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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Pursuits of pleasure

Posted: 06 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

Is having a hobby a thing of the past, asks this enthusiastic hobbyist.

I ASKED some young girls the other day what their hobby was, and found it humorous when they asked me instead, "What is that?", like it might be a gadget.

The Oxford dictionary defines "hobby" as an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure. Key words here: "done regularly", "in one's leisure time" and "for pleasure". In today's age, we hear about "ambition" but rarely enough on "hobby".

We seem to be compelled to fill our days with so much that we are either sighing, panting or holding our breath, and often without being aware of it.

Common expressions on this unpopular conversational topic include "Hobby?", "Who has time for that?", "Why grow it if you can buy it?", "Don't waste time on it if it doesn't bring you income or save you money" and "Will it count in your curriculum vitae?"

How does one explain the joy of indulging in an activity one loves?

A hobby may consume you momentarily but never numb you. It enchants you but doesn't bewitch you. It draws you to discover more and more about it by devoting time to research on the Internet, looking up books and drawing on the knowledge of so many others.

It is very circular in nature. A hobby has no beginning and no end; seamless in the way it unfolds, refolds, tucked away or re-created. It generates sparks in your mind and lights up your eyes as the wonders of the hobby unfold.

It doesn't need to be perfect but appears to perfect me in character.

As for me, it's the joy of watching a seed sprout and showing of its first leaves. If you don't believe me, try your hand at planting some cherry tomatoes and tell me a smile doesn't appear when you see the seeds sprouting.

For me, a hobby is also seeing old unwanted tiles turned into mini-masterpieces that sit in various places in our home.

For my hubby, it's turning wood and recycled material into furniture that fits right into our home — coffee tables, storage trunks, swings, see saws and such. He talks about screws, wood, finishing and is happy creating woodwork, and is not even bothered with the sawdust floating around like a million unseen dreams.

His projects are met with enthusiasm from my daughters and me, who needless to say feed him with more ideas!

The girls lending their father a hand with his woodwork project.

The girls lending their father a hand with his woodwork project.

Increasing attention skills, motor skills, planning, organising, creating, task completion, measuring, costing, ability to evaluate and correct, making inferences, making deductions, sapping in new information, ability to try alternative ways of doing something, taking risks, reading, researching, recycling, re-using, doing a job well for the sake of doing it well, glowing in your own work (and not having to Facebook it would be a plus point), are only some of the skills we hone through pursuing a hobby.

Let me not start with the emotional and psychological health effects it has on us too.

When our children were toddlers, we always included them in all our hobbies and enticed them to join us in baking, painting, building, crafting etc. How nice it was that they hardly ever said "No" to our invitations. They learnt heaps and till today we treasure the memories we made together.

As they grow up, our invitations to pursue an activity are sometimes greeted with mixed feelings from our daughters: "Yeah, maybe, but later","Yes, love to but I am going to paint my own picture" or "Yes, but can I design my own mosaic please?"

Sometimes, it is a "Hey mummy, can you help me with this project. I want to make an earring holder", and sometimes, it's a downright "Oh, I just want to read in the hammock." You get the picture.

Over time, we have learnt that they sometimes learn by observing us and we don't have to be hamsters on a wheel busying their schedules so that "they are learning something educational". Parents be warned: Children, too, have another set of eyes behind their head.

When we indulge in our hobbies, we sometimes find the girls sitting around where we are working, placing a tile or two, asking questions about nails, grout or why a weed is called a weed and why it's prettier than my chilli plant. We also get our fair share of comments. Ah-hem!

I think about our family life often, and if our children are being nurtured to be the best that they can be – each with a unique character, interests and desires. In all this reflecting, time never stops and my children are growing and continually showing us their feathers.

Sometimes, it is a passing season of being excited at trying their hands at something like: "Mummy, I need a garden patch for my tomatoes, but no, you can eat each one of them, I don't care much for them" or "Hey daddy, can we paint that shelf. Since it's going in our room it needs some flowers on it" .

Their interest in some hobbies often seem fleeting, like a slight gust of wind against my skin, giving me a nice fuzzy feeling even if it is only for a while.

With other interests, I notice a continual interest – "Hey mummy, check out this story I wrote. I think so and so will like it", "Do you think this makes a good song? You must read this Shakespeare collection (abridged versions of course). I have arranged them for you from least tragic to most tragic!", "Hey daddy. See what we built for the dolls" or "Mummy, do you like these drawings ... and the way I drew the eyeballs and her eyelashes?"

It is in these simple verbal and tangible exchanges that I draw my clues on where their heart and interests lie. As I try to understand the changing weather on what enchants them, I see in them two distinct beautiful girls who are enjoying the journey of defining themselves, each with her own talent, each with her own pursuits yet loving the company of each other and being able to delight in each other's pursuits. I am as sure as the sun shines in the morning that more is to come in our journey as a family.

What I love most is that I have two daughters who know not what boredom is or profess it. I pray that they will continue to delight in enjoying little things in life that bring them joy and bring joy to others. I pray that their minds remain inquisitive, curious, continuously learning, and that in it all, they find the joyful confidence of knowing who they are and never needing the approval of others.

I pray that they will realise that they do have hobbies, and that they will keep enjoying and growing through them. Perhaps, we will finish a full mosaic project or two together. Someday.

We want to hear about your different family experiences, wherever you may live. Parentpost is a new column to share how you are bringing up your children in different environments and cultures, as well as the insights you have gained. Please e-mail stories (800–1,000 words) with photographs in high resolution to Articles will be edited for clarity and to accommodate space constraints.


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