One of the things I love most about J is his knack for picking up new hobbies. Some of them, like bird watching, have become real hobbies, tried and true, which are now woven into the structure of our lives.
If I see something unusual fly overhead while I'm driving, for instance, I'm excited to tell him about it. The birds in question are almost universally categorized by me as "maybe a cool hawk," which is not a description he can really work with, but still, I like connecting with one of his interests, even if it's on a very basic, possibly annoying level.
And I love watching our children observe and absorb these interests: Nora's new love for wildlife and Gabriel's ability to identify so many of the Star Wars characters. All three of them memorizing facts about the planets and schooling me when I suggest things - in jest, please note - like how it would be fun to live on Saturn. "Um, live on Saturn? We wouldn't be able to breathe."
But what about my own hobbies? I've certainly touched on the idea in the past that since having children, I've let my own interests slip away a bit. The difference between making that realization today and making that realization a few years ago, as a newer mom, is that I'm much more ok with it now.
I'm fine with the fact that I'm an addicted to talk radio, and haven't anxiously purchased the latest from a favorite band in a long time. I'm ok with the fact that I don't write as often as I used to on this blog.
I also realize how easy it is to let yourself slip away when you have young children and more importantly, I realize that if you don't work at it a little, you won't get those interests back.
Guys. I used to read all the time. From the time I could read, I read voraciously. The Babysitter's Club. The Saddle Club ( as an adolescent, I was super into horses, and obviously extremely cool as well). John Steinbeck. Thomas Wolfe. Emerson (even beyond the assignments in class!). Thoreau. Tolstoy. That book "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse that my friend Matt made me read. Just for fun.
I read at night when I should have been sleeping, and made notes in my books and reread my favorites. "The Catcher in the Rye." "Cannery Row." Countless times.
I've always read, and always finished what I've started: novels, biographies, books of essays, whatever. But then I had my first child. The reading slowed down a little, because I was tired. I could barely get through a couple sentences at night within passing out. Then I had two children and it slowed down a little more. I read mysteries set in Italy - sticking to that one genre which includes, strangely, many authors and titles - and didn't stray much from my comfort zone for a while, although occasionally I'd find the time to devour something popular. A page turner. Preferably funny. "Gone Girl" (not at all funny but couldn't put it down). "Bossypants" by Tina Fey and "Yes Please" by Amy Poehler (I laughed out loud).
So, yeah, I read, but not like I used to. In recent years, I've started books and then misplaced them. I've gone months without turning a page. I've been reading the beautiful "TransAtlantic" by Colum McCann since last summer. Last summer. I pack it in my suitcase when I'm on trips, like, "Oh, reading? I read!" then opt for a magazine, or watching shows (so many shows) on J's iPad in bed.
Like I said, I'm ok with these new habits. I have three little kids, and viewing the entirety of "30 Rock" over the past few months before drifting off to sleep every night was exactly what I needed to unwind at day's end.
But like the other thing I said, sometimes you have to work to preserve the hobbies that make you...you. I want my children to know that version of me, too.
Nora's very into reading as I mentioned in my last post, and the other night she expressed some frustration because she'd finished all the Junie B. Jones books she owned, and told me, "I have other books I can read, but I'm used to those books, so I don't want to read something else." I knew exactly what she was talking about and told her so. It was a moment of total familiarity. I've never been much for playing on the playground or cartoons or board games, but helping my child get excited about a new book? Yes. I was overjoyed.
Plus, I want to finish "TransAtlantic." I mean, come on! So the other morning while I sipped coffee and it would have been very easy to grab my phone for some mindless internet wandering, I pulled the book from my bedside table, found my place and started reading. Then I flipped back 20 pages because I had no idea what was going on and needed to refresh my memory.
Anyway, if you've stuck with me for all these paragraphs, I should get to the point, which is that this summer I want to read. That's only one of many summer goals, and it's not a very specific one (no, I'm not putting "Ulysses" on the list this year although you never know). But it speaks to a general theme of getting back into old hobbies, and nurturing new ones.
Now, I realize that it's not technically summer yet, and the geek brigade that resides in this house with me would probably scold me on that point, but it's summer enough. The barbecues have begun and we've turned on the ceiling fans. The bugs are proliferating in the backyard and the children are playing in the backyard and screaming about the bugs. Summer of 2015. Let's go.
- grow a patio garden
- become a confident martini-maker
- dance at weddings
- pick berries, make jam
- run the circumference of Southport Island
- plan a tenth wedding anniversary trip
- see the (not real) bear in Maine (courtesy of Gabriel)
- find a piano teacher for Nora
- spend far less energy on snacks and much more on meals
- start learning Spanish
- toast the sunset
- regularly use my jogging stroller
- have chocolate chip pancakes and bacon on a weekend morning
- cold beers with good friends
- take a museum tour
- frame a family photo
- get in the ocean