seems like a logical starting point, although it’s the one thing that requires some planning and possibly some budgeting. But pick a destination that is interesting to him, if not to both of you. As it turned out in my situation, we have similar interests so his final three options were going to be great for both of us.
  2. Go camping together. This might seem similar to going on a weekend trip, but a camping trip can be as simple as overnight in a campground that’s only a few minutes from where you live.
  3. Build a Lego project (for younger sons) or a woodworking project (for older ones). My youngest son loves Legos. An added bonus: sitting on the floor, creating whatever comes to mind can be stress relief for you. And then, as he gets older, do a wood project together. Something as simple as a bookshelf is something that one of you can keep for years to come.
  4. Play catch or shoot baskets. Going back to my youngest son — he’s in elementary school, doesn’t play organized sports, and isn’t overly interested in sports, but he does like for us to play catch or shoot baskets together.
  5. Take him to the batting cages — and hit with him! Even if you haven’t picked up a bat in 25 years, let him watch you in the cages. Hitting is difficult at any age, and every kid, at some point, will struggle at the plate. Seeing you struggle with it can be refreshing for him.
  6. Go on a run or a bike ride. If he’s old enough, we can add other exercises to this list. My oldest has been working out with weights for a couple months. He’s more motivated when I’m doing it with him — plus, it’s helping me get in a little better shape.
  7. Go hunting or fishing.
  8. Walk the dog.
  9. Do house “chores.” I will occasionally help my sons empty the dishwasher or they’ll help me fold clothes. Besides spending time together and doing something productive around the house, it’s also an example to them of how I can be helpful to their mother.
  10. Fix a family meal together. I enjoy cooking and baking (hence the reason for No. 6). My sons may not share the same enjoyment when they’re older, but at least they’ll know how to follow directions, experiment with food, and fix something other than microwave popcorn.
  11. Rake or mow an elderly person’s yard. I’m not going to act like I’m a great guy who’s done this, but it would set a great example for my sons of serving others.
  12. Read a book aloud. My youngest son has always enjoyed this. Sometimes we’ll divide up the reading right before he goes to bed. Other times I’ll read one night and he’ll read the next.
  13. Go bowling.
  14. Attend a sporting event.
  15. Take him to and from school. Some of the best conversations I have with each son (they’re in different schools) happen both on the way to school — discussing what’s coming up and ways to treat people — and then afterwards, hearing some entertaining stories from the day.
  16. Go on a hike or a nature walk.
  17. Teach him your favorite board game or learn a new one.
  18. Discuss a work situation, within reason of course, and get his opinion. See how he would handle it. Besides possibly getting a fresh perspective, it gives him a chance to learn about what you do and, if you’re in a leadership role, how to be a character-driven leader.
  19. Talk to him about girls. Teach him the proper way to treat girls. (Think of it this way: how would you want a boy to treat your daughter?)
  20. Wash or work on the car. When it comes to cars, I’m not the handiest mechanic you’ll find. Putting oven mitts on a yak and having him work on your car will do less damage than I’m likely to do. But I can teach him some very basic skills and show him how to wash it. (Then, when he wants to take the car to go on a date with the girl you’ve taught him to treat properly, he’ll know how to wash the car.)

Obviously there are more than 20 things and some of these won’t fit your situation or likes, but this list should provide a good starting point for each of you to build memories.

What are some other activities you and your son do together? Feel free to let us know in the comments.

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