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“Why Do You Make Us Go Places We Don’t Want to Go?”

The struggle to get kids to do something in a city that has everything

Photo: Dianne Brogan/Chicago Tribune

Chicago boasts countless museums, parks, attractions, and restaurants — all world class, all whimsical, and none of which my children are the least bit interested in unless dim sum in Chinatown is involved. Here’s the typical Saturday in the Ruby household:

Wife:We have nothing going on today. What should we do?

Me:We haven’t been to Millennium Park in ages.

Wife:We could see the Bean. Splash around in the fountain.

Child No. 1:Nah. I don’t feel like getting wet.

Me:How about Shedd Aquarium?

Child No. 2:Those belugas are creepy.

Me:You love the belugas!

Child No. 2:I hate the belugas.

Wife:Botanic Garden?

Everyone:Too far.

Me:The Children’s Museum is fun.

Child No. 3:Is that the one on Navy Pier?

Me (hopeful):Yeah! The one with the—

Child No. 3:I can’t stand Navy Pier.

More ideas are shot down, including Lincoln Park Zoo (“too many babies”), Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (“too many butterflies”), a Sox game (“They’re in fourth place”), and a picnic at Pritzker Pavilion (“I don’t want to put on sunscreen”). The inevitable shouting match ensues, with my wife and me on one side, arguing that it’s a beautiful day and we’re in an amazing city and we can’t just sit around the house all day, and the children on the other, expressing a persuasive counteropinion: “NO WE DON’T WANT TO YOU ALWAYS DRAG US PLACES WHY CAN’T WE STAY HOME IT’S SATURDAY LEAVE US ALONE WE HATE YOU.”

I should note here that I love my children and generally find them to be energetic, agreeable human beings. Until some sort of consensus
needs to be reached, at which point they become surly, smug despots prone to petty tantrums and general lethargy. All three would make excellent members of Congress.

Eventually, we settle on a 40-minute water taxi ride on the river, a decision that always goes over like a hot air balloon ride to hell. The kids complain every step of the way, just to punish us. They pretend to hate it when they obviously love it, even smiling up in wonder at the awesome steel behemoths around them — but only when they think we’re not looking, because giving us the satisfaction would equal a thousand deaths and infinite kid shame. Then we go for dim sum.

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