Spectator Sport: Observations from the Sidelines of My Kids’ Hobbies


kids, soccer, hobbiesMy kiddos are 8 and 11 and I believe that they each now have the same number of active hobbies as years. From skiing to taekwondo, from dance to piano, it feels like my kids spend more time (and my money) pursuing hobbies in a week than I do in a whole year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been amazing to watch them discover different interests, make new friends, build skills, and gain confidence in each of these endeavors. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you all the benefits hobbies like learning a sport or participating in the arts offer someone.

And since shepherding them to their hobbies has become my hobby, I thought I’d share a little of what I’ve learned watching from the sidelines.

If Your Kids Have Hobbies, They Need to Be in Charge of Their Own Stuff

As much as I try to be a minimalist mom, the pursuit of hobbies often comes with the collection of a lot of gear. Almost every activity requires some specialized gear or another from skis to dance shoes. I feel like I do my part to purchase said equipment (thank you, ski swaps and used sporting good shops!) and to manage the calendar. My kids’ job is to store their gear and then get their gear to whatever hobby is on tap that day.

In addition to hauling the gear around for themselves, my kids are in charge of getting their gear off and on. I embraced this dictum after spending twenty minutes trying to lace Nell’s skates with frozen fingers (I have Raynaud’s so this is no small task for me). One freezing morning at Cool Camp, Nell’s ice skating teacher frowned at me and remarked,

She’s older than eight? She can lace up her skate.

And it was true! The next lesson, Nell spent twenty minutes lacing up her skates while I cheered her on. It was frustrating. It took longer than we both would have liked, but she did it.

Have there been times the girls have forgotten something at home? Yup. Do they sometimes need me to adjust their gear for them once it’s on? Sure. But they’re learning from their mistakes, getting better at gearing up, and also taking more responsibility for their things.  

Just Show Up

hobby watching
Hobbies Make for Strong Arms: Hobby Watching? Less So

I’m the mom who shows up five minutes late, unshowered, hair in a bun, coffee forgotten at home on the counter, snarling at her kid to, “Get a move on!” Yup, I’m the hot mess mom the other moms make room for on the bench with a small sigh. This used to bother me.

See, I hadn’t read the emails carefully so I never knew what field we were playing on and that the photographer was coming early that day for the team photo. I didn’t realize the team party after the game would include bloody marys or I might have upped my snack game to something homemade vs the usual bag of pretzels. I also didn’t think to get a card for the coach or buy my tickets ahead of time or just know all the things the other kids’ moms seemed to know.  

It used to bother me that I didn’t show up ready for the girls’ hobbies like the other parents.

But then I decided I didn’t care. I show up ready for a thousand other things in a week. It is game on when I go to work, and 99% of the time I make it to the front of the line at the grocery store with my wallet in hand AND with my reusable bags.  So, you’ll have to forgive me my sweatpants at piano lessons; these are my kids’ hobbies, not mine. I’m just here to watch.

Get/Keep a Hobby of Your Own

Just trust me on this one. It’s going to feel like you don’t have a minute to spare for yourself when you’re driving your kids hither and thither, but honestly, what you lose in time, you’ll gain in sanity. We need to model the life we want our own kids to have someday, right? We want them to see us as people in our own right, not just their resident juice cup filler.

Hobbies I’ve managed to keep are principally writing (mommy blogger that I am) and reading. Both things I can do at home while allowing them some screen time. For physical hobbies, I ski with the family and in a good month (it’s not easy), I squeeze in yoga classes.

To keep my brain from turning to mush, I also started a theatre company a couple of years ago and have found ways to produce shows in our community. Theatre has been a lifelong passion of mine, and the years I did nothing in the theatre were… missing some passion. Our family schedule is full, oftentimes fuller than I like. But I think it’s important to show my kids what I love to do. To be more than my kids’ carpool.  When I feel most squeezed, I try to remember Annie Dillard on being present more than productive, so I make sure to carve out time from the kids’ schedule for something to call my own.

  How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. Annie Dillard

There Is a Mom Pecking Order on the Sidelines of Your Kid’s Hobbies

Hobby watching is it's own hobby
You’ll Find Me Hobby Watching in the Back

For every kid participating in a hobby, there’s a family member making it happen for that hour. And unless your kid’s hobby is conveniently located, most of those family members wait and gather together to chat on the sidelines, in uncomfortable chairs at the back, or lean against the wall. What I’ve learned from this is that your kid’s hobby is the best when it’s surrounded by a community of folks who enjoy one another and are eager to cheer all the kids on.

At most lessons/classes I’ve noticed there’s one mom who seems to know ALL the other moms. This mom has been watching this hobby for a long time and often has critical information about the ins and outs of belt testing, the recital, the jamboree, season opener, etc. Make friends with this mom.

She may intimidate you at first, but there’s a reason all the other mothers greet her like she’s the PTO president: she is the PTO president. She will know where you can park your car when the lot is full. She knows the best sales to hit for when your kid outgrows his shoes mid-season. And she’ll tell you how to time feeding the kiddos so they don’t vomit mid-game (true story). Just by knowing this mom’s name, you can become part of the sideline pecking order which is more fun than sitting alone. Connecting with fellow moms makes the schlepping of children that much more bearable. 

I’ve learned to genuinely appreciate the moms out there organizing the lot of us slackers during hobby time. I totally love your email about this week’s play rehearsal schedule, the snack list rotation and that card you bought for the rest of us to sign. And I definitely love that you ordered the wrong size dance shoes online and can tell the rest of us where to go instead. Thank you, you’re amazing!

I also appreciate the tiger moms out there pushing their kids to perform AMAZING things in their hobbies. Your kid’s in a premier soccer league with a European tour schedule? Wow. She has an audition with a Broadway producer? Holy smokes! Chess master champ already (that’s a thing, right?)? You go!  

As the resident mom who’s a hot mess, you’ll find me near the bottom of this pecking order. I’m definitely above the mom who yells at the coach though. And I’m also above the mom who berates her kid for missing her cue. And at least, I’m above the mom who always asks other moms to pick her kid up for the carpool but never takes a turn.

Just know that if you’re having an off day, I’ll invite you to join me in the back of the gym/studio/auditorium/etc. for some self-deprecating humor and snark. I don’t know what time the party starts, but I won’t judge you or your kid when she lets the other team score on her. I will also send you a picture of your kid rocking the spelling bee when you can’t make it because, hello, work. And if you really need it, I will share the half-eaten chocolate bar I have hidden in the bottom of my purse. Eating chocolate is something of a hobby of mine…



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