I am your father: reflections on parenting from the dork side

I am your father: reflections on parenting from the dork side

My name is Kevin, and I’m a geek dad.

It’s a pretty deep-rooted thing with me. It began with comic books not long after I started reading. As a teen, I saw “Star Wars” in the theater so frequently that I stopped counting when I hit 25 viewings. I now regularly attend Comic-Con in San Diego and other sci-fi conventions around the country, sometimes even as a professional.

But growing up geek is not for the squeamish. It can lead to eyestrain and vitamin D deficiencies, not to mention lengthy conversations about the merits of Vulcans versus Jedi, science versus magic, and other topics certain to send the uninitiated to another lunch table.

But somehow my daughter managed to navigate the minefield of what I watched, read and even wrote—and still emerge on the far side of high school relatively geek-free. Don’t get me wrong: She has a vast knowledge of pop culture and is even now studying to impart her talent for (and love of) music to coming generations as a teacher. But beyond that, no pointed ears, no power rings, nothing.

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So, how did that come about? How did a geek dad end up raising a cool kid? While it likely was more of a fluke than an accomplishment, the guidelines I followed may offer some explanation.

 Kids can’t help what they like

A child is exposed to new ideas and new stuff to do every day. These things might come as a book in a friend’s backpack, a commercial on TV, or an assignment in school. There’s no telling what might stick in their minds as fun to think about and experience. So beyond screening what was age-appropriate, I never tried to fight that flow.

 Inspiration doesn’t care where it comes from

It took my daughter (at age eight) about a week of listening to Beatles songs on the car radio to turn her into a lifelong fan…and ultimately into a musician. Oddly enough, that’s about the age at which I discovered the Beatles, but the discovery led me instead to “Help!” and “Yellow Submarine” and the British comedies…and subsequently down a different path.

 You can’t make a kid like something

I never forced her to listen to Beatles music, any more than I forced her to eat foods I knew she didn’t like. I didn’t take Dr. Seuss books out of her hands and replace them with comics. I didn’t swap her “You’re Invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Sleepover Party” video with a “Star Wars” movie. But neither did I withhold stuff I thought she would enjoy just because it was nerdy. These days, we still share what we’re digging, and there’s nothing more fun for me than getting a text—or sometimes even, yes, a real, live call—when she’s discovered a TV show, movie, website or band she thinks I’ll like. She is how I stay current these days.

 You CAN help a kid feel good about liking something

Much of the fun in liking what we like lies in being able to share it with friends and family. I spend more time dissecting episodes of “Mad Men” over lunch with work friends than I do watching them. Sometimes I’ll round up a group to see a midnight movie opening just so we can say we did it. And I still connect with my daughter over skits on “Saturday Night Live” and college basketball games because we shared many moments doing just that as she grew up. I don’t love it that I still know the lyrics to “Gimme Pizza!” by Mary-Kate and Ashley, but it serves as a testament to how many times I sat with my daughter to watch one of her favorite videos, just to be with her. Something shared is something appreciated, and not just for the fun but for the memories.

 

Looking this over, maybe I have provided a recipe for raising a geek after all…if by “geek” you mean a child who can connect with you through shared loves and experiences. Right? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to return a text to my daughter about the new “Star Trek” movie.

Kevin Dilmore is a Hallmark senior writer who has written novels, comic books, essays and journalism on pop-culture topics. His life and conversations are like one big issue of "PopMinded."