Summer is just around the corner, or for some of you, it’s already here. That means the kids are out of school, and parents are stuck trying to figure out how to keep them entertained all day. The easiest solution is to let them spend endless hours on some kind of electronic device either binging their favorite shows on Netflix or playing hours and hours of mindless app games on your phone or tablet. Of, course, that’s probably not the best use of their time. So what do you do to keep the kids entertained and engaged through the summer months?
This is Lucy. If she looks excited in this picture, it’s because she is extremely excited. In this picture she is riding the train, heading downtown to see Marvel Universe Live, and she cannot wait. More than any of our other kids, Lucy has always marched to her own drummer. She decides what she likes and what she is into based on, well, what she likes. And she loves Thor. She is obsessed with Thor. He is by far her favorite super hero. She has a birthday coming up, and we had the opportunity to bring her to Marvel Universe Live, which is a large stunt show based on characters from Marvel Comics. We thought she would really enjoy it. And boy, did she.
Salt Lake Comic Con is coming up in a week’s time, and I am getting excited. One of the things that I am really looking forward to is participating in a panel. I really enjoy attending the different panels and feel like they are always interesting and informative, and I am hoping that I’ll have something interesting to add when I am one of the panelists, instead of just sitting in the audience. My panel is next Friday night at 6 pm in room 255E, and the topic is Disabilities in Pop Culture. I wanted to take an opportunity to explain why I wanted to be on this panel.
7 years ago, almost to the day, we found out that our newest addition, Eliza, had a hearing loss. We didn’t really know what that would mean for us. The audiologist let us know that it was a permanent loss, and that it was a mild to moderate loss, nothing that hearing aids wouldn’t be able to help. Further tests revealed that it was a particular type of hearing loss that was progressive, meaning it could, probably would, get worse with time. Eventually, she may even lose all of her hearing. This changed our whole world. We had never even considered that our kids would be born with a hearing loss. It didn’t run in either of our families, so it was completely unexpected. It also led to more questions. Our oldest child, Johnny, was almost 2 at the time, and wasn’t talking at all. He had previously mimicked sounds, but lately, that had stopped. It seemed like he was going backward. We took him in to get him tested, and sure enough, he also had a hearing loss, only his had progressed past the mild to moderate phase. His was a severe hearing loss, which is a fancy way of saying he was deaf. In a matter of months, in my mind, I had gone from having 2 normal kids to having kids who were “hearing impaired.” It was an adjustment, to say the least, but eventually we fooled ourselves into believing that we had it figured out.
When our fourth child came along, Lucy would join her older brother and sister as our third deaf child. With her, we decided to have some genetic testing done. That’s when we found out that my wife and I each carried a recessive gene and passed it down to our kids. They said it was a mutated gene. Wait…did you say mutated? Like, our kids were mutants? Like the X-Men? I guess as a geek, I relate to the world in geeky terms. All of a sudden, my kids’ hearing loss wasn’t a disability. It was a super power, a gift.
In a lot of ways, having a deaf child is a lot like having a mutant child in the Marvel Universe. The deaf culture is not well understood by the hearing world. Hearing doctors and audiologists and scientists are always looking for ways to cure the deaf population, while the Deaf (notice the capital “D”) Community doesn’t see a need to be “cured.” Many are proud to be deaf and to be part of that community and part of that history and part of that culture. A lot of hearing people don’t know how to react around deaf people. Do they pity them? Avoid them? How do they interact with them? Usually, discomfort leads to avoidance. My kids even go to a special school for deaf kids with other deaf kids speaking their own language and learning how to be proud of who they are. My kids are real, live X-Men. Fortunately, right now, they are not hunted down and put into concentration camps, but many are still forced to conform to the hearing world, and if you study Deaf History at all, it’s not hard to find examples of hearing oppression that is not dissimilar to concentration camps.
