In all my years on this planet, being a parent is the most challenging experience I have ever had. As a new parent, I'm constantly bombarded with tips, hacks, advice and judgment. However, as a parent, I have also had the opportunity to usher my daughter into the world of geekdom. We have covered this topic on Geek Parenting Podcast and I invite you to check that out on iTunes or Stitcher.
Lilly (named after Lillian Disney because of my obsession with all things Disney) has come to fully embrace my geeky world in just four short years. The first book I read to her — when she was still too young to even know what I was saying — was The Hobbit. She would stare at me before bedtime as I quietly read the songs and described the actions of Bilbo and his Dwarf companions. I knew when I had her that I was going to raise Lilly as a geek.
When I was in high school, geekery was not as mainstream as it is today. While my classmates were excited for things like the release of the Special Editions of Star Wars, they did not, like my friends and I, skip class to buy tickets, dress up like the characters and generally act like fools, running around our respective neighborhoods while pretending we were on a mission to the forest moon of Endor. We fully embraced that which we loved.
I made a huge mistake right out of the gate with Lilly. I broke the first true rule of Geek Parenting.
Embrace: Let Your Kids Love What They Love
Accepting and supporting — willingly and enthusiastically — your children’s geek preferences is the key to creating a good environment within which your child can grow up and thrive as a geek. As much as I love Disney, I was very hesitant to let my daughter love the Disney Princesses. I was worried she would grow up believing she would need true love to make herself complete; that she would grow up too much like me, believing in those fairytale endings. I should have known from our first trip to Disneyland when she was four months old, that when she met Aurora this was not going to end well.
My attempts to keep Lilly from the Disney Princesses failed miserably as I tried to push Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo on her as the sole source of Disney fandom. It did not work. She still found out about the princesses and has fully embraced a Disney Princess fandom, which has expanded to princess obsession writ large. After a brief period of extensive denial on my part, and realizing there was much more to the princesses than just happily ever afters (lessons of kindness, courage, bravery, compassion, empathy, etc.), I managed to let go. I let Lilly jump headfirst into loving the princesses.
Experience: Take Part In What Your Kids Love
We could let our kids go boldly into their fandoms alone. However, I have found that experiencing my daughter's fandoms have led to great interactions between the two of us, and others. Lilly and I attend many conventions and different geeky events in our community, and more often than not princesses are usually somewhere within the venue.
At Salt Lake Comic Con 2016 (Lilly’s first huge convention) we ended up spending most of our time enjoying tea with the princesses at KidCon. And by most of our time, I mean all but about an hour of the time we were there. She had no interest in walking the floor, no interest in going to a photo op with Billy Boyd (which I rescheduled due to Lilly's tantrum after we left the tea party), no interest in panels. I was able to distract her for a short period of time when our friend James (a.k.a Nerdy at Home Dad) and his son "J" joined us at KidCon and they both completed their wizarding trials.
If you are in a situation where you can sit back, relax and enjoy watching your kid enjoying their fandom, then do it (drink a beer while it happens if you need to.) Experience the pure joy on their face as they talk to Ariel, Aurora, Alice, or any other character they might interact with at events. Read them the stories, watch the movies with them, discuss what those tales mean and how to bring those lessons into their life. We often use the live-action Cinderella moral of “have courage and be kind” in our house to deescalate tantrums.
Expand: Find Ways To Take Their Fandom To The Edge Of The Universe
As I've said, Lilly loves princesses. Princess Leia was the gateway to Star Wars for my daughter. Rey, though not a princess, is now my daughter's favorite Star Wars character (next to BB-8) because the gateway of knowing that there was a princess in Star Wars allowed me to take her to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. When we went to Salt Lake Comic Con, I told Lilly she could dress up. She chose two outfits: Princess Elena of Avalor (Disney Junior’s newest princess) and Princess Black Widow. Now, I know that Black Widow is not a princess, but to my daughter she is, and subsequently I made Lilly a simple Black Widow princess dress to wear for the event. As a result of doing this, she has become more interested in Black Widow and Marvel cartoons.
A few weeks ago we watched The Book of Life, and instantly she became enamored with Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday honoring dead ancestors. This past week, at Utah Halloween Expo and Show, Lilly cosplayed as Día de los Muertos Elsa, an idea she came up with on her own. And for Halloween she wants to be Día de los Muertos Princess Elena, which incidentally just aired an episode about Día de los Muertos, called "A Day to Remember." After we watched the episode, Lilly asked, “Can we celebrate Día de los Muertos?”
Indeed, her passion for princesses created an easy route to celebrating different cultures and beliefs as an integral part of our lives. It is easy, once you embrace and experience your children’s fandoms, to find ways to expand them — and cosplay is an easy route, since most kids enjoy dress-ups and imaginary play.
This is just a brief overview of three simple components of being a Geek Parent. There is still a great deal left to explore, so stay tuned for more! Fellow Geek Parents, sound off about your experiences in the comments below.
[Image courtesy of Crys Bogan Photography]