As I sit here listening to the latest update from the governor of my state, I can’t help but look back on this past year as a geeky parent. More simply, as a parent. Even more so, another human being struggling to grapple with the continuity of this year’s timeline. What has it been like to be a geeky parent this past year? Well, it’s had its ups and downs – and all along the way, the struggle of feeling like a failure has been overwhelming.
The Geeky Parent Guide (GPG) has been a source of distraction. It’s been a place where I hope it has helped others to be distracted by finding ways to keep our kids happy and their minds off the very struggles we feel day to day. Many of the activities that I wrote about were directly related to my own kids. We built structures with food. Many a things were baked. We even created experiments together, such as watching a homemade volcano “erupt” for a homeschool assignment. Ah, yes, homeschooling.
If anything has changed the most this past year, it was the decision for my wife Meghan and me to homeschool. As a writer and stay-at-home dad, it was the decision that we felt was best for our kids. If I take anything away from this experience, despite the school year not being over, I can say without a doubt that it has provided me with a great sense of responsibility, pride, and pure joy to watch my kids learn. If there was ever a positive spin on being an absolute geek, it’s the fact that I can sometimes be pretty creative to provide experiences that relate to their subject matter.
Are they learning about different cities and countries all over the world? Yes, so let’s dive into television shows or YouTube channels that do just that: travel the world, explore different places, and try all of the amazing foods the world has to offer.
Are the kids learning about things that revolve around environmental science? Yes, so let’s watch videos on how the water cycle works, how rocks and volcanoes form, and the many other things that happen under the sun. Oh, it’s also a perfect reason to share anything related to space, planets, and the work that is being done to better understand our planet and any galaxy far, far away.
Oh, being a geek also gives me a chance to introduce my kids to things like Star Wars. “Do or do not. There is no try.” Although my kids haven’t watched The Empire Strikes Back, the message still holds true when teaching. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to learn. The two are synonymous. Whenever I’ve seen them get discouraged, sometimes, I let them push it aside until later. Sometimes, I push them a little bit to understand that they can do it. If they get it wrong, that’s okay. It’s the process of failure, or getting things right, which better informs their learning process.
Am I the best teacher? Should I explain why I’m not or should I just leave it here with a giant LOL? Needless to say, I’m thoroughly enjoying this experience, and by all accounts, my kids are equally enjoying my teachings. When they tell Meghan or their grandparents on the phone that they love homeschool, it makes me feel happy. Am I sad because I also know that they miss their friends? Absolutely. The best thing I can do is to help them the best I can. I’m filled with anxiety, doubt, and a pretty cluttered headspace, but I understand that my kids need as much of me as humanly possible. Even when I have frustrations from them not listening – because, you know, kids – they are still there needing my help every day. And, what’s best, is when they’re there helping me.
On those days when someone has reached a limit of frustration, there’s a phrase that I started many a years ago. I’m not sure when it happened, but it’s simple: “take a deep breath” or “deep breaths.” Trying to help my kids work through their frustrations is something I also need help with. In those instances, when my kids see me struggling, those words come back to me from them, asking if I’m okay or telling me, “Deep breaths, daddy.” In those moments, it tells me that maybe I’m doing something right. During this hellacious year, what better thing could I hold onto?
As a geek, I’ve also been relying on a few things to keep me sane. The Hunger Games, both books and movies. Music, a la Linkin Park, Seether, Pearl Jam, Billie Eilish, Khalid, Foo Fighters, and Cold, to name a few. Comic books galore, like Something Is Killing the Children, Crowded, Batman: The Long Halloween, Shadow of the Batgirl, Undiscovered Country, Farmhand, Memetic, and many others. I’ve relied on virtual conversations with friends to provide levity. And, most importantly, I’ve leaned on my wife and kids, even if it’s nothing more than listening to them laugh. If all I have to do to smile is rent Scooby-Doo DVDs from our local library, press play, and then listen to the immense cackling that ensues, then that’s a wonderfully fantastic thing.
As you can tell, this article isn’t about this past year in the GPG. It’s about the geeky parent that runs it: me. And this year has been trying to say the least. I have no doubt that you are feeling this year’s burden as much as I am, if not more. But that’s the point, I guess. We are all facing the turmoil associated with this year differently, because we are all unique and we all handle things in ways we don’t understand. So, what’s kept me busy that’s helped me get through this year, you know, besides homeschooling two kiddos?
I am a staffer with Fanbase Press, so I lead the Geeky Parent Guide and provide other reviews or essays when I can. I also run a parenting blog, because who couldn’t resist uttering the phrase “Winey Parent” when describing oneself? I really try to cut back on the whining. Luckily, wine does help on that front. The biggest obstacle in this year has been wrapping my head around creative writing. If there’s free time, I love to write fiction. That’s unless my brain says, “NO, THANK YOU.” Then, it seems like watching old favorites (like Star Trek: The Next Generation) relaxes and calms my nerves enough to do such a thing. Sometimes, watching old favorites just helps me get to sleep.
