I’ll occasionally be posting on my success (or lack thereof) in promoting the growth of science fictional geekhood in my offspring. I’ll probably never be a Little League parent, unless Asher surprises me and decides he wants to play baseball (my two nephews in Florida play baseball, but my brother Ric has always been an avid fan of the game, unlike me). However, I am most definitely a Geek Dad, and proud of it.
It is fascinating to watch each of my three boys gradually develop their own interests. I’ve learned that the most I can do as Geek Dad is expose them to the things I love, in case that love is catching; but I can’t make them enjoy anything they don’t have an innate interest in. My dear stepdad learned that with me when he tried and tried again to get me interested in boxing. No matter how many Golden Gloves bouts he took me to, I insisted on staring at the ceiling rather than watch what was happening in the ring. I was very anti-violence as a kid, apart from illustrated punch ’em outs in comic books. (Ironically, as an adult, I’ve developed an interest in boxing, and now I wish I could go back in time and force my younger self to pay attention to the sport.)
Levi, my eight year old, has blossomed into an enthusiastic reader. He loves humorous books (like the Captain Underpants series and the Wimpy Kid books) and also immerses himself in beginning readers YA fantasy series (especially the Magic Treehouse books). He is curious about science fiction, too. So this past weekend I bought him a pair of the Heinlein juveniles, The Rolling Stones and Rocket Ship Galileo. He looked them over in the store and said they seemed pretty interesting. I’m crossing my fingers, hoping Heinlein will be his entry drug. If the Heinlein doesn’t float his boat, I’ll probably try some Anne McCaffrey or Andre Norton next. One of his classmates has started reading the Harry Potter books, and he’s expressed an interest in those. I don’t have anything against Harry Potter, but I’m a little afraid that, given the books’ enormous length, if he gets sucked into that series, he won’t be reading anything else for the next year or so. Plus, I really, really want to expose him to some science fiction, not just fantasy. I’ll keep you all posted on what he thinks of the Heinlein books.
Judah, my five year old, is, as I have previously mentioned, a fanatic for monster movies, particularly Japanese giant monster movies, and their associated toys. He frequently asks for toys from movies which have never been especially toyetic, such as Gorgo and Tarantula. But where there is a will, there is a way. My mother has always been a very artsy-craftsy person, and she passed along some of that love to me. It is a fun challenge to create toys which Judah and Asher will not destroy within their first five minutes of playing with them. My first effort was a Gorgo stick puppet. I folded over a piece of green construction paper, drew a picture of Gorgo (essentially a Tyrannosaurus with long arms and big, square ears), cut it out, drew all the details on the opposite side, and glued the two sides together with a plastic straw in the middle. It has proven to be surprisingly durable. Judah and Asher have used it for puppet shows.
Next Judah begged me for a Tarantula toy. I planned to take him to a reptile expo and exotic pet show at the Prince William Fairgrounds, where I figured I’d find a rubber tarantula or two on sale, but I got the dates wrong, and we missed it. So it was Michael’s Crafts to the rescue — black pipe cleaners, a bundle of black yarn, and a package of googly eyes. For the body, I recycled a pair of plastic tokens cups we’d brought home from Chuck E. Cheese’s. I poked holes in the cups for the eight pipe cleaner legs, glued and taped the cups together, then wrapped the body in black yarn. I finished off Judah’s Tarantula with a pair of pipe cleaner pinchers and six googly eyes. My wife Dara said it was one of the creepiest toys she’s ever seen.
Judah adores it and plays with it daily. I am one happy dad.
Next up? Mothra. That’ll be this coming weekend’s project.