One of the things I love about our family is the spirited, enthusiastic discussions we have around the dinner table. Four people talking animatedly over one another, enthusiastically sharing their well-considered analysis of all things Nerd, completely free of argle-bargle. Yes, we are a family of nerds.
Case in point: By the time you read this, we will have watched episode #7 of the first season of Amazon’s Rings of Power. That hour or so of television will lead to another hour of spirited discussion, probably some loss of sleep every time I awake in the night and think about some obscure Easter egg in the show and ponder it’s meaning. This will be followed by further discussion and analysis regarding said Easter egg and some serious conjecture on how this will lead to episode #8, the final episode of the season.
And this isn’t just me. This will involve all four of us. The four nerds!
How is it that we four became so nerdy? I can only put it down to a love of reading. It’s those damn books!
Tolkien Times Sixteen Equals Nerd
My nerdiness started even before I was writing really bad poetry. You know, teenage angst kind of prose. I wrote a lot of poetry as a teenager, but before that, it was all about the books I read. And my favourite books were by JRR Tolkien.
When I was a wee lad I was given a copy of The Hobbit. I don’t remember by who, but it doesn’t matter. I loved the story. And that naturally led to The Lord of the Rings, which I promptly read every available, waking moment I had. So naturally I became quite obsessed with Tolkien, and the fantasy genre. I read other authors, but I always came back to Tolkien. I studied his writing, and I even wrote him a letter. (He replied!) In fact, in the years since that impressionable wee lad, I’ve read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings more that 16 times! What a nerd…
My Wife, The Nerd
My wonderful wife Heather was quite the book nerd growing up. (Still is!) And one of her favourite genres was fantasy, though she never read Tolkien as a youngster. Weird huh? And in 1977, at the young age of, well, young, she saw Star Wars. And she was smitten. Or indoctrinated! She and her friends obsessed about Star Wars, running about the neighbourhood in costumes with homemade light sabers. She began collecting Star Wars comic books and other paraphernalia. Our office and her desk at work are adorned (festooned!) with Yoda and other characters. Though, I must admit, also a few Lord of the Rings action figures…
Hallowe’en has always been an excuse for her to put on her best Star Wars costume. She has several. Her Darth Vader costume is pretty cool, though. She has even worn it to work, during recess supervision, probably on May the 4th. You know, may the fourth be with you! Nerds, right?
In order to properly establish our Legacy of Nerdiness, we had children. Two young, intelligent minds, so easily manipulated and molded into our vision of what a family of nerds should be. Our work began in earnest.
The Indoctrination Of Zachary
We began slowly with our first-born, Zachary, when we introduced him to Thomas the Tank Engine. He began playing with some of the trains, gradually adding different characters from the Thomas world. We also started watching the Thomas & Friends tv show. George Carlin did the rest!
Pretty soon our house was filled with all things Thomas. We had a train table in our dining room, instead of a dining table. The tracks outgrew the table, so I built pillars of different heights so the tracks could get down to the floor. Then the tracks meandered and divided until they reached the living room. He had a roundhouse, switches, bridges, tunnels, signal towers. Thomas was everywhere! We had created a monster!
It was all too easy after that. We always read to Zachary at bedtime. But during the “Thomas Years” I would make up little Thomas adventure stories that I’d tell at bedtime, instead of reading. I kind of wish I had recorded some of those stories. They were pretty good, I thought. I would make them up on the fly, creating little ten minute adventures that involved various characters from the tv show, helping each other out in some way.
Our Third Nerd
As he got older, we moved on to the Hardy Boys, one of my favourite adventure book series when I was growing up. And when he was old enough, I started reading The Hobbit. He loved that book! It was a perfect indoctrination book. Read a chapter at bedtime and let that percolate in his young, impressionable, moldable mind while he slept. Our plan was working! Soon we’d have a fully formed “Third Nerd”! Moohaha!
Once The Hobbit was finished, the natural progression was to carry on with the Lord of the Rings. Now we were in it for the long haul. Three large books, with no pictures but the occasional map, and Tolkien’s English was nothing to sneeze at. This kid was a sponge!
Now, several years later, Zach is an established Tolkien enthusiast. He’s read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings several times, the Silmarillion twice, and several other Tolkien books. The lore has drawn him in. He even wears the One Ring on a chain around his neck. What a nerd!
