PAX Prime: How to Raise Happy Geeks

Panelist’s-eye view of the audience at the Raising the Next Generation of Geeks panel. (Photo Kay Moore)

At PAX Prime 2013 last weekend in Seattle, GeekMoms and GeekDads joined together to present Raising the Next Generation of Geeks, enhanced by the presence of four geek offspring: the product, proof, and witnesses to our geek parenting practices. They formed a beautiful and gratifying addition to the parental voices offered to our geek audience.

Our panel kept intros to a short statement and saved as much time as possible for Q&A discussion and prizes awarded to participants in our photo scavenger hunt and  in other activities. The panel was composed of:

Jonathan Liu, GeekDad
Erik Weck, GeekDad
Rael Dornfest, GeekDad
Kay Moore, GeekMom
Kelly Knox, GeekMom
Three geek teens, 14, 13, and 11 years old
Rebecca Moore, Geek Offspring, 21 years old

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While the PAX audience asked a variety of questions focusing on both the parents’ and the kids’ point of view, here I will summarize just the topics that discuss how to geekify your kids and family without resorting to specific book, game, or app recommendations, which we will offer in later posts.

Q1: Rebellion is almost automatic. How can we prevent anti-geek rebellion in our kids?

A: Rebecca Moore (21). I was introduced to all sorts of geeky things by my parents but they never really pushed me into them. When I was little, we had just one or two sessions of Dungeons & Dragons on a vacation trip and then I took the D&D book and attempted to run a game with my friends at elementary school… which ended disastrously. But D&D is great and I gradually got to play successfully. So don’t try to push them into anything but introduce them to as wide a range of things as you can. My parents aren’t into my chosen career, animation, but I love art and animation. We go to things like comic book exhibits and museums together. Show your children a breadth of things and then when they find what they love, reflect them back into the things that you love too and you can share those things together.

A: Nora (11). It isn’t just a one-way process. Learn what the kids like, don’t just push what you like. If there’s a concert that your daughter wants to go to with music that she likes, you should go too and give it a try. That’s one way to build your relationship.

Q2: How do we blend a geek and non-geek couple into a family?

A: Erik. Let’s look at Simon Pegg’s definition of geek. To paraphrase, it’s “to be proudly passionate about something.” And in that way we may all be geeks. Here at PAX, we are passionate and possibly somewhat obsessive about our pastimes. But this is true about other non–geek lifestyles or hobbies, like Martha Stewart followers. And there are good aspects and bad aspects in either community.

A: Kay. There is a behavioral aspect to the typical geek description, like when you should have stopped playing at 2 or 3 a.m. but you didn’t. Or you should have only played two or three times a week but you played five or six. This might not be video games  or board games but sports or other activities, as it was for me in college with recreational sports. This brings up an addictive or compulsive aspect that is common to many of us in the geek community. So if that’s not the case in a geek/non-geek marriage, then you probably don’t have issues. If it does reach that point, then you have to learn how to modify behaviors. And modifying behaviors is very difficult for many of us geeks.

A: Rael. My wife is non-geek. She’s always seen me geek out over games, but recently I pegged out over baseball, and she realized that I learn everything I can, as fast as I can, about everything that grabs my interest. She began to wish she could be as immersed in new topics and learn as deeply as quickly. Right now, my son does it with video games, and my daughter with bugs and snails.

Q3: How can we bridge the generation gap between parent and child geek?

A: Rael. We cannot predict the future, so just be true to what you enjoy and believe, and to what your kids enjoy and need. Stay engaged with your kids. The gap is not really generational, it is more absence of some kind. Sharing together will mend the gap. Be responsive and flexible.

A: Nora (11). Remember to honor your child’s interests as well as hoping your child will pick up your interests.

Those were our questions covering “geekifying the family,” including wisdom from the geeklings. We have related posts from GeekMoms at PAX and DragonCon, or check the @GeekMomBlog twitter feed.

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Kay works with engineers, scientists, and programmers as a writer and editor, which she prefers over working with muggles. When sufficiently caffeinated, she geeks out over words, communication, biology, needlework, and recreational sports. And, of course, chocolate. Her children _may_ have been exposed to D&D at a too-young age, but they continue to play happily to this day.