Elisa Casas has always adored collecting vintage clothing. But what makes it even more special now is that when she scours flea markets, antique shows, and garage sales, her 6-year-old daughter, Ruby, is by her side, indulging her own passion for pocketbooks, crinolines, and leopard-print hats. "I try to make each visit short and fun for her," notes Casas, who lives in New York City. "I'll say, 'Whoever spots a stall with vintage clothing first wins!' or 'Let's look for an antique dress for Davina (her doll).'" The outings have turned into a bona fide hobby for Ruby, too, who likes to spend free time at home putting on shows in dress-up outfits created from a treasure chest of clothes, fabrics, and accessories.
"I'll sit happily through the hundredth Powerpuff Girls and bond with Ruby that way," says Casas, "but when she gravitates to my interests, it's thrilling. It adds a whole new dynamic to our relationship."
When most of us think of our hobbies — and sometimes thinking about them is as far as we get — we probably picture either a solitary activity (gardening, for instance) or one that involves adult company (like book clubs or tennis). And we tend to expect our kids to get their kicks on their own or with peers too, as in: You drive your child to a class and then pick her up, or you sit on the sidelines while she's out on the soccer field. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But as exciting as it is when your kid scores the winning goal, it's not a journey that you have taken together. If, instead, you discover an activity you can both enjoy, everyone wins.
"Nothing will bring you together faster than sharing a passion. Your children will feel that they know you more intimately and that they have something that the two of you can share for the rest of your lives," points out Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., child psychiatrist and coauthor of Hyper-Parenting.
Let's face it: If you ask your child point-blank "What's new?" or "How do you feel about such and such?" you are often going to get a shrug or a grunt. But it is in those quiet moments when you are both working toward the same goal that thoughts and connections will rise to the surface. "You can't have quality time without quantity time," notes Dr. Rosenfeld, "because those are the moments when kids open up and speak what's on their minds." These are the times when your child will truly let you in on his concerns and opinions and surprise you with his insights and talents. Here's how to make it happen.