One of the earliest panels I had the privilege of participating on at a Salt Lake Comic Convention event was on geeky parenting. This idea, that we as geeks would like to share what we love, what we are passionate about with the next generation of geeks, and raise them up right. Geeky parenting is all about that. How do we do it? How do we help our kids develop their own loves and passions.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.