D & D, The Ultimate Nerd Creator
When he got into primary school, Zachary was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons by one of his teachers. They started a small D&D club after school when he was in grade 3. He took right to it, thanks to his love of JRR Tolkien.
Dungeons and Dragons is all about the story. It’s an immersive game that encourages players to take risks, try new things, and express themselves in a safe, supportive environment. As a role playing game, D & D can’t be beat. Zach has spent hours creating worlds and characters and back-stories for each of those characters. He loves good lore, whether reading a story or playing a video game, it has to have a great back-story. And Dungeons & Dragons lets you create that environment. All without a computer or television.
Here’s a great article on the benefits of playing D & D.
“Participation in narrative role play can open up interests in topics such as mathematics, science, history, culture, ethics, critical reading, and media production.”Professor David Simkins, Rochester Institute of Technology
Who knew an added benefit of turning my children into nerds was that they’d get smarter too? Yes, all part of my cunning plan…creating the ultimate family of nerds!
Beth-Rose And The Orcs
The path to nerdiness was a bit different with our daughter, Beth-Rose. It probably started off with some really bad parenting…
When Beth-Rose was five years old, we went to Mexico for a Spring Break vacation. On the flight down, the airline offered a number of in-flight movies for our viewing pleasure. One of the movies was the The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It was the second release in the overly long and unnecessary trilogy. Still, good movies to watch, when you’re a family of nerds. And so that’s the movie we let our daughter watch. But did I mention our daughter was only 5? Let’s see, what’s the rating for that movie? Ahh, right! PG-13! Did I mention our daughter was only 5? I did? Well there’s some great parenting for you!
A couple of days into our lovely vacation, and we’re having a nice breakfast with Heather’s dad and step-mom. Beth-Rose blurts out that she had a nightmare the night before. Heather’s dad asks her, a little concerned, “Oh no, what happened?” Beth-Rose responded in a matter-of-fact tone, “There was a dance party, and the wargs were wearing disco outfits, and the orcs were in pink tutu’s.” The blank look on Papa’s face was perfect. The look of embarrassment on Heather’s face wasn’t.
And so we explained that we were terrible parents because we let our precocious daughter of 5 watch a scary movie rated PG-13. But to Beth-Rose, it wasn’t scary at all. Her little developing brain created a disco dance party with orcs and wolves (sorry, “wargs”) to make it not scary. It actually sounded kinda cool. My daughter, the nerd.
Nerdy Super Hero
When she got a little older, we introduced her to a tv show that Heather and I enjoyed back in our single days; Smallville. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend giving it a look. It’s geared to younger adults, but we enjoyed it because, well, we’re nerds. And it’s kind of a nerdy show about Superman before he was a man. He’s an awkward teenager with super powers. He’s still trying to figure them out and learn to control them. Heat vision is an especially tricky one. He keeps burning things down when he gets a little, um, “excited”. You know, teenage excitement. The kind with hormones…funny stuff really. At least to a family of nerds.
So anyway, Beth-Rose really took to the show. She would watch it with Heather, but then she started watching it more. In pretty much no time at all she had watched all ten seasons of the show. Twice. She’s watched a bunch of it with our student Jana, and has introduced the show to some of her other friends. Even her dance teacher! She has the complete set of DVDs, and some other items form the show. Such a nerd!
A Family Of Nerds
And so the four of us have developed into quite the family of nerds. Just this afternoon, I walked into a conversation between Heather, Zachary and Beth-Rose. They were discussing some sciencey stuff, something about the chemical makeup of glucose. I didn’t understand it all because I’m not a sciencey kind of guy. I only know that the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 says that beer can only be made with water, barley and hops. So that was a nerdy conversation that I didn’t participate in.
But we have a lot to discuss around the newest episode of The Rings of Power. Several conversations over dinner will be had, at least until episode #8 hits the small screen, in less than a week. And then we’ll have more to talk about. Ah, the life of a nerd, in a family of nerds. Hey, if that’s what it takes to make our family communicate, and have fun while doing it, then I’m all in!
So how ’bout you? Any nerds in your family? What is it that stimulates your “inner nerd”? Fill me in on the details in the comments below. I’d love to hear your nerdy stories!