The statistics are clear: hobbies are good for us. They decrease stress, increase happiness, and lower heart rate (no matter what level of activity the hobby requires.) Life is richer with the diversity and fulfillment that hobbies offer. But they play a beautiful role in our family-life as well.
I grew up in a home chalk-full of hobbies. Both my parents liked to roller blade and bike. We would bike all over our neighborhood together, 6, 7, 8 of us at once. They also liked to garden. I remember spending hours and hours in the summer time weeding, picking, and canning. I have fond memories of digging through my mother’s sewing dresser… finding pretty bits of fabric to make skirts and pajama pants. I remember my grandmother teaching me how to crochet a chain, exactly how my great-grandmother taught her. Both my parents and my husband’s parents love to read. Both of us inherited this love, and all our homes are full of books. My mother painted a Christmas village that is now displayed in her house every holiday season. When I think of my favorite mementos of her life, the things I cherish most are the things she made just for the sheer joy of it.
Hobbies also provide a unique way for me to learn about the people in my family I am not able to know well. My husband’s grandma died a little while ago. She had Alzheimer’s for 1o years before that. I never really got to know her, but I know that she loved to bake. I am learning to make her famous Thanksgiving rolls. I know that one year she made each person their very own pie for Thanksgiving… more than 20 pies total! I also never met her husband, my husband’s grandpa. He died in an accident when my husband was a boy. But I know he could do amazing things with a gun, and I know that he had a good head for business. When I see these traits in my father-in-law, I feel like I catch a glimpse of his Dad.
My own grandparents are near and dear to me, but the distance of decades sometimes makes them seem unfamiliar. As they age, however, they have given me little bits of themselves through their hobbies. My grandfather loves history and he recorded a history of the little town where he was born and lived all his life. My grandmother made a book of poems she’d written and gave them to all of us. My other grandmother and grandfather loved to travel. They lived in Samoa as missionaries for several years when I was young. Through their picture albums and their stories I get to live through that experience with them. They also love to take walks in the great outdoors. I have a lifetime-full of memories with them hiking and chatting.
And hobbies have also opened the door for me to meet members of my family that died long before I was born. On of my mother’s most prolific hobbies is researching and collecting family history. Thanks to her efforts I know story-after-story from my ancestor’s lives. I know how many of them lived and how many of them died. I know what countries they came from and what cultures. And I know how to find out more information for myself. When I celebrate Thanksgiving, not only do I know that some of my own family crossed on the Mayflower (10% of Americans can trace an ancestor back to the original Pilgrims) I can tell you that Elizabeth Tilley was 13-years-old, and that both her parents and her aunt and uncle died during their first few months ashore. I can tell you that she married a man who was also on the Mayflower, and that they had 77 grandchildren.
It’s also meaningful for me to watch my children having these experiences. My mother has put my daughter to work picking apples and “squishing grapes” for juice.
Below is a picture of my son using one of my stained glass projects to hold his morning cup of yogurt.
My husband and I both speak Chinese. We recently started attending a church that is in Chinese. It has been so fulfilling to watch my children approach the new language with so much enthusiasm and comfort. This summer my kids each planted a daliah bulb. As I watched them care for their flower, I realized that the things I love become a little sweeter when I see my children experience them. I get to relive the early wonder, pride, and excitement of each experience all over again, through their eyes.
Now that’s not to say that in order to have a happy family you need to garden, or learn Chinese, or do lots of crafts. The type of hobby isn’t important, as long as it’s something you love. More importantly I’m saying this: hobbies are not frivolous. They are not a waste of money. They are not a waste of time. They are a beautiful expression of our inward desire to create, and to learn. They are the crossroads between work and play. And when we share our hobbies with our children, not only does our own enjoyment amplify, our children learn how much fun work can be.
We share a piece of ourselves when we share a hobby with our children, and that is something they will never lose. We win a little bit of immortality in their eyes.