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Geeks parenting non-geeks and vice versa

Our family had a great get together with the family of friend of mine, Kirsten. During the discussion, my middling daughter said that compared to the rest of her family she wasn’t geek, but compared to everyone else, she was. This brings up something that I hope we have become attuned to. She feels different, in her own family.

How many of us felt different in their own family, or at least so different from their siblings that they felt a bit left out?

I don’t think we necessarily wanted our parents to like what we did. Just to understand it. Granted, I have little cause to complain. I learned my love of all things science and science fiction from my dad. Read from his bookshelf. And the whole family watched National Geographic, Nova and Cosmos together. It was my parents that took me to Star Wars that first year it came out, clear back in 1977. Our family (my sister and I both young and probably whiney) stood in a line that went around the corner. (Ah bliss, so glad we can buy tickets ahead of time online now, with reserved seats!) But my poor mom had a daughter with very few “girly” interests, and I wasn’t interested in any of her books. 

Parents who differ a lot from their children need to make a strong effort to understand what it is that interests their children, and not just discount it because they don’t like it.

It is  marvelous that our children can have interests different from ours. It means they are their own person.

Children aren’t our minions. They aren’t our colleagues. Or our therapists. And they certainly aren’t copies of ourselves. It is our job to help guide them, but they might need something different than we did. And it might not be horrible to admit to a child that you never went through that, so you aren’t sure what to do but let’s think together about it? Children won’t disdain you for trying to understand them. Saying something like, “I totally don’t get this kind of music, what bands do you think are cool?” when doing something like searching for a gift for them, is a great thing. They’ll love it that you are trying to understand, and taking the time with them. Take the time to look at what they are showing you, and don’t just dismiss it. But if you still really don’t like it (and if it isn’t an issue of character or moral standards) just say: well, I don’t like it but I think it’s cool that you do.

But here is the other difficulty. What if the whole family but one child wants watch a movie, or play a certain game? We want to be together as a family, but forcing that other person to do somethign they hate isn’t going to encourage family togetherness. Now, of course, we can do something everyone agrees one. But then the rest of us may still want to do the thing that leaves the one person out.

I bet some of you have some good answers out. Ours is to just do in anyway sometimes, or if possible do those things when whoever doesn’t care is doing another activitiy at the time.

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  1. Hmmm…I hope I didn’t scar you permanently. lol You are certainly girly in the important ways. And by the way, I was the person who introduced you to science. I used to read to you and your sisters a lot. I thought it was important to give you a wide variety of listening experiences. We read science books and what history I could find for very little people along with the stories. Do you remember the diving hat book? You could name all the fish and sea animals in the book at 2 1/2. Not everybody recognizes a sea anenome at that age, let alone knowing it from a sea urchin and coral.

    I have a wonderful memory… You and your sister and I were sitting outside on the steps in Lehi on a beautiful summer evening. Daddy was not home… a meeting or still at work. We had a Childcraft Encyclopedia and we were looking at a picture of our solar system and talking about it. A neighbor, probably about as old as I am now, walked by and said hello. Then she said I would always treasure moments like that. I am so glad she walked by because I don’t think I would have remembered that particular evening. It would have faded into all the other reading times.

    • Notice I said I have little cause to complain about this :). And you are right about the science! I remember reading those books with you. Remember the sea creatures, but also how very difficult it was to say “anenome”. Didn’t you have us do some cool paper plate fish bowl?

      And even when I didn’t like girly things much, I didn’t get much flack in my family at least.

      But I have seen it before, in one case so severe the kid got into drugs. There are a lot of self esteem issues that come up when a person is different from their peers and then even their family wishes they would change. So I think it is an issue that parents should be aware of. And geeks should be aware of the vice versa too.

  2. Yes, you did say you had little to complain about. 🙂 One more memory…standing in line to see Star Wars. You and your sis were not at all whiney. Just very excited. Come to think of it, the whole atmosphere was festive. I don’t remember seeing one whiney kid in the line. It was a very big deal to go to the movie theater in downtown SLC for us. We sat in the middle of the upper level or balcony. The music was stirring to say the least. Fun evening!

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