Monday, February 27, 2012

Raising a Girl Geek

Joy in September 2011
I was thinking over the weekend that since the sub-head of my blog is "A dad raising a little girl geek talks about RPGs, Comics, Fantasy, Science-Fiction and other Geek Stuff" that maybe it was time that I actually explain how I'm trying to go about raising the next generation of geeks.

It's certainly not rocket science - I'm basically just going about trying to expose my little 2 1/2 year old girl, Joy, to everything that I think is cool.  Here's a quick run-down of my efforts to date.

RPGs: Obviously the concept of an RPG is way beyond any 2 1/2 year old.  However, my wife and I do a lot to instill in Joy a sense of imagination, and it seems to be working. Joy will often say things like "I want to drive Daddy's car" and when we say, "But, Joy, you don't know how to drive!" she says, "I'm just pretending."  She does this a LOT regarding a lot of different subjects - eating food, cooking dinner, flying in a rocket ship, etc. "I'm just pretending."  Of course, pretending is an important first step toward playing RPGs later in life.  When Joy says, "Daddy, you have to climb in your rocket ship!" and we pretend that we're climbing in, closing the door, buckling ourselves in, and punching a bunch of buttons to set our coordinates for our destination.  I can just imagine her being a bit older (okay - a lot older) and re-enacting the same scenario while playing Traveler or even by taking my Star Frontiers boxed set off my shelf.  

Joy has also been with me to my local game store, Game Empire, many times, at both the old and new locations, and sat with me on the floor while I thumbed through various game books and browsed through the used game section.  I've also walked her through the open gaming area so she can see everyone playing various card, miniature, and role-playing games.  She asks a lot of questions and I try to answer them in a way that will help her understand what's going on.  

Comics: This past Christmas, I bought Joy a My First Batman Book from Pottery Barn Kids. She loves it and requests that I read it to her nearly every night.  It's a short book but tells you a lot that you'd want to know about Batman - that he's really Bruce Wayne who lives in "fancy Wayne Manor" (I still think it should say stately Wayne Manor, but that's a minor quibble) but when he puts in his mask he turns into Batman (and again - another minor quibble, but is Batman the mask, or is Bruce Wayne the real mask?), that he has a fancy car called a Bamobile, that he sometimes swings from a Bat-rope, that he's called using the Bat Signal (which glows in the dark), that he is very smart and uses a computer in his bat-cave to catch criminals, and that he has a helper named Robin.  Each description comes with a cool interactive device - the description of the bat-rope, for example, has a cut-out of batman on a line of string that you can swing between the buildings of Gotham. The description of Robin has a facing page with a little reflective mirror-like "face" with a black Robin-mask over the eyes where you can line your face up and "become" Robin. Joy loves that page.  

Using this book, I've taught her the name of Batman's rogues' gallery, even though their names are never mentioned in the book. She can now name the Joker, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and the Riddler by site.  Well, sometimes she has trouble with the Riddler.  But, as an example, one of our friends recently got a set of the Fisher-Price "Little People" Batman and Joker figures, and Joy was able to identify the Joker just from looking at his figure.  

I have a Green Lantern hoodie that I wear a lot, and also two different Green Lantern t-shirts, so she's able to identify old GL pretty well also.  It helps that his name is also the same color of his outfit.  

I've also listened to the Music of DC Comics 7th Anniversary Collection many times in the car on the way to daycare.  She loves listening to this, particularly the old 1960s Batman TV theme song, but also the ones the list the various members of the Justice League.  This morning I asked her what her favorite Superhero was, and she said, "Aquaman, because he helps me eat food." Yeah, I'm not sure what that was about, and believe me, I am trying to work with her, because, seriously... Aquaman?

Speaking of music, I should point out that while we do own some "kiddie tunes", I pretty much avoid playing these for Joy when I can help it. She listens to whatever I'm listening to in the car, which means mostly alternative rock, classic rock, electronica, and lots of jazz. I've made a ton of different jazz playlists for her with artists like Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughan, and Louis Armstrong.  She's slowly learning to identify the names of the artists and their instruments.  I sorta figure - music is music, so why should I have to listen to "wheels on the bus" on auto-repeat just because I have a two year old?  I think it's important to expose her to a bunch of different styles of music so that she can learn what she likes.