The world is changing, though. We are viewing disabilities in a whole new way, and a lot of that comes from geek culture that has now become mainstream. Maybe it’s because geeks understand what it feels like to be different, to be an outsider, so it leads us to be more tolerant. We understand to value what people can bring to the table, instead of only seeing what they can’t. In any case, I feel like we geeks are paving the way for more acceptance of people of all abilities. Which is awesome. My kids can look at a lot of pop culture and see people who succeeding who are different. Then they see they can do anything as well. That’s why this topic is important to me. I want my kids to look at a world full of heroes who are doing amazing things, whether they can see, or hear, or walk or whatever. Seeing those kinds of characters, like a Matt Murdock, like a Geordi LaForge, like a Barbara Gordon, it inspires my kids to reach for anything and know that really can do and be what they want. It makes me proud and happy to be raising my own “gifted youngsters” and to see the amazing things they’ll do.
What do you think? Who are some of the characters in geek culture who have had to overcome extra obstacles? Let us know in the comments either here, or in our Facebook page.
Can you bring your kids to the convention? It seems to be a question that comes up every time that Salt Lake Comic Con has an event, whether it be Fan X or the actual Comic Con. People who haven’t been before, or people who have never brought their kids before, they all wonder if this event is appropriate for them to bring their little ones. The short and easy answer is yes. The folks at Comic Con seem to realize that we are a pretty family friendly market, and so they try to make their convention as family friendly as possible. It’s really a tough task, when you think about it. On one hand they have to provide enough entertainment and things for adults, while at the same time providing some great things for the kiddos. They seem to improve their balance here with each convention.
If you have never been to the convention with your kids, have no fear, your friendly neighborhood Geeky Mormon is here to help. I have five little ones of my own, which means we are a traveling circus wherever we go. I have also brought them to every convention for at least one day since the first Fan X. That means I know of which I speak, when I speak about bringing kids. We have made our fair share of mistakes along the way, but hopefully you can learn from those mistakes and end up having a smooth and wonderful time at the upcoming Salt Lake Comic Con. Here are 10 tips my wife and I have learned along the way. Hopefully you will find some of them helpful.
1. Bring Snacks and Water
I cannot emphasize enough how important this tip is. Kids get hungry a lot quicker than adults. They are constantly going and using energy and constantly need that energy refilled. At Salt Lake Comic Con, the food is typical of most conventions or major events. It is expensive and typically not healthy. You’re not going to find an organic fruit stand in the middle of the vendor floor. It is up to you to bring the snacks you want your kids to eat and provide them. You will save a ton of money this way, and ensure your kids are eating what you want them to eat, whether that’s organic fruit, or granola bars, or crackers or whatever. At this point, I should point out that the official rule at the Salt Palace is no outside food or drinks. I personally have had no issue with bringing in our own snacks for the kids. I think for the most part, anyone checking bags takes a look at my wife and I loaded down with our 5 little monsters, and they take pity on us. Truth is, I have heard the same from quite a few people with kids- no issues with bringing in food. Water bottles are a must, as well. It is easy to get dehydrated, so bring plenty of fluids, or at least bottles to hold water. They have drinking fountains throughout the convention center to refill the bottles. Much less expensive than buying a water bottle.
2. Plan for Crowds
Each year, Salt Lake Comic Con gets bigger than the year before. The stars and names seem to get bigger, drawing a larger crowd. This year should no different with the likes of Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan and Jenna Coleman appearing at the con. The crowds are going to be huge. Saturday will probably be a record-setting day. There may even be times where they have to stop letting people in. It has happened before. You need to be aware of this and plan for it. Thursdays are typically the day we bring our kids, because they are the least crowded. The important thing to note in that sentence is I said “least crowded.” This is important because “least crowded” is not the same as not crowded. Each day is crowded, so you need to be prepared. For example, we don’t bring our giant double stroller. We bring our umbrella stroller and kid leashes (They’re Mickey Mouse, so we call them “Mickey Hugs.” The kids love them). This makes it easier for us to navigate the vendor floor and there hallways. Whatever considerations you might need to make, make them. It will be crowded. You have been warned.
3. Plan a Budget
There will be plenty for you to spend your money on in the vendor area. Plenty to attract your children too. Be prepared for it. We normally set a budget for the 3 days and bring it in cash so we can monitor how much we have and how much we have spent. If your budget is high, and you don’t feel comfortable carrying cash around, then don’t, but it works for us. The budget is the important part. Your kids will see plenty that they want to buy, whether it’s a cool toy or a picture or food or even face painting. Having a set budget makes it easier to limit what you buy and prevents you from breaking the bank on this one event. My kids expect some kind of print from every show. I shop Artist Alley to find some great prints, and typically the prices are pretty reasonable. Whatever it is you want to get the kids, having a budget will only benefit you.
