In Praise Of Geeks

How important is it your kid is considered ‘cool’?

Is it more important than raising him/her in a way that’s true to your values?

OK, that’s a setup for sure. Most people- I hope- would say nay to the second question. Yet why do our actions often suggest otherwise?

As I wrote in a prior post, I don’t tend to keep a lot of books that I read. Some time ago I stopped purchasing most books, instead borrowing a copy from the library, and it’s now a habit. Thank you wonderful, wonderful MeLCat system (and fellow taxpayers).

I’m sure I started borrowing primarily to save some dough, but I also love the whole concept of the public library. No matter who you are, get a card/account and you have access to a world of knowledge you can’t possibly exhaust in a lifetime. Further, I started to realize that I wasn’t likely to reread many of the titles, so why keep them around, taking up space and gathering dust?

But there are the exceptions. There are those books that you fall so hard for you have to keep a copy close by so you can revisit them again. And again..

This blog focuses on my parenting journey, so I’m going to praise another great parenting book: Marybeth Hicks’s Bringing Up Geeks.

I’ve been reading this over the month of November 2012, and I find myself quoting from it, and referencing many of Marybeth’s ideas as I talk with friends about raising our kids in today’s world. I’ve just finished it, so I’ll be returning it to my local library and subsequently purchasing a copy to have on hand as a reference as we try to raise two geeks of our own.

The title and geek label will throw a lot of people at first; too many negative connotations I guess. But ‘geek’ in this context stands for Genuine Enthusiastic Empowered Kids. Or, not the kids you see shuffling aimlessly through the mall, looking awfully bored and jaded; usually in a group, gazing half-heartedly at the commercialism that surrounds them while they talk to (or probably text) somebody on the other end of their cell (not anybody in the group they’re walking in…modern multitasking I suppose).

I first heard about this book in an interview with Marybeth on Dr. Laura Markham’s podcast/radio show:

The interview with Marybeth begins at around 14:30.

I was impressed enough to play it back for my wife. Marybeth talked about her own journey raising her children; rejecting much of the prevailing thinking about what’s cool or normal in adolescent culture and instead doing what she and her husband felt was right. At one point during the interview she recalled a time when they had to say no to a particular movie one of the kids wanted to see. The words she used to explain the decision to their child? “That movie isn’t good enough for you”. We loved that.

I’m sure Marybeth wouldn’t claim to have all the answers, but the book lays out pretty clearly how she and her husband have raised their kids. As I read it, I kept thinking that the type of kids she calls geeks are the type of kids I like being around. They’re interested in life, engaged. They usually have a hobby or two they’re passionate about, and in time, they learn that they need not apologize for being who they are. They are, in fact, the truly cool ones.

I would say it was a case of preaching to the choir because we see eye-to-eye on so many things, but Marybeth isn’t preachy. She’s the witty, articulate, entirely-relatable person you know or wish you knew right there in your own hometown. I didn’t find her tone condescending, self-righteous, holier-than-thou, or any other knee-jerk label some might apply. She simply describes what worked for their family, and the reasoning behind the decisions they made.

A note here: I’ve recently become a member on the Goodreads site, and I was reading a review of Geeks there by a fellow member. While the vast majority of the reviews were quite positive, this particular lady wasn’t as pleased, and referred to the author as an ‘uber-theist’. I find that amusing. Marybeth does address matters of faith, starting on page 275 (it’s a 304-page book), but I guess that was a bit too much God-stuff for that particular reviewer. Still- I’m of the opinion that a diehard atheist could come away from this book a firm believer (in the GEEK way). The parenting style Marybeth espouses- and the fruits of that style- have little or nothing to do with any spiritual or political bent.

I’ve been wanting to contact Marybeth to find out if she ever speaks on this topic publicly. I would love to hear more, and to find out what else she’s learned since writing this book. But mainly, I want others to hear what she has to say.

I think our world would most certainly benefit if we raised more GEEKS.