Being a geek parent means hiding my dancing Groot in my bedroom so the kids don’t run out the battery.
“I’m Wonder Woman,” announced my daughter.
“OK,” I said.
My daughter, who is 5, is many things. Sometimes a fairy princess. Sometimes a doctor. Sometimes both; I once walked in on her, fully attired in tutu and sparkly wings, giving Grandma a checkup.
I was a bit puzzled this time, though. I’d decided she was too young to read my old comic books. She watches “Paw Patrol,” not “Justice League.” How did she know about Wonder Woman?
Geek parenting is a particular subset of parenting. It means explaining to your doubtful son that Yoda is, in fact, a good guy and not a bad guy so that he’ll wear his new Star Wars shirt, as well as correcting his pronunciation of “Tatooine.” It means letting your kids play with your toy Borg ship. It means hiding your dancing Groot in your bedroom so the kids don’t run out the battery.
Believe me, at no point when I was growing up did I think the weird books, games, movies, and TV shows I was into were ever going to dominate pop culture. I was always amazed when my playing Dungeons & Dragons or going to conventions didn’t permanently wreck my dating life.
Once out of college, I largely hid my geekness from other people, especially women. I’d gotten the message loud and clear when I was a kid: Girls were supposed to like “Sweet Valley High” books and “90210,” not “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Per every ’80s sitcom I’d ever watched, girls were supposed to be pretty, not smart, and never both. In fact, my memory is that the “kid sister” characters on both “Growing Pains” and “Family Ties” started out smart and nerdy-looking, then eventually got cute and trendy makeovers, and became somehow dumber. Maybe all the hairspray damaged their fictional brain cells?
Since I didn’t fit the mold, clearly, I’d failed girlhood. Better to figure out all that hair-and-makeup stuff so I could converse with other girls.
Now? San Diego Comic-Con is a Hollywood event. Real-life people play Quidditch. Girls are taught how to code. Everyone’s got a Captain America T-shirt. Disney princesses have magic powers and save each other instead of waiting around for a prince (who isn’t even a prince, just an ice harvester who talks to his reindeer). The big movie this past summer involved a space-traveling, talking raccoon. Down is up. Up is down. Dragons are cool.
I don’t know what to make of it all. Do I even need to teach my kids that geeky things are, well, geeky? Will the universe ever right itself and decide once again that light sabers and phasers are for the socially maladjusted? Or will my husband and I get through our kids’ adolescence without their being embarrassed by our Death Star-shaped bottle opener?
At any rate, my daughter’s wanting to be Wonder Woman could only be a good thing. Wonder Woman is strong. She’s tough. She flies an invisible jet. (OK, I was never quite on board with that last one. How does she see the controls?)
Usually my daughter switches personas on a daily basis. The Wonder Woman phase lasted several days. Then she came home from school steaming mad. One of the boys in her class didn’t believe she was Wonder Woman. “He says I can’t have a secret identity,” she said.
Always, the boys try to set the rules on these things. “Well, of course you can,” I said. That seemed to satisfy her.
A day later, she announced, “I’m a princess.” This was a comedown from Wonder Woman. I’d rather liked her being a superhero. Apparently the pink tutu and glitter wings had left their mark after all.
“I thought you were Wonder Woman,” I couldn’t help asking.
She informed me, primly, “Wonder Woman is a princess.”
Well…yes. She’s an Amazonian princess. I have no idea how my daughter knew that.
But calling someone out on their lack of geek knowledge is the geekiest thing you can do. So already, my 5-year-old has passed the geek test.
I’m so proud.
Marlaina Cockcroft is a freelance editor, journalist, and author of fiction. Her work has been published in The Record newspaper and in Goldfinch literary magazine. She blogs at marlainagray.com and angryyoungmom.blogspot.com.