4. Plan Breaks
Kids cannot go at the same pace for the same amount of time as adults can. They will get worn out. Plan in some times in your schedule to sit down and have a break with the kids. There are typically places you can find to sit down and maybe break out the snacks and water and just sit and eat and enjoy the people watching. Or we have gone into the board game area and picked a family friendly game to try out and sat and played for a few minutes. Just find some quiet place to sit and take a breather. You will thank yourself later.
5. Line Management
Did you know that most kids don’t like waiting in lines? It’s true. You want to know how I know that? It’s because most adults hate waiting in lines. We do it and suffer through because we know that the payoff at the end is worth it. Kids don’t always make that connection, depending on their ages. We try to avoid waiting in a lot of lines with kids. If you are waiting for an autograph, and you have traveled to the con with at least one other adult, maybe have one adult wait and get the autograph, while the other finds another, more kid friendly activity. Find ways to have one person wait, while the other entertains the kids.
6. Meeting Cosplayers
Comic Con can be a magical place for kids, as they walk down the corridors and pass their favorite heroes. That has to be pretty amazing for them. Take advantage of the opportunity. Most Cosplayers are very friendly and don’t mind stopping for a photo. Make sure to always ask politely first, and try to find a good place to take the picture that is out-of-the-way. I always try to pay them a sincere compliment on their costume and thank them for the picture. The kids will think it’s cool to have their picture with Thor or Spider-Man or whatever. This is a great opportunity.
7. Plan Kid Friendly Activities
As you plan out your time at the con with kids, make sure you plan in some activities that the kids will really enjoy, and avoid taking them to some that are not geared toward kids. Salt Lake Comic Con makes this easy with their KidCon. This is a section of the con that is geared to the little ones at the show. There is always something going on in the KidCon for the kids, so check this area out, and you may come back a few times to keep the kids entertained. This year, it looks like they are putting it in its own room, apart from the actual vendor floor. I am interested to see if this is an improvement, or not. I have a feeling that this makes sense and will be a good move.
8. Manage Expectations
There are so many great things going on at this year’s Comic Con, that there is now way that you will see it all, anyway. With kids, you will see even less. You need to know that before hand and have those expectations. When I bring my kids on Thursday, I don’t know how much of what I want to see, like a lot of the panels, I will get to see with my kids, so I expect that for Thursday, and plan to see and do more on Friday and Saturday. Don’t go in and expect to see everything you want. Kids will slow you down, it’s just how it works. If you go into it and expect to see everything you would normally see, you will end up frustrated and disappointed. If you manage that expectation, then the kids will have fun, and you will too, and make some great memories.
9. Know your Kids and their Limits
Every kid is different, so you need to know your kids and what they can and can’t do. You need to know whether they can sit through a lot of long panels or if they can’t. You need to know if they can wait in a long line, or if they can’t. You need to know if they can go to the con all 3 days from open to close, or if they can’t. No one on any of the Facebook pages or threads or Twitter or whatever will be able to tell you what your kids limits are. That being said, you need to know those limits and plan accordingly. I know my kids won’t sit through most of the panels I want to go to, so I don’t bring them to panels. I also know that going for part of one day is about all my kids can handle, so that’s our limit.
10. Have Fun!
This is the most important thing you can do. Chances are, you are going to Salt Lake Comic Con because it represents something that is important to you. Chances are, you want your kids to feel the same way. You want them to be the next generation of geeks. Who doesn’t want that? The best way to accomplish that is to get them involved in things like comic con, and to make sure they have a great time doing it. Those are memories that will last a lifetime. That really is the most important thing for your kids. So, just have fun!
So, what are your plans for Salt Lake Comic Con? Are you going? Are you bringing kids? Are there any tips you would share that i left off the list? Let me know in the comments or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love to hear from you.
