How to make a geek: Nurture nerdiness
It doesn't take a geek to raise a geek, but it sure helps. My elder daughter will turn 21 this year, and as she reaches the final gateway to adulthood (woohoo, booze!), it's safe to say that just as surely as she got my genes -- sorry about that terrible eyesight, kid -- she also inherited my geekiness. I couldn't be more proud.
You can't tell from this pic, but this kid is going to grow up geeky.
Really, she never had much of a chance of ending up any other way. Geekiness is not a genetic condition, but it's hard to grow up in a house where science fiction novels, video games and horror movies are everywhere and not lean toward nerdery. It wasn't intentional; it's not like I baptized her in the murky waters of Dagobah's swamps or forbid her from contact with any kids whose parents didn't have strong opinions about whether Marvel was better than DC. I just did what I thought parents were supposed to do -- share things with her that I thought she would like and let her form her own opinions -- and then let things happen.
Okay, I also named her after a Star Trek character, so I may have been hedging my bets just a little.
It turns out, a lot of the things you're supposed to do for your kids will help them be nerds. For instance, you can't even get out of the hospital with a new baby these days without having the importance of reading to your child hammered into you. Seriously, the clinic I take my younger kid to gives us a free book at every visit and makes me promise to read to her daily. It wasn't pushed quite as hard back in the day, but lucky for my daughter, I read to her every day anyway, and bought her more books than toys. That helped make her a reader, and I made sure that she never ran out of things to read. I also passed along every great book I could remember from my own childhood. Plenty of those books had wizards, or spaceships, or wizards andspaceships in them, so...
Spending time with me usually meant doing something geeky, because that shit suffuses my being. When we played make-believe, our games were about monsters and mutants, not princesses and tea parties. We went to the usual kid's movies, but when we watched non-kid's movies, they were pretty much always science fiction, fantasy or horror (with a few action movies thrown in, of course). Halloween costumes tended toward the fantastical, naturally. In short, she was forged in a geeky crucible, and came out tempered with nerdy goodness.
It wasn't a matter of making a little copy of myself, either. I encouraged her to pursue her own interests, even when they were things that did nothing for me. She fell in love with anime and manga at a very young age, even though I'm at best a casual fan. There were plenty of geeky kids in her martial arts classes, but it wasn't something that I had any interest in. She was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer before I had any idea who Joss Whedon was, at least until "Hush" gave her nightmares and I had to veto the show for a few years. (No harm done -- she returned to it as a teenager and finished the series years before I did.)
Along with music, our other great shared love, some of my best memories with her are geek-related. We saw the Star Wars prequels together, as bad as they turned out to be (she liked them well enough). Her Gameboy got me back into video games. She was there with me for the first few iterations of zombie-movie marathon month. In fact, she was the one who convinced me to give the Dawn of the Dead remake a chance, which turned out all right. When she was a little girl, I gave her the commemorative T-shirt I got for playing on the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour, and then a decade later, when I hadn't played in years, she was the one who got me back into the game when she asked for my help building a deck so that she could beat her friends. These kinds of memories can't be bought, and while I'm sure "regular" parents and children have their own equivalents, I wouldn't trade mine for the world.
Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato. You can also find me on a Denver Comic Con panel on How to Raise a Geek at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 14. See the schedule for more details.