Nerd Parenting

2 Feb

The response to Mateo’s TARDIS has made me think about how one raises a nerd. How much is inborn and how much is parental guidance? Sometimes the influence of parents is obvious. Brian’s father was a nuclear engineer who loved Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Sometimes it’s not. My father was a car mechanic, my mother a homemaker.

Brian’s nerdiness manifests in the typical geeky ways — he likes Star Wars and technology podcasts and Heinlein’s juvenile novels. I like literature (especially late Victorian and early Modernist literature) and biographies of Cleopatra, Mozart, and 18th century noblewomen. We have kind of nerdy jobs — he’s a packaging and graphic designer; I’m a writer and graphic novel editor.

So how did it come about in my case? What I’ve realized is that specific interests don’t matter. What can influence your child to grow up nerdy is modeling for them an intense, sustained, and pleasurable interest in a given subject — interest to the point of wanting to read all the footnotes and sources, to know the minutiae, and feeling a sense of camaraderie with those who share that interest. My dad had Kung Fu — he competed in tournaments, broke cinderblocks with his fists, and taught others. My mom, well, she had Jesus.

My parents showed me that they had interests that were important to them, and while I still like Kung Fu movies and I have a non-spiritual interest in Christianity, it was the model they gave me that taught me that I should pursue and delve into my own interests.

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One Response to “Nerd Parenting”

  1. kimu February 3, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Very good points! I’m similar – my husband’s dad is an engineer and my husband ended up as an engineer, but neither of my parents were science-y or nerdy (carpenter & homemaker) and I ended up in science. I think what my parents gave me most of all was room to explore and find what I really loved. My mom was a huge bookworm and I think she helped me develop a love of books, my dad taught me how to do basic math in my head (a handy skill for a carpenter). We’ve had several people tell us our 11-month old son is bound to be an engineer because of how he “evaluates” all his toys & sippy cups & the world in general, but obviously he’s got a long way to grow 🙂

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