When my first child was born, it was boy, and I rejoiced. Having a boy meant that I could buy all the cool toys I really wanted and pretend they were for him. I remember one of the first toys we got him was a Spider-Man teether. It was a little Spider-Man figure and his hands were flat and rubbery for chewing on. He loved it, and I loved that it was something geeky. I have always wanted my kids to be geeks like me, and chances are they will be, at least in the beginning. It was important to me that I could pass on some level of appreciation for these kinds of things. It was also important that they chose what they would be into, and I wouldn’t force them into liking any one show or franchise or character. I felt like I was just there to expose them to this stuff, and I could let them decide what they liked, and we could see what…ok, this is not entirely true. In the beginning, I really tried to shape them and mold them into little versions of me.
Isn’t that what being a parent is about? Or at least the perception of being a parent is about that. The stereotypical dad who forces his kid into sports so he can relive his glory days through his child. Or maybe the musician who “encourages” their children to play an instrument and learn music and be just like them. Or the math teacher who tortures his children by teaching them math. That is no fun for anyone. Ever. (I’m sorry to the people who have been brainwashed into thinking math is fun. I don’t mean to offend you). It seems like all sorts of people do this with their kids when they become parents. Normal, easy-going people become overbearing, controlling parents. It’s just the way of things.
I really wanted my first son to be into Thor. We have Scandinavian roots, and my son was blond-haired and blue-eyed, so I thought Thor would be perfect. He disagreed. Never really got into Thor. Never really liked him. Instead he went through a couple of different stages of superheroes, starting with Batman (who I think is everywhere, so a lot of little boys start there), then moved on to Green Lantern, before finally settling on the Flash. I have no idea why, except he thought the Flash was really cool because he could run so fast. I tried the Thor thing next with my second son. Still no luck. Instead, he latched onto Superman, and he hasn’t let go. I couldn’t argue with his choice. Superman has always been my favorite, so I let it go. I tried to show my girls some of the strong female characters out there superhero wise, like Wonder Woman and Batgirl. My oldest daughter loves Wonder Woman, and my youngest daughter loves Batgirl. She even thinks she’s Batgirl, which is usually fine, except she’s two, so sneaking out in the middle of the night to fight crime makes me a little nervous, but
she’s pretty good at it. My middle girl, on the other hand? Well, she likes Thor. Likes may not be a strong enough word. We are talking an obsession with Thor that has not been seen since the days of Adventures in Babysitting. The point is, in the end, I couldn’t control what any of my kids liked. They picked their superheroes all on their own. And it has been that way with everything. I tried to talk my oldest into watching Star Wars 100 times, and it never worked. One day, he decided he needed to watch the movies on his own, and he liked them quite a bit. The same thin happened with Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. One day this summer, he decided he wanted to check them out, and now they are his favorite movies.
In the end, I have learned that nothing can be forced. Your kids are going to like what they like, and it is out of your control, for the most part. I think all we can really do as parents is find really good stuff to expose them to, try to limit some of the crap, and then support and encourage the stuff they end up liking. They’re going to enjoy the stuff you enjoy a lot more if they don’t feel forced into it. They’ll feel like it was their choice.
The most important thing I have learned as a parent is finding out what your kids enjoy and then enjoying it with them. There really is nothing that matters more than that. I didn’t always have that as a kid, for various reasons. I don’t blame my parents. They were doing the best they knew how. Mostly, as I got into some of the things I got into, they just thought I was weird, and they didn’t get it. I wish they had tried to, and I don’t want my kids to feel that way. As they grow up and develop their own personalities and things come out, they will start getting into things I don’t know, like Skylanders. I look forward to taking the time to get to know that stuff. That will count for a lot, I think. Being a geeky parent, I know what it’s like not fitting in. Every geek has experienced it, and many of us have experienced it within our own families. I have family members that think this blog I write is just weird and a waste of time. I don’t want my kids to ever feel that way in my house. Whether it’s flying the Millennium Falcon or riding their Firebolt broomstick, it’s all allowed at my house, and they will probably find a mom or a dad who are willing to join them in the run on the Deathstar or in the Quidditch match.
Tell us what you think. What things have your kids gotten into? How have you been able to bond over geeky stuff? Leave us a comment below or send me your feedback directly to email@example.com.