Kyle J. Steenblik

Geekdad Report: Sometimes things don’t always go as planned.

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The primary goal of being a Geekdad is to better and enrich the lives of your children while sharing something you love.  One unfortunate side effect is this can sometimes involve failure.  Utah-Museum-of-Natural-History-Salt-Lake-City-41-650x400Sometimes we love something and we want to share it so much we forget these little people may not feel the same way.  Sometimes they don’t understand, or they aren’t ready, and maybe they just aren’t into everything you are.  These failings don’t come with being only a Geekdad, but any dad.

Parental failure is often a deep well for comedy, most of the time that comedy is the only practical way to release the pain and frustration.  For me it’s often a choice between laughing about it, and retreating into the dark recesses of my mind where the demons still linger, Demons that feed upon the fear and sorrow of every failure that has come and will come.

Now I’m going to tell you a story.  It may not be so much of a story as a loose collection of ramblings that sometime near the end comes to a point, if there is a point.  Unfortunately, if there is no point by the time you reach the end where there would normally be a point it will be too late.  Being a Geekdad is to make more of everything.  Every little thing, where we can, we expand and exploit until is it so much more than it was.  We end up in grand locations offering the world to children that would rather play with the box, but that is not real failure, it just feels like it.  For me, it is one in the same.  That may be a bit dramatic, but where would we be, without a little drama.  True things would likely be more relaxing, and there would be fewer fights, probably a few less ruined teenage parties, but how is that good?  We parents need this.  We need this because years later we can tell these stories to extract the delicious guilt of our children.  It is petty revenge for loss of sleep, but it is all we really have.

utahceratops-skeletonMy story takes place in a museum.  Not just any museum, because that would be ridiculous, it has to be a specific museum because it actually happened.  This was a museum of natural history.  Once a year or so, this museum opens the doors to its storage rooms, and its un-displayed collections and its laboratories.  If that does not sound impressive than you are not imagining a state of the art museum with large fancy rooms full of shelves, with rocks.  Lots of rocks filled with things, like bones.  My children are curious.  They are also very scientific.  They see things and they must know how it works, how it came into being.  This trip, this chance, was perfect for them.  They were thrilled, they also had no idea what was going on.

The first top was the paleontology lab.  This was an active lab where they were extracting fossils from the plaster they were wrapped in directly after being removed from the earth.  This process is dirty, noisy, and time consuming.  It involves picking away the rock, with very small precise tools.  This process is imperceptible to anyone that has an attention span shorter than an episode of a really short television program.  Never the less they were fascinated, they even managed to keep their hands to themselves, and there was science discussed.  One such science was the revelation that there was, upstairs in the archives, a new, yet to be named, dinosaur.

Next, we headed upstairs to the archives; this is where things began to fall apart.  This archive room contains a few very large shelves.  They are probably 25 feet tall and about 200-3000 feet long, there are about 4 or 5 of these.  The shelves are on rails so they can be moved around, and they are packed with specimens.  It is probably one of the most impressive things I have ever seen.  However, it was not one of the most impressive things they have ever seen.  In this treasure trove of fossils, rare minerals, and what look like large rocks, my young son was interested in two things.  The rails the shelves rolled on and a human skeleton.  Not a real skeleton, but those life size plastic ones you see in every biology classroom.  My young daughter was interested in, well, not much at this point.  She was rapidly losing interest, which was sad because around the corner was a new Ankylosaurus, her favorite dinosaur.  However, at this point, the need for food had set in and the only thing that was of interest was the snacks available on the 5th floor, which were plentiful, and delicious.

I wish I could spend a while now recounting the amazement of young minds marveling at new discoveries.  I can’t.  Not because there were not new discoveries, there were, numerous in fact.  Sadly, none of those new discoveries was made in the infinitely fascinating genetics lab.  Have you ever tried to explain genetics and DNA to a 5 and 7 year old?

I forgot, in all this, to mention the second tenant of being a Geekdad, persistence.  Next year the museum archives will open, and we will enter and there will be a few new discoveries.  Some of them may even be mine.

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