5 great Chicago locations for having an existential crisis

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter Viva, whose greatest personal crises involve deciding between pigtails or braids.

An existential crisis is an episode of anxiety caused by a realization of your own mortality and a questioning of your significance and purpose. It can be triggered by major life events, by isolation and by sleep deprivation–three of the major pillars of parenthood.

Chicago, with its wealth of parks, sights, events and architectural marvels, is a spectacular boon to parents looking for things to do with children.

Here are our top five Windy City spots for falling into a deep hole of introspection and dread, while your children have the time of their young lives!

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – Judy Istock Butterfly Haven

The wonders of life have never been more colorful than in this 2,700 square foot greenhouse featuring more than 40 species of exotic butterflies. Each day, scores of cocoons burst open to reveal winged paintings taking flight before your eyes, all too sharply underscoring the rapid changes in your children, the inevitability of their leaving the safety of your embrace, and, of course, the painfully delicate and fleeting nature of childhood, youth and life itself. Feel your lungs fill with the hot, damp, tropical air. With the beat of each gauzy wing fluttering around you and your family, time passes. Babies become adults, innocence become cynicism and each person enjoys the brief precious flash that is a human’s life in the vast uncaring vortex of time.

360 Chicago – Formerly John Hancock Observatory

At over 1,000 feet above Michigan Avenue, 360 Chicago offers breathtaking views of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. “Look, Daddy, the people look like ants.” Ants indeed. And are we not all quite like ants, toiling in futility as the universe incinerates us at random like a child with a magnifying glass? Look out across the cityscape all the way to the suburbs – so many people, so many lives, so many dreams. Are those people more sure of their role in this world than you? Are they happier? More secure in the inevitability of their doom? You may be able to see your house from up there – but who can ever see their place in the vast mechanics of the universe?

The Lakefront

Thanks to the efforts of Daniel Burnham, Chicago has over 25 miles of Lakefront which are “open, free, and clear” to the public. (Notwithstanding the aberrant and abhorrent Lake Point Tower, which should really be pitchforked by the citizenry, and any upcoming museums dedicated to Jar-Jar Binks and Willow.) Our sandy beaches and verdant park make for a spectacular playground for your kids to run and splash and climb, while you stare into the horizon across 1,180 cubic miles of unfeeling black water that mocks the ephemeral nature of your existence. As your children dig or skip or fly a kite, you can watch a storm roll in across the Lake like the clouds of your uncertainty and self-doubt. See the waves lap at the shore like the eroding forces of age and the ravages of time. “Daddy? Daddy? Stop gazing into the abyss and look at my sand castle! Don’t you know that the abyss is gazing into thee?”

Your favorite ball park

Whether it’s historic Soldier Field, U.S. Cellular Field or that frat house on Addison, your family will find much to do, see, eat and enjoy at Chicago’s many sports facilities. Meanwhile, you can hear the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd, contemplate the times you spent there with your own father and wonder: Am I doing as well as he did? Is he happy with who I’ve become? Did he ever allow himself to be happy? Is this sporting event merely a game, or is all of life a game and these moments what it’s all about? Is right field where the dandelions grow? Will coach put me in and am I ready to play? Are there planes to catch and bills to pay? Will you always remember every hug in the morning and butterfly kisses? Like the Go Go White Sox, you’re always in there fighting, and you’re doing your best – but is there a great cosmic fandom that is truly glad to have you out here in the Middle West, or is there merely an unfeeling deistic scoreboard technician who has loaded the fireworks tubes and walked away?

The Museum of Science and Industry – Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze

This mirror maze allows your family to learn about patterns in the natural world while becoming gems in an enormous kaleidoscope. Enter the labyrinthine chamber of silvered fractals and watch as dozens of reflected doppelgängers of your children flee from you in every direction. Gaze into the weary eyes of your increasingly craggy face repeated ad infinitum. Hear your children call out to you with amazement, trepidation and glee while you stumble and flail, merely guessing as to what direction you should reach, or which path you should take. You are looking at your children, but can you really see them? Can they see the real you? So many faces, laughing, laughing …

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