Joy in September 2010 in her Star Trek onesie
Science Fiction: We've chatted about the various Star Wars t-shirts I own when I wear them.  She's asked me a few times "Who's that?" while pointing to the various portraits of the characters on my shirts.  She's also got two Star Wars books that were Christmas gifts from my sister a couple of years ago: Star Wars: Villains and Star Wars: Heroes, so she's able to identify many of the main characters.  Of course we haven't let her watch any of the movies yet, and she's even too young for the amount of violence in stuff like the animated "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" cartoon. 

She knows of Star Trek and has seen bits and pieces as I've watched both TOS and TNG on TV.  She's aware of the Enterprise and I think she might be able to identify it by name if I showed her a picture.  And of course, one of the first bits of clothing I bought for her was her awesome Star Trek TOS Command Onesie from Thinkgeek.  

Robots: I think I have Plex from Yo Gabba Gabba to thank for this one, but Joy likes to play robot.  I've taught her to walk around and stiffen her arms and legs and use a monotone voice to say "I am a robot."  It's hilarious.  We're going to work on making some of these next - I've been saving up our tin cans. 

Fantasy: Other than the more fairy-tale type stuff (see "Other stuff" below), and our visits to the game store, we haven't gotten too much into standard fantasy.  I showed her some of the pictures in my Time Life The Enchanted World series of books.  And, while my wife was pregnant, I read The Hobbit to her every night to help her relax and fall asleep, so I'm sure some of that got through to Joy via osmosis, along with the tons of episodes of "Star Trek: TNG" and "Battlestar Galactica" that my wife and I watched while she was pregnant.

Other Stuff: Before you think that I'm depriving my little girl of being, well, a "normal" girl, I'll tell you that her favorite things these days are Tinkerbell and the Disney Princesses.  But she also likes things like the castle where Sleeping Beauty lives. She's seen the Tinkerbell movie (the "new" one about all of the different fairies where Tinkerbell lives) as well as "Cinderella", "The Little Mermaid" and "Mulan." Even when we watch these, my wife and I try to use them as teaching opportunities.  While watching "Mulan," for example, we had to discuss what a "soldier" and an "army" were, why they were fighting and hurting each other, what a "war" was, what a dragon was, and all sorts of other things. 

So, that's all I can think of at the moment, but hopefully it's a good snap-shot of the kinds of things that I'm trying to do to help Joy learn more about the kinds of things that I enjoy.  I figure that she's going to get enough of the Sesame Street-Disney-Nickelodeon trifecta as she gets older, so I may as well do what I can to expose her to different types of things.  So far, she seems to like most of them, plus it's just fun for me to think of new and fun ways to share these hallmarks of geekdom with her.  

Hanging: Home Office
Listening: "Wonderful Night (Trash Remix)" by Fat Boy Slim
Drinking: Some rather inexpensive and not super good Bordeaux that my wife picked up at Trader Joe's. Meh.


  1. That's a cute kid right there! Hey, sounds like you're doing your level best to indoctrinate the offspring! Good on ya! BUT, as a fellow gamer dad who is also working on raising the next generation of geekdom, I have to tell you my fear: that if you try to push all the geeky goodness on them too aggressively, you could well have the opposite effect! Now, I'm not saying that I think you're laying it on too thick. I'm just putting my theory out there, 'cause this is something I think about a lot.

  2. LMAO - this morning's Aquaman conversation killed me.

  3. Hey Drance! I was going to make a whole follow-up post about this very issue, but decided instead to just comment here.

    Basically, I do worry about driving Joy away from the "geek-life" but basically pushing it on her too much, but my plan has been to just basically expose her to stuff once, and then take her lead. If she asks about it again, then I'll continue to show her stuff and talk about it. So, for example, while she seems to be really into Superheroes and Robots, so far she hasn't expressed much interest in Dragons, even though we've shown her a few and talked about them. So, I just backed off.

    With music, it's somewhat the same- play stuff for her a few times, and if she responds, we'll keep playing it. As another example, she really likes classical music because it reminds her of ballet dancing, but she's not super keen on harder classic rock, like Rush.

    What are your kids into?


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