My wife, Becky, and I didn’t set out to raise a family of nerds. But perhaps it was inevitable, given our personal affinity for geek culture. We did, after all, grow up in the Seventies during the golden age of Original Star Wars, and our courtship included reading the entirety of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter series together.
So, yes, we were nerds back when being a nerd wasn’t cool. Maybe it still isn’t, but please don’t tell our adult children. In validation of both nature and nurture, they never really had a choice in the matter.
But, as I said, we didn’t set out to indoctrinate our children in geekdom. In fact, in our early days of parenthood, we faced some interesting theological and practical parenting decisions. While we desperately wanted our children to be able to appreciate a masterpiece like The Empire Strikes Back, we had to prayerfully consider this: Did our love for sci-fi line up with our love for Christ? Did the somewhat “new-agey” worldview of George Lucas, et al., line up with scriptural teachings? And most importantly, as Christian parents, were we comfortable introducing our children to those elements?
At first, we weren’t. For family entertainment, we turned, instead, to Christian-based dramas like Adventures in Odyssey. (Fantastic, intricate nerd-level storytelling in its own right, it turned out.) Rather than watching television, we read books—a LOT of books—out loud as a family. The kids grew up on a steady diet of Stevenson, Twain, Lewis, and Ingalls-Wilder. It’s not that we had some grand master plan—we were just doing the best we could at the time. But without realizing it—or even having a clue as to what we were doing—we ended up inadvertently planting a seed, sowing a love for a well-told story that would bring our entire family a tremendous amount of joy in years to come, along with countless two a.m. rants about why Pixar is infinitely better than Dreamworks.
For our children, the rules changed one night when we left them in the care of a trusted baby sitter. Looking for some entertainment, he pulled a VHS copy of Star Wars off the shelf. (No, we hadn’t thrown it away—we were young parents, not idiots.) The kids knew it wasn’t something we let them watch, so of course they were apprehensive—and mesmerized.
When we discovered this grievous infraction of our house rules, we were more relieved than upset. We began to realize that our children were getting older and their ability to process the difference between fantasy and reality had matured, as had our own personal faith. We weren’t so much afraid of “hurting” our kids with exposure to alternative worldviews as we were excited to see them applying critical thinking to allegories, morality plays, and studies of good versus evil. But who are we kidding? We were mostly excited to be introducing a new generation—our children—to the characters, the stories, and the genres that we had grown up loving.
We had no way of knowing at the time how much this nerdy interaction would permeate and bless every element of our family life. One night, I overheard our four year old humming the Trench Run passage from the Star Wars score, exactly, note for intricate note. He, his brother, and his sister, would all go on to become all-state vocalists in choir and small groups. We would listen, with great joy, as they would passionately debate and prove, empirically, that The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars film, and that, while the prequels were bad, it was the “Special” Editions that were the greater sin against everything good and holy. As a family, we probably drove friends and relatives crazy with inside jokes—every other sentence between us a quote or reference from a film or novel. All of this just served to draw us closer as a family. None of the kids was ever in serious trouble (to our knowledge), they were always well behaved (in public), they all, as adults, still love to spend time together, and yes, the inside jokes and references still dominate every conversation.
So, we are proud to have raised a family of self-professed nerds. We’re proud of the adults, and the people of faith, that they have become. We’re proud that all four (and spouses) are actively involved in ministry, and I am proud to have co-authored a sci-fi novel with our eldest.
But perhaps our greatest joy has come from seeing the impact this life has had on the next generation. Becky and I remember the day we were babysitting, and our six-year-old granddaughter walked into the room, DVD in hand.
“Papa,” she asked, “Can we watch Star Wars? We want to watch this one. It’s the good one.”
I could have wept.
She was holding The Empire Strikes Back.