Lumos! Shining a Light on Empowering Nerdlings: Life is Just Another Choose-Your-Adventure
A little over seven years ago, my then-fiancé and I had our first child. For months we prepared, decorating a room in rainbows and clouds in multiple colors, doing our utmost to buy baby clothes in a wide variety of colors, and swearing that we would not call our daughter Princess. We took every baby class offered to us, read the baby books, and hoped that our child would become a gender neutral geek as she grew up. Kids, though, have a tendency to have minds of their own, and even at the young age of a year old, we found our child to be a fan of the Disney Princesses. We then adopted one of our daughter’s two nicknames: “Princess Claudia Monster.” We were in for a few years of pink frilly dresses, fairy wings, and tutus.
Six years later, after my fiancé became my husband, we found ourselves with another child on the way. This time, we were preparing a room in a woodland theme with deer, bunnies, and owls, a Minecraft poster on the wall (picked out by our daughter), and several geeky toys including Darth Tater. Financially we had a little bit more freedom, so we found ourselves purchasing Star Wars and comic book onesies and our friends had a few embroidered with two hearts, cool bow ties, and Stormageddon. Again, our child has a mind of his own, and he has turned into a lover of Elmo, Mickey Mouse, and the Minions.
One of the largest difficulties we face as parents is to make sure that we don’t push our own interests on our children and instead embrace who they are. The one vow I made when my daughter was born that I can safely say I still keep seven years later is that I would do my utmost to empower her to be proud of who she is. Every night we ask her, “Where are you the most beautiful?” and she responds “On the inside.” I have overheard her, when a friend has described herself as fat, telling her friend “Yeah, but you’re perfect just the way you are.”
I have found in the years since I became a mom that I have changed quite a bit myself. As a child, I found myself gravitating toward princesses and shying away from the more traditionally “masculine” stories. I don’t know how much of that was socialization and how much of it was my own interest. Now, though, I see myself as a fan of Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, Steven Universe… the stories that are more introspective where the characters dig deeper with the realities of right and wrong, gray spaces, and compassion. These stories are more representative of the struggles our kids will face as they grow up, and while I don’t want to push these stories on my kids, I will encourage them to watch along with me.
I had a discussion with a friend this morning about the difficulties in parenting. What we teach our kids can only go so far, and we have to hope that what we’ve taught has given our kids a good foundation. I tell my daughter, as I will tell my son one day, the only thing we can control is the choices we personally make, and every choice we make has an outcome. We can’t go back in time and have a do-over, so we need to make sure that the choices we make are good ones.