06 Oct

As I watched my friend fiddle with the tiny Yoda costume she was placing carefully on her two year old one Halloween, an astonishing thought occurred to me.  This child may grow up never even knowing who Yoda is.  The thought made me sad for a moment and then I remembered that her parents are time honored geeks and would likely force her to watch Episodes IV, V and VI at some point in her childhood as some form of rite of passage.  I was comforted by this thought, but then I got to thinking, what if this little girl simply has no interest in all things Star Wars?  Or worse, what if she finds episodes I, II and III to be way cooler?  It got me thinking about parenting as a nerdy couple.  My husband and I don’t have children yet, but our friends do and many times our conversations have turned to the degree of geekdom we will be forcing onto our children when the time is right.

The name of this site is Elder-Geek.  That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all a bunch of decrepit assholes around here, but it does mean that we hail from an age where 8 bit was king and some of us have gotten married, gotten “real jobs” where we can’t wear geeky t-shirts, and a few of us are even spawning.

Most of us grew up on the introverted side of things.  While other normal well adjusted children were playing outside doing sport type things, running, being athletic and generally having any kind of hand eye coordination, we were shut up inside playing, playing Super Mario Brothers or A Boy and His Blob (don’t you judge me!) or reading comic books.  The only exercise we got involved our fingers and thumbs.

We love Toothpaste For Dinner and you should too.

We were not the popular children.  There were those children who never had an awkward phase, adorable 5th graders hand crafted by the gods themselves to be aesthetically all-American, pleasing to the eye with bright smiles, good hair and lots of those little generic valentines in their box on Valentines Day at school.  Yeah you know the kids I’m talking about: the kids that weren’t you or me.  Personally I’m wondering when this awkward phase ends.

What about our children?  Aside from the normal trials they will need to endure, they will not have parents that were socially accepted, athletic or even necessarily attractive.  Some of us never had dates, didn’t know what it was like to be on the homecoming court, never went to…what were those things called? “Pep rallies”?  We have no way of relating to our children should they decide to be the complete opposite of what we were.

My friends often speak of raising proud geeks (an oxymoron in the 6th grade), forcing them to stay inside and play video games while other children take up little league and other forms of “social” activities.  I have found myself agreeing that any future children I might have should come in the form of a mini-me.  The problem with this of course is that I was fucking miserable.  And forcing my child to go through something like that by making him or her be in the band, play video games, enjoy joking about how “stupid Data from Star Trek cannot use contractions” just seems cruel.

And then I think, what if my child is…popular?  Egads! What a horrible thought!  What if my non-existent daughter wants to join the cheerleading squad and go to football games and be on the Prom Committee?  What if my son turns into the jock, the jerky guy that gives swirlies to the kids that are just like his parents used to be?  I can never relate.  I can never understand.  And I can never forgive them.

My friends have a four year old daughter.  They introduced her to simple video games at a young age and as a result she can spend an hour playing Sealife Safari and be totally fine.  She also, unfortunately, likes to spend time outside…in nature, which makes it difficult for her parents to enjoy the things they once did.  My friend has yet to finish the first Mass Effect game because, well…she had babies.

But I digress. I would be interested to hear from all you gaming parents on what sort of philosophy you take to “geeking” your children.  Because I’m stumped as to the proper course of parenting.  Will they rebel against ten hours of forced Babylon 5 watching in the same way they would rebel against a parent intent on making them play soccer?  I’ve got it.  The rest of you have kids, raise them and then let me know.

15 thoughts on “Geek Parents: How Much Social Awkwardness Will You Force on Your Child?”

  1. My wife and I sometimes jokingly say that our children will be the greatest basketball players of all time simply because we’re the two worst basketball players of all time. I’m certain we’ll be sitting in the stands cheering for our son or daughter in a game that we don’t entirely understand the rules for.

    I love this article. But it makes me wonder if the definition of “geek” is shifting. It seems that to be geeky holds its own level of popularity. As soon as the wife and I have some kids, I’ll dress them up in stormtrooper outfits and I’ll let you know how it goes.

  2. My wife and I have been having this very conversation now that we’ve recently become parents of two baby girls.

    I’m not going to force anything onto them. Forcing stuff onto people is how people end up hating things. Sure I’ll try and show them the stuff I’m interested in… I can’t wait to introduce them to Nintendo stuff like Mario and Link, classic Disney films, and some of my favorite movies like Back to the Future, Indiana Jones (all four of them! They’ll see the fourth movie without bias!) Ghostbusters and so on and so forth. Will they love any of these things the way I do? Who knows, but I won’t be upset if they don’t.

