I know it’s very early in the year to be guessing what books will make my Top Ten list this year. One of the wonderful things about being a Compulsive Overreader is that you never know what serendipitous treasures you may end up stumbling across in the bookstore or the library (or someone else’s house … hey, it happens). But Marybeth Hicks’ Bringing Up Geeks is a strong contender, because I freakin’ love this book and her parenting philosophy.
Now, I should point out that I have for a long time now described Jason’s and my parenting philosophy as “Geeks Raising Geeks,” so I may have been predisposed to love this book. I was certainly predisposed to grab it off the bookstore shelf when I first saw it. Our geekiness refers mainly to training our kids to love fantasy and sci-fi, which is not really what Marybeth Hicks is talking about, but it’s not unrelated. A true geek — for example, a hardcore Trekkie (we are softcore Trekkies) — is someone who is passionate about the things they love and doesn’t care at all about what other people think is “cool.” And that’s not too far off Hicks’ definition of what it means to be a geek parent raisin a geek kid, even if sci-fi isn’t your thing.
The subtitle explains a little: Hicks defines “geeks” as “Genuine, Enthusiastic, Empowered Kids.” Geek parenting, in her view, is about not buying into the culture of “cool” for your kids, taking them out of the popularity game, downplaying consumerism and materialism, keeping their entertainment age-appropriate rather than having them grow up at a Hollywood-determined pace, and keeping your family and its values at the centre of your kids’ lives rather than allowing their peers to set the standards.
In many ways this is a similar philosophy to the last parenting book I read and liked, Hold On to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate, although Bringing Up Geeks is a much more casual, breezy, mom-to-mom easy-reading book. I doubt Hicks would agree with Neufeld/Mate on every point — in many ways her outlook seems to be rather conservative, while I’d describe them as fairly liberal, politically and socially. Their views on discipline, for example, probably wouldn’t agree. But the beauty of this kind of parenting philosophy, as Hicks herself points out, is that it cuts across political, religious and other divisions, and speaks to parents who, for a whole variety of reasons, are critical of the prevailing youth culture and the assumption that that culture owns their kids once they turn twelve or so.
So, as Hicks says, “It’s a way of life that works for families of every faith and any political outlook….It doesn’t matter if an eighteen-year-old canvasses your neighborhood on behalf of Rock the Vote or the National Rifle Association; they’ve both been raised very similarly — as geeks.”
I suppose the fact that I respond so strongly to this message is just another example of embracing ideas because they mesh with what I already believe. Even before I read either this book or Hold On To Your Kids, I wanted to believe it was possible to keep the family unit strong and resist the tide of peer and media influence as our kids approach adolescence. But with so many voices in our culture telling me that’s not possible and that rebellious teens are the norm, I sometimes doubted my own wisdom on that. Just hearing how others have put this philosophy into practice and realizing that there are all kinds of other families resisting the trend of peer influence and the culture of coolness, gives me more hope and courage — and strengthens my determination to continue being a geek mom!