Comikaze Expo: Pop Culture and Parenting Panel

Conventions GeekMom
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Pop culture and parenting panel photo: J.R. Roughton, Kendra Moras, Melody Mooney, Kelly Spears, Shawn Thomas, Jennifer Estaris, and Theresa Wollenstein. Photo: Jennifer Etaris.

Is your kid turning you into a geek, or are you a geeky parent wondering how to navigate life with a kid in tow? Join us for a rousing discussion of modern-day parenting, including best habits for device use for parents & kids, cosplaying, online privacy, using tech to make you a better parent, when is best to introduce kids to the Star Wars movies (and in what order?), and more! Bring your kids and your questions!

This was the description for the pop culture and parenting panel I was a part of last weekend at the Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles.

There were six of us parents and it was moderated by Theresa Wollenstein. Theresa is the co-founder of the League of Extraordinary Ladies and the assistant organizer of the group I created, Geeklings and Parental Units.  It is important to mention here that Theresa completed the entire panel while wearing four-month-old Leia and being the solo con parent to her two-year-old! Truly a Marvel Mom.  

Also aboard were Kelly Spears (president, Valley Moms meetup group), Kendra Moras (portrait photographer), Jennifer Estaris (baby-wearer and game designer for Nickelodeon, Disney, Atari, and Majesco), J.R. Roughton (runs JAG Gym and the Character Counts! sports organization; USA Gymnastics-certified director and business executive; and Character Counts! Certified character educator), and Shawn Thomas (story editor at Disney Channel , writer for Dog with a Blog, and CEO, vice president, and craft services at Mystify Productions).

Theresa Wollenstein moderates while baby-wearing. Photography by Kendra Jean Moras.

There was a nice turnout of parents and geeklings. The hour was spent sharing personal parenting experiences along with laughs at ourselves.

Screen time and devices has become a hot topic in the parenting world. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) had recommended no television or screen time to babies under two and limited exposure in general with children and teens. With so many geeky parents being first adopters to all things tech and social media, we explored what the realities and pros and cons to these recommendations are.

J.R. Roughton, who has years of experience working with kids at JAG Gym, also has a son on the spectrum. He was originally  an advocate for leveling the playing field by not referring to any device used for his children’s educational reading and learning in pejorative terms. He explained that he had to abandon the mission once his son was evaluated and placed on the spectrum, and went on to share that his research discovered that spectrum kids could not absorb the over-stimulus from screens. This finding made the choice to quit using them with his son all together final.

Young Lucas Moras (named for George Lucas) heads up the rebellion with Mark Cronan, Ella as Hera, and Siena Craig as Sabine from Star Wars Rebels. Photography by Kendra Jean Moras.

Kendra Moras, who works independently at Photography by Kendra Jean Moras, countered with positive screen and device experiences. She was amazed at the language skills and small motor dexterities of her son Lucas,who had been using tablets early, even before his first birthday. She also credits his advanced vocabulary and grasp of complex dramatic play at four to some of the more intricate plots and terms he learned from movies and superhero shows.

Theresa kept the great questions coming. One that we all chimed in on was: ‘What pop culture character, if any, do you try to model your parenting after?” Kelly Spears, who is the president of the largest parenting chapter, Valley Moms, mentioned she has always loved Marge Simpsonbut found herself making her famous frustrated mom snarl more often then she would like. Jennifer Estaris, a game designer at Nickelodeon, mentioned she and her husband (who came in character) like Alana and Marko, from Image Comics’ Saga. Shawn Thomas, writer for Disney’s Dog with a Blog, responded that he thought Darth Vader was the obvious choice. After all, he did offer Luke an early seat in the family business.

Theresa’s four-month-old daughter Leia looks up to her friend Lucas. Photography by Kendra Jean Moras.

Along with providing information, the panel members also wanted to provide the room as a safe haven of sorts from the busy con floor. We supplied crayons, games, comics, and a space for diaper changing and breastfeeding. One of the best moments for me was looking down from the stage at the front and seeing my daughter laughing with her cosplaying friends.

There is always the question of bringing kids to cons and whether or not it’s really worth it. Will they be able to handle the crowds? What about strollers? Are there places to sit down or to go when a meltdown occurs? We have had a few years of trial and error and I can firmly say that this time my three-year-old really enjoyed it. She loved dressing up as the Twi’lek pilot from the new Star Wars Rebels and lasted a full day. She actually insisted I call her the character name “Hera,” and not Ella all day. She also got a nice mention in Fashionably Geek for her mini cosplay efforts.

Ella giving attitude as she cosplays Hera from Star Wars Rebels. Photo: Melody Mooney.

Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo is now in its fourth year. The pop culture expo, partnered by Stan Lee and Elvira Mistress of the Dark, brags that it is the only convention owned and operated by pop culture legends. It was co-founded by CEO Regina Carpinelli. She shared her vision with the icons for a better show and together they crafted a unique convention. With growth comes some pain. The Los Angeles Convention Center is showing signs of overflow by way of parking and long lines at check in. Even with these inconveniences, the crowds seemed happy to shop the various vendors and booths and share in their favorite cosplay.

Not having to deal with hotels and travel was a huge plus for us. There may not be many panels like ours who welcome families, but there is strength in numbers and hopefully as we move forward, there will be more con family needs met. After all, today’s geeklings are the cosplayers, gamers, creators, and panel members of tomorrow.

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