I'm a mom of two kids and have been picking up hobbies with them.
I signed up for surf lessons when my oldest was 6, even though I didn't think I was cool enough.
Learning new things has allowed me to have fun and let go of expectations.
Some parents want to relive their adolescent glories through their children. For me, I'm finding an opportunity to try new pursuits. Over the past five years, I started learning hobbies alongside my kids. I'm finding myself liberated from external motivations and fears and inspired by my daughters' seemingly unending wells of enthusiasm.
It started with surf lessons
The summer my oldest was 6, I signed us up for a single surf lesson. Surfing was always something I found intriguing and too cool for me — something for people that possessed an elusive combination of fearlessness and nonchalance I most definitely lacked. I had tried surfing a few times before, the last an abject failure in Costa Rica with a teenage coach and chronic postpartum back pain that made popping up quickly for the large waves almost impossible.
This time our coach was also a mom, and my companion was my daughter.
For a brief moment on one of our last runs, we surfed in tandem. My daughter crouched at the front of the surfboard while I cautiously stood up behind her before falling back into the ocean.
That day I caught waves. I also caught a bit of the carefree attitude I thought eluded me. I found the freedom to play in the saltwater, absent of the pressure to perform, to fail and make mistakes. Kids don't feel pity or embarrassment for you if you wipe out. Their default is falling and getting back up again. Otherwise, they'd never learn to walk.
What began as a one-time lesson has grown into several summers of surfing and a joy on a board that is less about proficiency and more about an opportunity to hang out with my daughter, doing something together, just for fun.
I also took piano lessons
In winter, I started piano lessons for the first time in my life. I'd always envisioned learning alongside my eldest, but she was a few years in before I was ready to start. I was pleasantly surprised by my ability to acquire this skill to read and play music, and toward the end of the semester, I polished a truncated version of Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" for the recital.
My teacher assured me I wasn't the only beginner. I went first, and, like any novice pianist, my teacher accompanied me. After only a few notes, I began to choke, my fingers playing different notes than the ones I read and had diligently practiced. I played through again, a little steadier, stood up, and bowed. I then watched adult after adult play complicated, pages-long pieces, shame warming my cheeks and ears with each performance.
Shame could have won, but I did what I had learned to do. I acknowledged it. I stayed for the reception afterward and owned my failed performance and bravery. I signed up for more classes and ended with a strong recital the following semester. I was proud of myself for continuing to show up and be OK with being a rookie among more advanced peers.
When my eldest, now a fifth grader, went to her first gymnastics class, she towered over her much-younger classmates. She also remained relatively unfazed. I always think of the parenting wisdom from Brené Brown: "We cannot give our children what we don't have." I tell my girls they can do hard things, and I know I have to believe it myself and model it for them.
Learning hobbies with my kids has given me a place to have fun in an atmosphere free of judgment and expectation, which makes modeling that much easier. It's also created a space to grow myself and better know my kids, which is the ultimate motivation.
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