“Why do you think you and Dad are still together?”
Sandwich Child asked me that question last year. For her marriage and family psychology course at Wagner College, she was required to interview both parents.
After I told her my theory about love and respect, which I blogged about here, I explained how important it is to support your spouse’s avocation(s). Though I’ve had a bit of a learning curve with this skill, Tony Bear has always been a natural.
No matter what dream I pursue, Tony is my biggest cheerleader.
For the record, I’ve dreamed lots of dreams:
- Aerobics instructor: For 12 years I taught group fitness. For a few of them, I thought, “Maybe I’ll make it big and have my own ESPN show some day.” Didn’t happen.
- Excel sales representative: I blogged about my Excel experience here. For a year or so I thought, “Maybe I’ll hit the big-time in Excel like Paul what’s-his-name.” Didn’t happen.
- Hooker: Make that, RUG-hooker. One of my hobbies is traditional American rughooking. You can read about the origin of the craft here.
For a season of my life, I was a fantastic hooker.
Almost from the start, I was quite talented at hooking—design and technique. Even so, I had no ambition to be a celebrity within the craft. I merely wanted to create lots of gorgeous art. And I did. Below is a picture of my favorite project: a 7-foot long runner featuring the footprints of my family. I spent 500 hours hooking this, mostly while watching Disney movies with the kids.
- Softball player: Whereas Tony Bear played ball all his life, I came to softball in my mid-40s. To prevent a forfeit one afternoon, I volunteered to play on Tony and First Born’s co-ed team. I had so much fun (plus I wasn’t half-bad), I joined the team the following year and I’ve played ever since. Tony says I get better every year.
- Writer: When it comes to the writing I do, Tony is my biggest fan. Almost every week he shares my blog posts on his Facebook wall. And, he’s always suggesting places to pitch my pieces. “You should send some of your stuff to Oprah!” And, “Kobe Bryant founded a company to tell stories through movies and books. You should contact him.”
Tony Bear has always been a pro at spousal support. Me? Not so much.
Though I’ve always supported Tony’s number-one passion, officiating football, for a while there, I had a problem with his number-two passion.
For a season of his life, Tony was a serious triathlete.
His very first Sprint-Splash-and-Spin hooked him big-time. Soon he made a dozen triathlete friends. In time, he wanted a better bike. And a wet suit. Then the race distances grew longer. And further away.
In 2003, he competed in his first Iron Man competition in Lake Placid, New York. Later, he flew to the Southern Hemisphere for Iron Man Brazil. For variety, he ran the Boston Marathon.
The kids loved attending Tony’s races. Their favorite part was crossing the finish line with him.
But to me, packing up the three of them with all their gear and Tony with all of his was a huge pain in the butt.
Fairly quickly, I found myself resenting the time he spent away from the kids and me.
Actually, I was very fortunate. Since Tony Bear operates his own business, and his mother was his office manager at the time, he often trained during business hours. Even so,
I found myself becoming passive-aggressive. And snarky.
“Must be nice to go to the beach for the weekend to compete,” and “Sorry, we ate dinner without you,” And, “Your bike (wet suit, race entry fee, flight to a race, etc.) cost how much?”
And then one day as I watched a Disney movie with the kids, a random thought floated into my brain:
What if Tony Bear asked me to give up something I love, maybe rughooking, because he resented the time (or money) involved?
I would be devastated. How could he ask me to relinquish something he knew I enjoyed? Something that made my life so much richer?
The perspective I gained in that moment brought an immediate end to my animosity toward his hobby.
Once I relinquished my bitter attitude, I stopped obsessing about what his hobby “took” from me and began to recognize what his hobby “gave” to him and our whole family.
The decrease in stress from exercise made him a happier husband and father. His regular workouts were good for his health. During that time, because he shaved his legs to decrease drag, they were silky smooth (Please, do not tell him I told you that!). His triathlete friends weren’t just his friends, they were our friends too.
Not long after my epiphany, as Tony’s involvement with officiating football increased, his triathlon activities decreased. Hmmm….
“Add that to your list of marriage advice from Mom, Sweetie,” I told Sandwich Child, “enthusiastic support of your spouse’s hobbies.”
If you need some cheer in your life, here’s a hoot of a video by a super-cute couple: