Ryan Thomason

Geek Dad Report: When is too soon to Geek your kid out?

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My wife and I have argued about this contrite subject more than once.  My son is now at the tender age of two and half, his mind is absorbing the world around him like some sort of sponge that liquefies his surroundings at whole and devours it all by breathing in.  While we as parents have been in easy agreement over most things, such as books, toys, TV shows / Movies, and general teaching in thoughtfulness.  We have been at an impasse of sorts when it comes down to the things involving the broad geek culture.

My wife is not a geek, she is about as feminist as can be, knows what she likes, and sticks with it.  Though, I will credit her for becoming a Battlestar Galactica fan (strong women characters), and she is steadily tuning into and paying attention to some of the more geekier shows on TV.  She still rolls her eyes when we go to the new public library, and I make a beeline for the huge graphic novel section, my only comic book resort since giving up the habit to shore up monetary reserves in an early stage of our relationship.  I’ll be the one laughing when she picks up the dreaded to be released Twilight Graphic Novel, but that is a story for another day.

We have come to a disagreement about when it would be a proper time to introduce the things that Dad has been waiting for since the doctor announced to us our son was in the world screaming and healthy.  I have Star Wars prepped and ready, that is an easy one, and I’ve been training for the last six months since his vocabulary improved to the point where he tries to repeat whatever you say.  We have a game we play when I lay on my back, and he makes a run at me and attempts to jump onto my stomach, I’ll catch him in the air, and won’t let him down until he repeats a word.  He’s pretty good at repeating ‘ChewBACA’ ‘Darf VADER’ ‘Kywalker’ and his favorite ‘JAWAAAAA’.  I don’t have pictures or anything for him to associate the names with, I do have the movies, but I ceded that battle over a ‘violence’ issue.  I don’t think he would understand anything Star Wars if I were to even try to get him to sit down long enough to watch a movie, he’ll barely stay still long enough for a half hour of Curious George.  I think this one I’ll revisit when he’s three.

My most recent achievement has been in the realm of comic book characters.  We went to free comic book day last year, he was still a little too young to understand it, I got the hint when I came home one day and the free kids comics were practically torn apart and unreadable.  Good thing I kept my free comics hidden from his destructive hands.  Now that he’s a little older, my wife surprised me when she came home with a book of stickers with Marvel Characters all in it.  One morning as he was picking out stickers so I could take them off the plastic and he could enjoy placing them onto my face, he surprised me when he told me that I had Hulk on my nose.  See, whenever I took off a sticker for him, I would explain who it was and what their powers were, the powers part was useless, all he could absorb were the names, but that was good enough for me.

With a triumphant Hulk Smash, we celebrated his new recognition skill by flipping through the sticker book and me asking him who was who.  To my enjoyment, he could easily point out: Wolverine, Piderman, Hulk, Iman(Iceman), and Doc Dooooom.  I don’t know if he thought it was weird that his dad had about twelve Marvel heroes stickers on his face and was happy that this son could point out the characters or not, but from the look I got I think he was slightly amused.

The toughest nut to crack is video games, which if you have a non gamer spouse, can probably relate with me on this one.  I’ll say it first though, when you become a parent, your ability to sit down and play games literally goes out the window.  You wake up in the morning when they wake you, you play with them and make them breakfast, leave them with whoever is watching them while you work, go to work, come home, play some more, eat dinner, settle them down for bed, and finally after they fall asleep, you’re too damn tired to even focus on what is beyond the couch cushion. The Xbox and PS3 controllers get shelved, and you learn to enjoy quick games on your phone/Nintendo DS/PSP while the kid sleep and you sit with your spouse for quiet time.  Any mature adult realizes they shouldn’t be playing a first person shooter while their kid watches, I’m sorry, but that is just bad parenting.  Once I get a chance and if I see one on the cheap, I think I’m going to score one of the Lego variety games, or as a friend suggested Katamari(sp?).

He’s asked me to build enough buildings with blocks for the sole purpose that he gets to knock them over that Legos Star Wars/Indiana Jones/ Batman would just be a prettier version of that, and he gets to hold the dead controller so he thinks he’s playing.  There has been a couple of times when he climbed into my lap as I was playing Final Fantasy  IV on the DS while Curious George was on, he told me to shoot the bad guy and tried to help push buttons, I have no idea where that came from but it made me laugh.  Though when I had a moment, I ended up saving the game and turning it off, for what reason I’m not sure.  The game isn’t violent by what I think standards are, but I just didn’t feel like he needed to get into it just yet, I wanted to dip him into something easy and what I think he would enjoy watching instead of me level grinding before attempting Kefka’s Tower to wrap up the game.

What is my whole point about this?  I don’t think your kid is ever too young start learning the geekier things in life.  I think that the only thing a geek parent/s need to realize is when they need to show restraint.   Trying to go full bore and just plunging your kid into the pool probably isn’t the way to go.  Every geek knows that you need to set the proper building blocks, lay a solid foundation, and then start framing up the woodwork of Geekitude on your kid.  If you just sit them down in front of the Star Wars movies, they might stare blankly at the pretty lights and sounds.  But there is nothing better than watching them make a connection to something that you taught them, and watch that “aha!” look on their face.  If you start your kid off slow, and build upon it, you’ll find they pick up on things much easier when it is a more connect the dots type instead of smacking them in the face with everything at once.

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