The other day, from the backseat of our car, my older son proudly declared that he’s a “nerd.”
Being a child of the 80s, I remember finally being old enough to watch “Revenge of the Nerds,” and being happy that the lovable, smart but socially awkward “nerds” ended up "fighting back for their peace and self respect."
But, even then, life didn’t mirror the movies, and the word “nerd” was rarely used in a good way or bestowed as a a compliment.
So, when I heard that my son is a “nerd,” I paused, not quite sure how to react.
I took a deep breath and then asked him one simple question: “How does that make you feel?”
He surprised me by saying “good.”
Yes, for him and his classmates, being called a “nerd” is a good thing. To them, it means that you’re smart and studious. It’s a way of saying you’re good at and like school.
I asked him if he and his friends use others like “geek.” They don’t. But, we still talked about what the term could mean to some people these days.
My on-the-fly description of a “geek” was along the lines of someone who was really passionate about something, which often is a type of movies, books and TV shows, especially within the science fiction genre.
My son surprised me once again by getting excited about the term “geek,” thinking he could be one too since he likes Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, superheroes and the like.
It was interesting to see how he reacted to being classified as one thing or another. It was like he enjoyed finding out who and what he is.
While I was happy to see that, to him, being a “nerd” or a “geek” is a good thing and something he can take pride in, it still didn’t totally sit right with me.
To be honest, it made me uncomfortable that he was so ready to be classified as being one thing or another – and let others do the same thing.
Is it naïve to think that we can be happy being who we are and loving what we do without being defined as a “nerd,” a “geek” or something else for doing so?
I get it. In this big world, we’re all trying to find our way, and sometimes, it’s easier to do so when we make it a bit smaller, choosing to spend time with others like us and letting our passions define us.
But, is it right? Does that invite others to put us in a box and stifle us from being bigger than just a name?
As a mom, I can only hope that my sons feel free to be passionate about anything and everything that’s of interest to them. No matter if it’s travel, superheros, music or sports. I want them to be free to step out of their comfort zone and be themselves.
So, while I was happy that my son thinks he’s a “nerd” and was excited to think he also could be a “geek,” I tried to push him past the “terms” and, instead, focus on the qualities behind each one.
As we parked our car at home, I told him that yes, he’s smart, and yes, I’m glad he enjoys working hard at school. But, he’s really not a “nerd” or a “geek” for that matter. He’s really just himself. And, there’s no way I could ever define who and what he is – especially now at just 9 years old.
I can only hope that he sees past any “terms” for himself and others and relishes in just being himself – now and forever.
What do you think? Is it okay to classify ourselves as being “nerds,” “jocks,” “bookworms” or the like? Is there a way we can get our kids or others to just be content with being themselves? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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