What has helped you get through this year? Are you a geeky parent or a geek (sans kids)? I myself am the geek in my relationship. I’m fortunate to have found someone who – [select appropriate word to fill in: tolerates, rolls eyes, adores] – let’s say adores that quality. In all seriousness, it’s something I appreciate: having a partner who loves me for me, while also having two kids who can also be who they are. Whether they suddenly break out a silly dance party (with or without music), or they want me to chase them around the house as I attempt to catch them, which might I say also defeats the whole “No running in the house” motto. Huh, maybe I should stop doing that.
If there’s a point to any of this exercise of me looking back on 2020 without falling into a complete ball of anxiety, I guess it’s to say that these times are filled with people who are there for me. Whether you believe that or not in your own life, there are people there who do care. In a time where virtual living has become a staple in our real lives, reaching across wireless connections have turned our state of being into our very own RPGs, with the goal of racking up sanity points by talking out loud, while protecting our heart points from sadness damage. Because there has been a lot to be frustrated and sad about this year.
In all of it, my goal is to be open with my kids to let them express their feelings. Talking to them about the Covid-19 pandemic is not an easy thing. Telling them about my own feelings is not easy. But I do it. I want them to feel every opportunity to unburden themselves, because I know one thing for sure: kids see and hear everything, including facial expressions or body language that might emphasize any kind of demeanor that isn’t happy. Sometimes, I reassure them that my regular face just happens to be that grumpy, because it’s absolutely true. Other times, I express my frustrations about whatever it might be: cleaning up messes, when I stress about not feeling super productive in anything, or if it’s just listening to the kids not listen.
Seriously, during the course of this article, I’ve stated at least four times in the span of fifteen minutes, “Not right now, I’m trying to get some writing done.” Then, by the time I’ve gotten into any kind of groove, I realize it’s time for me to make them dinner. Of course, tonight’s dinner happens to be one of their favorites: mac n’ cheese, with a side of broccoli. So, it turns out their eating habits aren’t too terrible after all.
As this rambling comes to a close, I want everyone to focus on the positive. Find the good in your lives and remember to always take a deep breath when the overwhelming moments seem like a Niagara Falls-like wave crashing into your brain or heart. Deep breaths. Love your kids. Love your friends and family. Love what you love and smile whenever it’s possible. This past year has made me feel amazingly unproductive, while also making me super appreciate those who have reached out with encouraging words that have profoundly impacted me in a way where I didn’t feel alone with those types of feelings.
I am here. Others are here, too. Whether you feel alone, or your kids seem distant, engage with friends as often as possible. It does the soul good to see another person smile and laugh, and before you realize it, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it more often. Yes, life is hectic and the world seems amazingly busy as we still adjust to this temporary new way of life. But we will get through this. I mean, if anything, have you seen the massive release of movies and TV shows that were released by Disney and Marvel. That should get us through another nine months, right?
Scratch that. Don’t think about another nine months. One day at a time. Smile. Laugh. Crystal ball. La, la la la la. Distractions are the best way to forget about what I just said. There – I think that should do it. Where was I? Oh, Disney and Marvel. Yeah, I’d recommend Disney+ to anyone with or without kids. Plus, grab a library card if you don’t have one and start checking things out. Enjoy a good beverage from time to time, even if it’s making your own iced coffee. Video chat with friends. Consume geeky news that talks about your favorite fandoms. These are the moments when we might feel most lost in the world, where we can actually just get lost in all of the things we love.
Find a way to have a date night at home. If you have kids, this is nearly impossible. But they have to go to bed at some point, so then you can watch whatever you want without the fear of them seeing or hearing whatever vulgar or murdery thing you want to watch. Hey, I grew up on Unsolved Mysteries and that opening music was terrifying, so I’ll be darned sure that my kids do not experience that – EVER. Maybe when they’re in college.
If you feel lost, talk to a friend or dive into something geeky you adore. If your brain can’t handle watching or even searching for a new show (because who hasn’t endlessly scrolled Netflix for something new), then an old favorite can be that security blanket you need. It has definitely helped me cope with this year. And like this year, this entire look back on my own 2020 has taken many twists and turns and I’m still not sure where it’ll end up.
So, about closing the book on the year that shall not be named. I hope to teach my kids about yesterday. I hope to smile and hear their laughter today. And, most of all, I hope for something even better tomorrow. If one thing has gotten me through this year to try and hit deadlines, run a blog, write new novels or short stories, all of it has been the underlying hope as a parent. Hope to find a way to make each day better for my kids. In these most trying of times, I lean on their need of me. There’s something about being a parent that’s surprisingly wonderful – and it’s something I shared with dear friends who are expecting their own babies soon – as soon as you hold your baby in your arms, you instantly feel this immense love and wonder how you ever lived a second without them in your life.
If I ever feel the overwhelming wave of dread taking over my headspace, this is what I need to do. Remember the feelings of those that do love and support me. Wow. Saying that out loud is weird for me, but it’s something everyone should hear. I am not alone and neither are you. This year has taken its toll on all of us, but together we can make it through.
Message friends. Play games. Read books. Watch movies. Take a deep breath. Repeat.
As always, until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.