My family and I spent last weekend in a small village in northwest Ireland with my goddaughter and her family while we marked her second birthday. It was a kid-filled affair, as you’d expect, as well as a few expectant parents, so when her father – who has been my best friend since we were thirteen – and I took a walk down to the shops for ice cream, we ended up discussing how things have changed, over the past two years for him and seven months for me.
There are a lot of intangibles, of course – it’s absolutely impossible to quantify the attachment and love I have for the gooey, noisy, Cookie Monster loving creature who has taken over my house; and there are a lot of obvious ones – it’s not unusual for my wife and I to be exhausted at nine p.m., it takes an extra forty minutes to get ready to leave the house in the mornings, schedules and shopping lists are completely upside down and at least once a week I sit in work and wonder if I’m imagining the smell of formula or does everyone else get it too? But since my friend was wearing a Think Geek shirt with a Unix joke on it, it inspired me to come up with a list of how things change when you go from Geek to Geek Dad. So in no particular order…
Chances are you’ve had the conversation “What are you driving?” or “what cellphone/PDA/laptop/games console/multitool do you have?” – it’s always a good icebreaker if you find yourself surrounded by other men you don’t know very well. (Chances are there are GeekMoms making derisive comments about um… anatomical comparison contests. Bear with us, ladies.) Nowadays it’s “what are you pushing?”
“We’ve got the Graco MultiSport 250. Full travel system.”
“We had the MulitSport 125 on our first, but we switched to the Bugaboo last year.”
“What’s the suspension like on that?”
“Not as good as the Graco, but it’s got a better recline function. She gets to sleep faster in it.”
I’ve actually had this conversation.
TV and Movies
There’s a gradual shift in this, where you go from forming theories on the motives of the Dharma Initiative to mentally compiling wishlists on which of the Transformers you want to see in the next movie to wondering why Tigger wants suspenders when he doesn’t wear pants to speculating on the nature of the relationship between Handy Manny and Kelly who runs the hardware store. I’m not allowed do the last one anymore, but I have established that Tigger doesn’t wear pants because he has no suspenders to hold them up.
What’s the most important gadget in your house? Yeah, I would have said my laptop too. These days it’s the DVR. Our mini-geek didn’t always sleep well, and sometimes still doesn’t, so the ability to hit pause when a crying jag coincided with a revelation about the Final Five Cylons was nothing short of miraculous. Making TV work to our schedule (or more accurately his) by having programs start fifteen minutes later or run at 1.3 speed during the dull bits may be the only reason we’ve managed to watch anything together that wasn’t on Playhouse Disney.
Household Gadgets, Part Deux
Got an iPhone? Get one. Seriously. Thank me later. No, I’m not being paid by Apple but quite honestly I can’t understand why any man, or especially any GeekDad could possibly scoff at the idea of owning one, or at least a similarly capable device. Since I got one about a month before becoming a father I’ve used it to get in touch with my boss the morning my wife went into labour (e-mail), updating Facebook so I didn’t have to answer a hundred ‘has the baby come yet?’ texts per hour (I whittled it down to two – her mum and mine), photographing my five-minute old son and posting said photos almost immediately, entertaining said son with the Sesame Street YouTube channel (though not while he was five minutes old) and occasionally keeping myself amused outside Mother-and-Baby rooms in shopping centres. Apparently I can call people, too.
I’ve never, ever met a minimalist geek. Despite the cold, practical – dare I say it – logical demeanour that our fictional touchstones present we are, in my experience sentimental, nostalgic pack-rats, and let’s face it – we love stuff. In clearing the room that would become our son’s nursery there were some hard decisions to be made about what could stay and what had to go. It didn’t take long before the ‘for the kids’ excuse was trotted out as a reason for something to go to the attic rather than the charity shop. There were a few obvious ones which were never even on the table to go out (my grandfather’s typewriter and my father’s Air Force issue watch to name but two), but the ‘in case he wants it’ excuse saved some of the more questionable geek texts from my wife’s bookshelf, some of my old toys and a ‘Boys Own Handbook’ (which I want to talk about seperately some time) that is hopelessly out of date but that taught me some of the core ‘boy’ skills that I want to hand down. When the next kid comes along the ‘keep it for him/her’ conversation may result in a visible buckle in the bathroom ceiling from the weight above.
