When my daughter was about a year old, I took her to our favorite local park to hang out, look at the ducks, and play in the sandbox. She was dressed in a cute Captain America shirt that I got in the boys’ section of Target. I must say it took me off guard when another mom asked me if Ella was wearing her big brother’s hand-me-down hero shirt. My reply, as it almost always is, was given with a smile and a wink and a direct message that no, she can like superheroes and wave her tiny geek flag just like her mom does.
It was quickly on the heels of this that I formed a meetup.com group with the intention to gather like-minded parents who speak the geek shorthand and know what it means to be a parent raising a geekling.
Geeklings and Parental Units was born on February 22, 2012. We are 188 members strong today, and have quite an active group composed of locals and online-only folks from all across the galaxy. Even though meetup.com has been around for awhile, I had only heard of it from one other extroverted friend pre-parenthood. It sounded cool but I was not into going out and collecting new friends. That all changed when we stepped through the wormhole, undergoing the massive transition from being a couple to being parents. Suddenly, those lazy Sunday afternoons playing Settlers of Catan and Power Grid til the wee hours all went the way of the ill-fated 2007 Bionic Woman reboot. We dropped out, fell from the stars like two Neil Gaiman characters, and found ourselves feeling very out of step with everything.
It was difficult in those first days to get anyone other than myself and maybe one other member to attend. Many of the geeky guild are introverts; it’s not always easy to socialize even at the best of times. I get it. It’s weird, right? Showing up to interact with people whom you’ve only chatted with online. Hoping that they are cool and do not mind that you’re not current on The Walking Dead because sleep deprivation has turned you into zombie parents. On one of my first encounters with a new mom member, I remember breathing a sigh of relief when I saw her with a Doctor Who shirt and TARDIS ringtone. I felt immediately at home.
As the group grew, members began to share their histories. They shared what they felt about parenting and the last Game of Thrones episode. Bonding happened over mutual fandoms and the feeling that it was sometimes hard to relate to other normal parents. I admit my heart grew very fond of our amazing, talented, brilliant members. Just a bit of communication and seeing new friends meant so much to me. I found the courage to pull myself out of postpartum depression and began to enjoy the sunlight again.
When members talked about why they joined the group, many of them echoed how I felt about the mutual respect for their geeky lifestyles. They, too, had a hard time approaching and maintaining friendships with other parents. Some members came from shared social circles, but more found the group through searching on meetup.com. The site has been a good hub and jumping off point. Without asking for donations from the members, the group raised enough money at the geekling garage sale to cover the bi-annual $78 renewal fee for the next two years.
As the organizer and creator, I have tried to let the growth of the group happen organically. I never pressure people to host an event or feel bad if their baby is having a warp core breach day and they have to cancel. There is enough pressure on parents. I wanted to be the Risa of social groups, a place where members could feel comfortable, escape, and maybe wear some tacky pseudo-tropical space outfits if the mood hit us. Being geeks, the group naturally tended to gravitate towards communication through the biggest social site, Facebook. There, members routinely post funny pictures, articles from GeekMom, and laugh along with George Takei’s daily funny.
To give you an example of Geekling awesomeness, just this past Sunday the group gathered Time Lords and nap deprived alike to sample the wares at the Doctor Who Craft Faire at my favorite local place, The Harry Potter store known as Whimsic Alley. They had butter beer on tap, jammie dodgers, and more long scarves and TARDIS blue bow ties than you could shake a Sonic Screwdriver at.
Truth be told, one of my driving reasons to start adding scheduled events to our meetup calendar was to keep pushing me out that door too. Another reason: After I suffered a mini stroke when Ella was two months old, some things like calendaring and numbers had to be relearned and brought into focus again. A year later, the attention I needed to apply to these dates has helped heal these problem areas. I may not be a master at leading us where no families have gone before in a overly organized type A way, but damn it Jim, I got a lot of heart.
I am grateful every day for my tribe called geek, and it is my hope is to see more branches of the group settle in different cities and share just as much fun. It’s a good thing, being geeks and being parents, and the collective flag is waving high.