in parenthood

Geek raising a non-geek

My son, Jules, is 3. It’s the age where he very much gets interested and excited about things. He was an astronaut (“on a rocketship to the moon”) for Halloween, and loves looking at the moon, and playing with toy space shuttles and rocketships. He likes racecars, airplanes, robots, and castles.

In talking to other parents, or observing their children, you often seen kids who are kind of obsessive cataloguers and identifiers. Who know how to tell different airplanes, or dinosaurs, or heavy machinery apart. Who are, in other words, proto-geeks.

My son, however, translates his passion differently. What he does is develop just enough understanding of a subject so that he can insert himself into a narrative with it. He’s less interested in knowing the different types of rocketships than he is telling a story of those rocketships flying around, ideally with Jules at the helm. When Jules reads books, or plays with his toys, he’s always inserting himself into it–“Jules is driving that car,” “Jules is flying that airplane,” “Jules is a bad guy in the castle.” (I love that at the age of 3 he’s realized it’s more fun to play the villain than the hero.)

Thing is, when I was a kid, I was fairly far along the geek spectrum. I didn’t play with action figures — I wouldn’t have known what to do with them. I was an early reader, and had a thing for numbers, so when I was a 3, 4, 5, I was reading books; I was playing with my mom’s LED calculator, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, just to see what happened; I was watching baseball and rattling off facts and figures. The first toys I really enjoyed were electronic — Mattel Football and Simon.

In the last 10-20 years, there seems to have been a swell of resources for parents on being geek-supportive. Do we now need resources for us geeks raising non-geek children?

  1. Parents need no resources programmed by manufacturers and retailers for the custom of geek or non-geek children. In case you haven’t noticed it yet, children supply their own resources: cartons, strings, all forms of trash and whatever is within their reach. You and your Brother found your own resources, to very good effect; your Parents did’t find or shop them for you. That is a lesson that neither of you seem to have taken to.

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