Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Lead and They Might Follow

Until you have uttered the phrase “take that out of your mouth” one hundred times, until you have memorized (and hum in your sleep) the theme song from at least three children’s shows and until you realize you are watching Sponge Bob Squarepants with no children in the room, you will not really understand what I’m talking about here… I hope you read on anyway.

Being a father is the single most rewarding, demanding, painful, thankless, seemingly hopeless and awesome task I have ever undertaken.  My two little Jedi have consistently challenged me, driven me to new heights of frustration (“Stop hitting your brother with dirty underwear!!!”), enraged me to the point where “dad needs some alone time” (as noted by the Padawan last night, and reminded me of the awe that the world once inspired in me. I can’t remember being as excited as my boys are about the new discoveries they make, about the new things they learn – though I am sure I once was.  What I can remember, and it’s easy because it happens daily, is how excited I get watching them have fun, watching them become young men.  Those moments of sheer joy are when our ‘parental batteries’ recharge, oftentimes to overflowing – like Iron Man hit with Thor’s lightning.

Which brings me to my point – my boys are geeks.  They denied it last night when we were discussing it at the dinner table, but when asked to name blasters from Star Wars, they were able to identify several by model number, and held opinions on which one is best for which type of battle.  When questioned about Minecraft, they can go on for hours about the types of buildings they can make, how to use redstone and how to best defeat the deadly creepers. They let me join them in this geekery (though I earned my geek card decades ago) and I revel in the fact that they are so proud of it, and are so happy when I join in – the Youngling was telling all his classmates about how he and I joined together to “defeat an Enderman with only stone swords!” His classmates were suitably impressed.

Both continue to profess their desire to become engineers, the elder to build robots which he can use to take over the world and cleanse it of the humans causing all the problems (the dark side is strong in this one) and the younger to build cars and planes that fly and don’t cause pollution (which he admittedly copied from his brother) or maybe a doctor (possibly one that moonlights as an exotic dancer… yeah, he’s complicated).  We live in a time where their desires to be professional YouTubers (another stated goal for both of them) may actually be a career option. In each of them, their love of technology is helping to guide them on their respective paths.

Both are learning to love reading, with the Padawan leaning toward robots and science fiction graphic novels, and the Youngling digging deep into spooky ‘Goosebumps’ books and stories about haunted houses. I keep hoping they will share my passion for high fantasy, and while both love the Hobbit movies (to my chagrin – damn you Peter Jackson!!!) and the Harry Potter movies, neither is interested in the real treat that is a high fantasy novel… but I wait patiently for them.

When asked if he would like to play a roleplaying game with me last night, the Padawan declined – it didn’t sound like fun to him.  I was saddened a bit, the final indoctrination into my geek realm can’t happen until he rolls some polyhedral dice and knows the agony of the critical failure and the ecstasy of rolling a natural twenty.  I want to share that passion with him, but it seems I will have to wait a bit longer yet. 

Above all I’m glad that ‘geek’ no longer has negative connotations, or at least not as negative as they once were.  Where an interest or passion for computers, science fiction or fantasy used to be a one way ticket to social pariah status, it can now be a badge of honor.  And my Jedi in training are many kinds of geeks: video game geeks, technology geeks, superhero geeks, Nerf geeks, Roughrider football geeks, judo geeks and Star Wars geeks.  They are my geeks.