Don’t Listen to Your Family; You Should Totally Geekify Your Baby
Dear relatives: I'm okay with my family not being "normal," and you should be, too.
“Am I doing it right?”
I don’t know how many times I asked myself that question between the early stages of my wife’s pregnancy and the months following my daughter Amelia’s birth. The Internet is a bit of a double-edged sword for new parents seeking answers to that question. On the one hand, it gives you access to all of the wisdom of human history. On the other hand, you’ll find dogmatic rants for every side of every argument out there. When combined with the lack of sleep and the sheer terror of being a new parent, it fosters a new type of neurosis and second guessing.
For a while, everything from cloth diaper options to the amount of background TV exposure made me worry that I was going to turn her into a Sith Lord instead of an awesome person. But there was one particular area where the grief came from the real world, not the virtual one: the fact that we geeked her out with a Doctor Who-themed nursery and onesies from Star Trek and The Walking Dead.
I remember the first time I heard how “weird” such an idea would be. The scene was at Pottery Barn Kids, which was probably a bad idea in itself. While trying to not be overwhelmed by the prices for cribs and bedding and stuff (this was before we discovered you should just order everything off Amazon, since these stores only have the highest-end stuff on the floor), I heard a woman pick up some Star Wars plushes off the shelf and mutter, “Why would you buy these for a baby?”
And that was Star Wars, the most mainstream of any geek brand out there.
Not long after that, we’d told our friends and family about our ideas for our Doctor Who-themed nursery. We’d even found the perfect blue IKEA dresser to fit in our nursery, and we asked artist Alicia Braumberger to sell us a print of this fantastic illustration of a wardrobe inspired by Who. However, it was at our baby shower when more contempt started to leak through.
Things started with a handful of snickers as our fellow geek friends gave us themed gifts. This wasn’t that out of the ordinary for us; heck, our wedding vows included the term “boldly go.” But it came to a head when a family member loudly said, “Better hope she actually likes that stuff,” with a laugh—and the kind of laugh where you know it’s at you, not with you.
That triggered all sorts of new parent second-guessing. Were we forcing her to like the same stuff we did? What if that family member was right? What if she hated Doctor Who and other geeky indulgences? Would she feel stifled creatively because we boxed her into geek imagery from an early age?
Weeks later, while walking through Babies R Us and looking at decor options, it hit me: from a “normal” perspective, acceptable nursery options included farm animals (which are always a good thing), Disney characters, and the NFL. Farm animals I can get, but why are Disney princesses considered socially acceptable when Doctor Who is not? Does anyone tell parents buying pro sports team stuff for their baby, “Better hope she actually likes football?”
During that time, I’d been so terrified of messing up my daughter with micro-choices that I constantly questioned what was normal. But in the area of decor and toys and clothing, I realized that there was no normal; there was just safe and unsafe (obviously, we chose safe).
Yet as new parents or parents-to-be, messages are sent through endless catalogs draped in blue and pink, or online slideshows of adorable-but-expensive-and-gender-troped nurseries. For overtired and worried people, it’s easy for these constant messages—and our own self-doubts—to unhealthily skew our normal-meters. (If you need a laugh at these ridiculous catalog images, do check out It’s Like They Know Us.)
But the people who are judging aren’t the ones who are going to be trying to determine a bottle’s temperature while soothing a fussy baby at three AM. During those times, any sense of normal is gone, and what’s left is survival mode. For me, that’s where geekifying our baby really helped: to provide that extra sense of levity to stay cool under pressure. It may be the middle of the night, the bottle is not yet ready, and there is poop leaking out the diaper EVERYWHERE, but the fact that my daughter calmed down when she held her 11th Doctor doll? That stuff makes me giddy—and in turn, that allows me to function as a better parent.
Which, I think, is way more important than fitting into the Crate & Barrel-catalog image of “normal.”
After Amelia was born, I still did a world of second-guessing and worrying. But I never questioned her geeky nursery or clothes. At this age, babies don’t know the difference between a plush dog and a plush Jabba the Hutt or a princess onesie and a wookiee onesie—but we as parents do, and little touches like that helped us get through the early months and enjoy our time with her. Even if she grows up to hate sci-fi, I’ll tell her that if and when she has a baby, she shouldn’t listen to anyone else: if it makes you happy, is safe for your baby, and it makes you a better parent, that’s all that matters. So go forth and geekify your baby, and may you and your little one have all of time and space together.
Mike Chen is a freelance writer who used to cover the NHL for Fox Sports and SB Nation but now writes about geek parenting and video games. He also builds WordPress websites and writes novels that walk the line between mainstream and science fiction (repped by Eric Smith of PS Literary Agency). Follow him on Twitter.
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