How to Raise A Little Geek

Posted by Stephanie Ross

A Death Star, drawn by my five year old.

As a parent, there are many days when things go very badly, days when you feel you are not cut out for raising cats, let alone tiny humans. But then some days you beam with pride knowing you got it right. My five-year-old twin sons are nice to each other (unless a dispute over Matchbox cars arises). They try new foods (unless they look icky). They always let me finish my requests before they ignore them. And now, now they are learning to be good geeks.

It all started so simply. My husband and I were minding our own business playing Angry Birds on our iPads. Our sons, future geeks that they are, were instantly attracted to the buttons, sounds, and pictures. It was as if they were born to understand a touch screen. And oh how we laughed at those silly piggies and crazy birds. The sound of wood crashing and wingless birds smashing was the sound of family time. As each new iteration became available, we had one more carrot to dangle in front of our future nerds.

And then it happened. Angry Birds Star Wars was released. The boys had already taken to Angry Birds Space like, well, like geeks to video games. We had been having some fabulous discussions about space travel and planets. We even watched the NASA video demonstrating how the birds would move in space. We had implanted an idea. Space = cool.

I figured they would just see the Star Wars game as another space mission, but I underestimated the nerd blood that pulses through their veins. As soon as the title cards scrolled on the screen in that familiar pattern, they instinctively knew this was something special. We had made space even better. The birds had names. The planets were different and wonderful. There was a story that Mommy and Daddy told with each new discovery.

And now, here we are; we have two boys who spend their free time at school drawing the Death Star and Tie Fighters. To say I'm proud would be an understatement.

Having successfully indoctrinated the boys into one of our geek loves, we know we can add others. You can too; here's how.

Angry Birds and Tie Fighters

1. Start Slowly: When your child shows a gleam of interest in something you love, it's easy to get excited and go to town. "Look son, a train!" Child grins. You find yourself buying all the Thomas trains and tracks and a train table and sweatshirts and a whistle only to find your toddler was just kidding and doesn't really want to play with them; he'd just like to throw them at the cat. Now your child associates Thomas trains with time-out instead of the Golden Age of Railroad. He's probably not going to want more. But if you give him one train at a time, you've got him hooked, hooked on nerd stuff.

2. Choose Your Battles: Yes, we have children who pretend to be Jedi in the car on the way to school. But, we don't have perfect fan boys yet. We do not correct them when they call Dagobah 'the gooey planet." I mean, that's pretty cute, so how can you stop it? They also call the AT-AT giant turtles. We let it go. But the day they said Yoda was kind of useless? No. I did not let that slide. What followed was a lecture both inappropriate to their age and their interest, but it had to be done. Some things are sacred.

3. Feed the Need: Once we realized the boys were officially into it, we did what we could to make their Star Wars love grow. Thanks to YouTube they've seen the scene where Luke destroys the Death Star. We showed them that LEGO makes Star Wars toys. The LEGO catalog has now become a story book where they use the pictures to help them recite the legend. "Look, that's the cold planet." "Darth Vader's Tie Fighter is a little different from the others." "For my next birthday I want the X-Wing Fighter." Bam! Now, we've combined two nerd loves, LEGO and Star Wars.

4. Stay The Course: Children have a tendency to find new interests. They are wont to become distracted from the task at hand. (That's why I have 15 unfinished Lightening McQueen coloring books.) When they stray, lead them back to the path. I have in my storage room a shrink-wrapped box of the seven Harry Potter novels. These were bought while the twins were in utero. I didn't even know if I was having boys or girls. It didn't matter. My children are reading all of the books. All of them. If they show signs of weariness at Order of The Phoenix, we shall visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I will do this to help my sons not because I'm dying to try Butterbeer.

I'm so happy with the success of Operation: Spread Star Wars Love that I'm planning my next move. Firefly is okay for five-year-olds, right? You know what? You're right. Better wait until they're six.

Stephanie Ross enjoys long walks on the Polish beach but would rather be in Texas y'all. Catch up with her many disjointed thoughts on Twitter (@TalkIsPrimary) and her blog