If you’re like me and some of my fellow contributors to this site, you’re no longer young enough to know what kids are into, which makes you the perfect age for molding the next generation to what you’re into. Raising little geek children is fun, exciting, and difficult. You want to share all of your fandom obsessions, but you have to do it in a way that is appealing, or you run the risk of over-exposing them and turning them off. I may only have six years of experience, but I think my husband and I have done a decent job of bringing up our kids in the Church of Geek, and I’m here to share that with all of the geek parents out there.
Make It Background
This is my number one tip. If there’s anything that’s important to you, geeky or otherwise, make it a part of your daily lives. Whether it’s sports, religion, crafting, or Dungeons & Dragons, let it be something that they come to know as part of the norm. Don’t involve them by necessity, but let them be involved if they express interest, even if it means modifying the activity. If you make it some all-fired holy thing, you run the risk of it becoming something they have to do, not something they want to do, and that never leads anywhere good.
Keep It Age-Appropriate
This is a super hard one, but it is worth it. If there’s something you like that you know they just aren’t going to get, whether it requires physical development for them to be able to do or mental development for them to be able to handle, just wait. It’s killer, but man, the original Star Wars trilogy movies can draaaaaag in places and there are just no pictures in the Harry Potter books (except for the illustrated editions, I know). Best save those for when your kiddo can sit long enough or start to imagine their own pictures. Of course, this will vary on when your kid is old enough based on their temperament and your parenting style. But you’ll know when it’s time.
Take It to Their Level
We all know this is a golden age for geeks. Fandom has become mainstream, and one super positive side effect of that for parents is there are so many products for children based on the fandoms we love. There are clothes and toys and books for little geeks. Once they express an interest in something, that’s your green light to get the Little Golden Book version or a t-shirt of it. That way, once they’re old enough for the actual thing, they have a way to connect to it.
Let Them Play with Your Toys
I’m not saying take your First 4 statue down off the shelf and let them act out violent battles with it, but for things that can handle a bit of a rougher touch, let them play. Give them those Amiibos so they can act out scenes from a video game. Hand over the Sonic screwdriver so they can run around the house “saving the universe.” There is nothing cuter than a two-year-old with a “magic wand” yelling, “EXPELLIARMUS!”
Don’t Be Afraid to Take Them Places
This is another scary one if you’re an anxious parent. It is hard, tiring, and stressful to take kids to events and places that are not necessarily set up with them in mind, but it can also be so worth it. You will not get to enjoy the place the way you would without them, and you will not get to see or do all the stuff you otherwise would. But the trade-off is that they get to see how cool the things you’re into are when they’re in the wild. Let them have an encounter with a cosplayer wearing a look from a show you’re watching together or introduce them to the artist that draws the comic you’ve both been reading. It lets them see that they’re not alone with you in the fandom and that there are lots of others out there.
If You Get Into Their Thing, They’ll Get Into Yours
If you are always pushing your interests, there’s a good chance they will pull away from them. My son, for example, has always been obsessed with anything with wheels. Obviously, this isn’t a geek thing, but it’s a him thing. So we pretend to make a construction site or we race Hot Wheels cars on tracks. You bet your ass I can tell you the difference between a backhoe and a front-end loader, even if I don’t really give a damn. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, it’s the enthusiasm that’s important. If I can get hyped with every truck we pass on the highway, it makes it all the more likely he’ll relate to my enthusiasm about a movie or book.
Let Music Lead the Way
They may not be ready for the thing itself, but most fandoms have their own iconic soundtrack and (barring inappropriate lyrics) everyone can listen to music. Put on the score from your favorite game, show, or movie while you’re driving, cooking, cleaning or doing anything else. Eventually it will become so familiar, it’ll be another contact point when they are ready for the thing. And in the meantime, when they ask what the music is, you can start to tell them about it. Believe me when I tell you, there are quite a few video game characters whose themes my kids can identify without ever having played their games.
Sneak Peeks and Surprises
Wherever you can, find ways to pepper in little tidbits from your fandoms. Whenever something happens that you can connect to something you like, make a point of piquing their interest with a little factoid. Show them a clip on YouTube or do a Google image search to show them what someone or something looks like. And save some surprises for them to find out when they are old enough. We have gone to great lengths to preserve The Spoiler from the original Star Wars trilogy (pages of storybooks has been tampered with and censored) so that when our kids see Darth Vader deliver his iconic revelation, we get to see their priceless reaction. And all that waiting will have been worth the looks on their faces.
Your mileage will vary for all of these and you should do what feels right as a parent. But these tips may help you integrate your kids into your geeky loves in a cohesive way, so that you don’t have to save what you love for the hours that you’re not with them, and so that they can come to love at least some of the things you love in the way you love them.