    I guess, sure, ideally I’d love it if they enjoyed all the same things that I did. Even better if the artistic gene comes through in them and I can spend time teaching them how to draw and just be crafty in general. That would be nice. At the same time, I want to encourage them to be themselves.

    You mention going outside a few times in this article. I’m personally one of the least athletic people I know. I’m terrible at sports. But when I was growing up I had just as good a time going outdoors as I did staying indoors and playing NES. When I got a little older and some friends moved out of the neighborhood, yeah, that’s when video games really took over, but going outside IS a good. Encouraging any sort of exercise is a good thing.

    I’ve never played any sports growing up either, though I almost feel like I should see if the girls would be interested in doing these things as they get older. I want them to try things I haven’t done. If that leads them on a path to being more socially acceptable, then great. If not, at least they tried. I personally dread the thought of going to a soccer game, but maybe it’ll be different watching my kids and hoping for them to do well. Guess I’ll find out.

    As for not being able to relate to your children. I mean, aren’t parents generally always out of touch with what their children are interested in anyway? That’s usually just how things roll. So if my daughters DO become the popular kids at school, well, I’ll just need to adapt to it. Sometimes it isn’t about being able to relate, but just making the right decisions.

      1. Haha, we went a little boring this year and went with a flower and… a skunk. The smellier one gets to be the skunk.

        1. Ok, that’s actually ridiculously cute. I’m sure my wife is hovering over this article off in internet-land. She’ll probably demand photographs closer to the holiday.

        2. For me, playing sports as a kid made me even more into games. Especially from a competitive aspect.

          BTW. You and your wife have to be a Deer and a Rabbit.

          Just watch out for anyone dressed as a hunter or fire.

    1. I’m with Phil on this one.

      What you are talking about here is essentially indoctrination, something that I believe is incredibly wrong. I may even be tempted to call it a form of psychological child-abuse, especially concerning more serious topics like religion and politics.

      I personally would want to raise any child of mine to be a critical thinker. I’d introduce a full spectrum of activities, ideals, opinions and the like and allow them to choose. Of course some things, primarily related to the well being of the child aren’t debatable, like going to school, eating healthy, good hygiene, and abiding by the laws and norms of our society.

      It’s really quite obvious, you’d never tell people not to be them selves, so don’t force your child to.

  3. So I guess naming my first born “Guybrush” would be interpreted as forcing social awkwardness on him?

  4. Seeing 99% of all videogames have almost no value whatsoever besides simple fun i’d rather not force it. Books, movies, music, etc. usually have a lot of meaning that you can’t find anywhere else but videogames, eh…i don’t know. And if little zky can play Braid while being a kidtard then i gotta homeschool him on trotskism-leninism ASAP.

    Still, reading Eliot’s post, i’m thinking having a kid called THE VAULT DWELLER all caps would be all kinds of awesome. It’s cool because it works for boys and girls alike too.

    I like the second drawing.

    PS: all-american/popularity contests/cheerleaders not applicable to everywhere so you might want to de-americanize the articles, if they’re catered to more generic audiences. Also, the word cheerleader just makes me cringe.

  5. This is a subject that has been weighting heavy on my mind recently. Personally I want my daughter to have all those things that I loved in my childhood. But the harsh reality is that shes going to like what shes going to like and there’s nothing I can do about it but support her. But there’s hope, she seems to like Galaxy News Radio, it calms her and she’ll sleep for hours. Lets just hope her first words arn’t “AHWUUUU its Three Dog!!”.

    Also, I was lucky enough to get to name her Terra after FF6. The wife liked it because terra firma. But I didn’t tell her about FF6 till after she was born. Oh yeah, daddy will cry if his daughter hates Denver the last dinosaur.

  6. Theoretically:
    Fuck ANY cartoon that isn’t looney tunes, MY child will start off with the NES and work his way up to the current generation. The Final Fantasy 7 Piano project will play him to sleep every night and Yoshi’s Island will be the sounds of playtime and happiness.

    WHERE ARE THE CAR KEYS!? OH GOD HE’S GOING ALL OVER THE PLACE!! QUICK GIVE ME YOUR IPHONE!! OHHHHH peace & quiet, they really do love that phineaus and ferb!

    Remember, you aren’t that bad of a parent, just watch Jerry Springer.

  7. Here’s a question. Is there anyone who turned out like what there parents thought they were going to be? I know I didn’t.

    1. Personality-wise I ended up a lot like my parents. We share a few of the same interests but overall we have almost completely different tastes.

      I guess its safe to say our children will all be cool!

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