Last Saturday at PAX in Seattle, geeklings and parents alike gathered to talk about raising geeks. This year was a first for GeekDad and GeekMom as we included offspring on the panel. I was pleased to have my two oldest daughters among them. Every year we run out of time for questions, so this year we buckled down as a team and kept our introductions to a minimum and focused on just taking questions from the audience. Guess what… we still ran out of time.
One of the things I enjoy about sitting on geek parenting panels is the variety of questions we face. This year we were asked about everything from how to encourage children to be bilingual when they see it as embarrassing to speak anything other than English, to how much screen time is good for kids. This year we had an especially good conversation on cyberbullying which has been beautifully outlined by Kelly Knox over at GeekMom.
One question which comes up every time we do these panels is how to raise children to love the things we do without stifling them or causing them to rebel against our geekiness. It’s a great question, and one to which geeks are particularly sensitive.
After all, many of us experienced pressure to be different than we are. We were told that somehow we weren’t worth as much because of the things we enjoy. That kind of stuff hurts. It hurt then, and, for many of us, it still resonates today, but we were also the tough ones. We were the ones who hung in there and stuck with our passions, and that has made us all the more fanatical about the things we like.
Suddenly, when we hold an infant in our arms, we find ourselves desperately hoping that they will enjoy what we enjoy. We want to pour into them all the passion we have for the things we love, and we want them to accept us as we are. It can be a scary moment. Yet, most geeks recognize the inherent danger in such thinking. We might just become the kind of people who hurt us, the kind who demand conformity to their loves and values. We may create a backlash against our geeky nature in them.
It was a joy to watch my eleven year old daughter, Nora, reassure a parent that they can be passionate about what they like with their kids as long as they are just as passionate and invested in the things their kids decide to make their own. The trick, she said, is to make sure we invest as heavily in their individual geeky traits as we do in our own.
As a dad, that was the best moment of my weekend. The second best? My kids discovering Pathfinder. They’re hooked, and they, plus my wife and my six-year-old, now have an adventuring party. We have decided it’s what we do on Friday nights. Geeky kids? Mission accomplished.