David Ward On… Being a Dork Dad

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

Several years ago, I was faced with an issue that I never thought would ever happen: my kid fell in love with princesses. This came from neither of her homes; her mother and I were pretty dead-set against the world of Disney princesses. It came, as many other interests do, from her peers, namely a good friend at her daycare. While I didn’t go out of my way to stomp on this interest (I am a firm believer that people should enjoy whatever they wish), I felt there was a better way for her to have fun and still avoid the “Oh, Prince Charming is coming into my life” perspective so endemic to so many insipid films, media, and toys.

“Ok, kid. You like princesses? Cool. Try this.”

And I put on Star Wars.

HOOK. LINE. SINKER.

Princess Leia 1

You can’t guarantee your kid is going to like the same stuff you do (in fact, I would prefer it if they didn’t), but if I might offer the following suggestions to raising a geeky kid:

1. Reinforce time and time again that they should love whatever they love (my heart still breaks when I think of the time my daughter wanted to wear her Yoda shirt to school but only with a sweatshirt over it because she was told by some prat in her grade that “Star Wars is for boys” – I lost it 🙂 ). Gendered content is absolute and utter nonsense.

2. Start them young with Star Wars. Or Star Trek. I don’t even feel I need to elucidate further on this point.

3. Do not hide how much of a nerd you are. They’ll clue in eventually, and it becomes a huge source of amusement for you both.

4. Books and movies – stress long narratives with interesting characters – forget 20- to 30-minute cartoons – you want something they (and you) can sink your teeth into. Harry Potter fits this bill extremely nicely.

5. Leave your geeky crap hanging around (so long as it’s appropriate, obviously – I’m not sure putting up Clive Barker’s Tortured Souls action figures in the bathroom is a great plan). Kids are curious. They’re going to look at it. “What’s that?” “A stuffed ‘Cthulhu’.” “What?” “Big evil octopus god that will devour the world. But look how cute he is!”

6. Don’t be afraid to scare them (within reason). Fairy tales are terrifying; don’t sanitize their stories too much. I mean, no one in their right mind would show Alien to a four-year-old child, but just because something has scary parts (and I say this as a father of a kid with an overactive imagination) doesn’t mean you should throw it out completely.

7. ART. Leave books and pictures around and a decent set of crayons, markers, pens, and colouring pencils. They imitate; they colour; they imagine. Leave things around to inspire them. I’m pretty sure we have a folder full of drawings of Leia and Amidala kicking around somewhere… The computer is also awesome for this – you haven’t seen fun until you watch your kid distort themselves in Photoshop and throw in a bad cut-out of Darth Vader.

8. Act like a dork. They will love you for it. I am suddenly reminded of walking around my apartment, one arm extended in front of me, the other holding a plunger, going “EXTERMINATE. EXTERMINATE. EXTERMINATE.”

9. They’ll introduce you to things: TRY THEM. Sure, you’re the number one point of inspiration for them, but think of the joy in their eyes when they introduce you to something. I’d never have tried Supernatural if it weren’t for my kid (I’m not convinced I like it, but hell, it’s not bad!). Plus, think of how many times you’ll be applying Green Eggs and Ham logic to them; it’s only fair that you reciprocate.

10. If they want to be Cinderella Vampire for Halloween, you bloody well let them.

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