Time Isn’t On My Side
Let me be clear – I love my son like crazy. I look at the picture of him on my iPhone’s home screen at a conservative estimate about thirty times a day and I honestly couldn’t tell you just what a thrill it is for me to get home from work before his bedtime. And my wife is immensely understanding when my friends come to town or about work socials (and I try to do the same for her). But man, a few hours of babysitting goes a long way. After ambushing my in-laws so we could sneak of to ‘Star Trek’ a few weeks ago, I think we sat in the car for ten minutes and talked about how quiet it was for about fifteen minutes. Neither of us can wait until he’s old enough to bring him to ‘Transformers 4′ or ‘Star Trek: The Wrath of Shatner’ or whatever’s showing once his attention span grows to be able to take a ninety minute film without a sugar-induced coma – but let’s just say there’s a reason cartoons are only seven minutes long. Oh, and little kids shout when they’re bored – you don’t want to be that guy in the movie theater, do you? And besides – sometimes you just gotta be husband and wife (or whatever your domestic arrangement is) in public for a while.
It’s Time to Share
I never really grew out of toys – gifts from my wife over the past two years have included a pocket version of ‘Guitar Hero’, a lightsaber, a handful of Transformers and a whole lot of Lego. Of course, over the past seven months – actually longer; I started shopping basically as soon as the docs gave us an all clear on the pregnancy – the balance of toys has shifted heavily in my son’s favour, which of course is how it should be. Now, I’ve never been one for insisting that everything stay mint, but I’m becoming increasingly aware that the day is coming when the model Corvette on my bookshelf is going to be removed from it’s plinth while I’m at work and taken for a test-drive with a slightly-too-big Boba Fett/Tigger/Marc-Andre Fleury action figure jammed into the driver seat. On the other hand, more toys means more toystore visits – and if that’s not a great way to spend a Saturday, I don’t know what is.
We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday
Travelling with a kid, even on a relatively short road trip is a logistical exercise that feels like it should have ‘Operation: Insert Codeword Here’ stamped on all your luggage and travel gadgets, but the upside is the inbuilt excuse to visit geeky shrines and ‘educational’ sites that, darn it, are just plain fun to knowledge junkies. I think us geeks are pre-disposed to become the typical “Hey kids, the world’s largest ball of twine is just a two-hour detour! Who’s in?” type fathers, and as such we wind up with destination wishlists – cities, attractions, museums – anything that’s more fun with a kid. My own visit/revisit list includes Camp Nou, the soon-to-be Consol Energy Center (okay, those two aren’t so geeky), Cité Sciences and every natural history museum I’ve ever seen.
Arise, My Young Apprentice
There’s competition among friends and family to influence my son’s choice of sports team (my brother has leapt ahead by buying him a Manchester United jersey). My wife is trying to make sure he grows up a non-fussy eater and sleeper. I’m going to be trying to keep him geeky. Whether that’s exposing him to ‘children’s music’ by They Might Be Giants and Jonathan Coulton (come on, some of that’s kids’ music, right?), wondering if it’s too early to show him the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy (which at this point is basically just rewatching it, but with him in the room) or doing the Christmas and birthday shopping on thinkgeek.com, it’s my civic duty to make sure he learns that books and movies with dragons and planets and things are awesome, Adam Savage is a great role model, and Trivial Pursuit is a sport. To quote NPR – this I believe.
Liveblogging the Conception
Finally, as you become a geeky dad you’ll want to show off your trial-sized troublemaker. You’ll probably find you get the urge to fill the online community with blog entries, tweets, Flickr streams, Facebook updates and YouTube clips.
Wait, we already do that.