By: Caitlin Elam
My 6 year old daughter’s school decided that today, May 4th, the children are allowed to wear Star Wars costumes in lieu of their regular collared shirt and non-jeans policy/dress code. This day is proclaimed “Star Wars Day” because May the Fourth sounds similar to “May the Force” in terms of “May the Force be with you”. If you haven’t seen Star Wars, this will make zero sense to you.
As Star Wars fans, my husband, Sam, and I have enjoyed sharing the movies and lore with our child, as well as other areas of geekery we love. Abby knows all about the Dark and Light side, the origin of Thor, what Hobbits are, how Aslan saved Narnia with the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, that the truth is out there, Wonder Woman proves that girls can fight just as hard as the boys, Harry Potter makes the scar on her forehead from being a klutz like her momma very cool, and that Wolverine is the most awesome comic book character ever made (don’t dispute us on this – you’ll have two Elam girls ready to nerd rage).
Sam and I agreed before Abby was born that, while she would be exposed to our nerdy predilections just by being in the house with us, we wouldn’t force this stuff on her (or “force the Force” as it were). My parents are geeks about certain things (history mainly, which I share a passion for) but no one in my family were really big comic book fans, unless you counted my dad’s love of Superman comics when he was a kid. Dad and I watched X-Files on Sunday night together but that was pretty much the extent of it (though I enjoyed that time with him throughly and I am anxiously awaiting the new X-Files series). My exposure level was low at home for that kind of stuff but through my own exploration, my love for comic books, science fiction in general, and movies was born. My parents were supportive and never kept my from actively pursuing my interests, which is awesome. Conversely, while we knew that Abby would know all about our geeky fandoms, we figured that Abby might enjoy things that we weren’t particularly interested in, too, and we were right. I’m not a My Little Pony fan and I don’t remember having any of the toys or watching the show, she is a HUGE fan of the recent incarnation and knows all the songs. We might not “love” it, but it’s not a bad show generally so I have no problem with her watching or enjoying it.
I wasn’t a particularly “girly” kid growing up and wasn’t a fan of traditionally female things like dresses or makeup or anything like that. I preferred watching Star Wars, X-Men: The Animated Series, X-Files, and Labyrinth as a kid. I loved stories and writing. I dabbled in Magic: The Gathering and even made a prototype of a playing board for it when I was 10 or so out of some hinges and wood and paint. I didn’t really like the color pink or purple and preferred red and black, sometimes blue. This isn’t a brag like “oh look at me, I’m so unique and cool” more than it is just how I am and how I was and how I will continue to be.
When I was growing up, it decidedly wasn’t cool to like geek culture, let alone be a girl that enjoyed this stuff. Mercifully, I grew up in a tight-knit school system in Lexington, Kentucky that wasn’t filled with asshole bullies that gave me shit for liking what I liked. I think I was generally just left alone until 8th grade when I switched to a private school (since I was on a waiting list – it was said to be the “best” school in town). I was harassed constantly there until it got so bad my parents pulled me out. I was bullied at that point because I hadn’t gone to school with the other kids and I was friends with a girl from my drama camp at the Children’s Theater (yes, I went to drama camp) who wasn’t popular. Because I was friends with her and she was a big fan of Star Wars, as well, and went by the name “Wicket”, I was singled out for harassment by association. While I wasn’t specifically bullied for being a dork, it wasn’t exactly helpful, but I enjoyed being her friend and didn’t quit doing so. I regret immensely leaving that school abruptly and leaving her alone to be tortured at the hands of those little dicks. I hope those pack of jerks didn’t grow up to be adult jerks but I’m not sure since I haven’t spoken to any of them in close to 20 years.
Now, as a nerdy parent, I realize that the landscape is a lot different and it is awesome in so many ways. I love that my daughter can go to school in her much-beloved pink ensembles one day and the next day rock a BB-8 charm necklace I made her and receive just as much acceptance. I love that whenever I show up in any number of nerdy shirts or hats I own, the kids go crazy over it. I love that my sister, who is decidedly not interested in any of this (which is totally cool), can call me and get insight into what lightsaber to get for my nephew. One of my favorite conversations with her was explaining the difference between a Jedi and a Sith and what color/type Townsend picked out corresponded to a specific character or alignment with either the Dark Side or the Light Side; it was a chance for me to share something I loved with her and helped her connect with her son on something he was showing interest in.
Whenever any of my friends has a geek related question, I usually get tapped and I love it. It’s my wheelhouse but I never thought any of this knowledge would be beneficial to my interpersonal relationships later in life, let alone my professional life as a writer. There really is a way to do the things you love if you have a predisposed talent for it and work at it hard enough.
Last night, Abby asked me what costume I had prepared for her for May the 4th. Well, nothing, actually. I had a Vader necklace for her because her BB-8 necklace had been lost at school a week or so ago. I had only learned about her being able to wear a costume for this blessed day on Monday, which didn’t leave a lot of time for me to prepare between being in college, running the house, working for Geek Vibes, and being an intern to an entertainment journalist – this isn’t a gripe but rather just the reality of wearing as many hats as I do; I don’t like being idle. She told me my lack of having a costume prepared or even a Star Wars shirt (she’s grown out of every damn one since kids grow exponentially over a short period of time) broke her heart. Cue my own heart breaking when I heard this.
Fueled by coffee and guilt/nerd-shame, I cobbled together a Star Wars themed lunch, which wasn’t hard considering we had just about everything I needed (including an active imagination, if I may take this opportunity to toot my own mom-horn – toot toot!).
She went into school today wearing a Rey hairstyle, her Vader necklace, and a smile. While she told me last night that her heart was broken, she also told me that her friends would laugh at her for not being in Star Wars gear. I was a little amused by this because this is the first time in my life I’d ever heard that a child would be ridiculed for NOT dressing up as a Star Wars character at school, even on May the Fourth. Her fears were amusing to me not because of the dichotomy to when I was growing up and it not being cool but also because they were unfounded; her friends are good kids and I have never heard of her being bullied actively for anything. If she does get teased for something (because kids do that from time to time), she knows how to defend herself. She knows she has a good support structure at home and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself. For this, I feel remarkably blessed because bullying still is very much a problem nationwide.
But I digress…
My kid was happy with what I was able to provide and had a good day with her buddies. It was really awesome to see so many kids dressed up by their nerd and non-nerd parents alike, with genuine smiles as they compared gear and characters. I have Stormtroopers (two with bows to signify Abby and I) on my car instead of a “stick figure family” with AT-ATs depicting our three dogs.
While being a geek mom is fun because I can share this stuff with my progeny, I’m still cool with the potential that one day she might decide she doesn’t like all this stuff. As long as my little Padawan is happy and confident, I’ve done my job.