By: Shannon Ralph
I am a nerd. I readily admit it. I am a dweeb and a geek and—yes—I am a nerd. I am also raising a nerd. My son Lucas, though he might not yet wear it as a badge of honor the way his mother does, is a complete nerd. Historically, I have thoroughly enjoyed Lucas’s nerdiness.
When my son was completely obsessed with dinosaurs, I happily watched every single documentary we could find on dinosaurs with him. I learned to correctly pronounce all those complicated names that simply do not come naturally to the English-speaking tongue. Like Micropachycephalosaurus (“tiny, thick-headed lizard”). And Titanophoneus (“giant murderer”) And then there’s Ornitholestes (“bird robber”) and Quetzacoatlus (“like Quetzalcoatl”). Yes, I learned to say them all. I happily endured hours upon hours of dinner-time “pop quizzes” on dino trivia. I painstakingly assembled a two-foot long T-Rex model—one little rib at a time. For his birthday that year, I even created a pin-the-bloody-prey-in-the-T-Rex’s-mouth game. Who needs donkeys and their pedestrian tails when you can have bloody herbivore carcasses? Right?
When Lucas’s obsession shifted to creatures of a more mythical nature, I read book after book with him on dragon legends. I learned the difference between Chimeras and Griffins and Manticores and Hydras. I discovered the story of the Lambton Worm. I stood by proudly as I watched my young son recruit his toddler brother and sister to play “Beowulf and Grendel.” I watched You-Tube video after You-Tube video of “real, true, actual” footage of the Loch Ness Monster. I even watched an entire hour-long special on Big Foot. A bunch of toothless rednecks running around in the woods spitting and scratching while on the hunt for the elusive Big Foot. Lucas was enamored with it all. Anything at all mythical and monstrous and macabre.
When Lucas grew bored of mythical creatures, he developed an interest in human societal evolution. Yea…he’s nine years old. We read about the Greeks and their numerous contributions to our modern society. We read about the Romans and the Aztecs. We studied Aztec masks. We watched monotonous PBS specials about dusty old archeologists crouched in dusty old ruins digging up dusty old scraps of dusty old Aztec pottery. Hours upon hours of such stimulating entertainment. This was not my favorite of Lucas’s obsessions, but I was able to feign interest.
Despite years of reveling in my son’s nerdiness, I am finding it hard to get on board with his newest obsession. It is not that I do not find it interesting. Rather, the problem is that I think my eldest son has finally gone over my head. He is venturing into territory that is really just beyond the grasp of my feeble little mind. He is going where no man has gone before. That’s right…it’s space.
He talks about nothing these days except black holes. And the level of gravity present in black holes. And event horizons. And stellar masses. And electromagnetic radiation. And singularities. What the hell is a singularity, by the way? It’s all very deep. And a couple hundred miles over my head—to say the very least. He’s even been walking around the house spouting off about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Ummm…there’s an E in there somewhere, right? I remember something is squared. Or maybe cubed? I don’t know…I simply cannot wrap my mind around the infinite complexities of space. Nor do I really have all that much interest in trying. I have enough trouble wrapping my mind around the infinite complexities of America’s Got Talent.
It kind of saddens me a bit though. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a full participant in my son’s nerdiness. I knew the day would come when his intellect outpaced my own. I didn’t know we would get to this point a mere nine years into his life on this Earth, but I suppose I should be proud. He will probably be a great scientist one day. He may discover the cure for cancer. Or be the first person to set foot on Mars. Or he may just prove the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, after all. If anyone can do it, he can. Regardless of what he ends up doing, some of the most precious moments of my life were afternoons spent lounging on the couch debating the existence of dragons with my son. Just me and Lucas. Two nerds cuddling under a blankie. Lucas with one sock on and one sock off. Hair sticking up in the air. His glasses sliding down his nose as he excitedly pontificates on why Beowulf was the greatest dragon-slayer ever.
God, I love that little nerd.