Build a Support System with Geek Tribe Parenting

Monkeys grooming each other

Family grooming. Eric Kilby/Creative Commons License 2.0

If there is one bit of parenting advice that has made my life as a parent so much better, it is this: find a geek tribe and nurture the heck out of it.

Think of a geek tribe as your extended family, like extra siblings, parents, and cousins but bound together by friendship and common interests instead of blood. These are the people with whom you have a close friendship—you likely share a number of mutual friends, and chances are good you all enjoy a good board-game night together. I’ve found that geeks tend to beget geeks, so as life progresses, the tribe expands to include the young of its members. As a parent, this is really handy, especially if multiple people in the tribe have children. I’ll admit that my husband and I have gotten very lucky, as we have been able to maintain close friendships with a number of people we’ve known from college, and we’ve (coincidentally) been within at most a few years of each other for various milestones, including having kids. Even more lucky is that the kids all seem to really enjoy spending time with each other. Hopefully that luck will continue.

Having people like this in your life means you get to know the specific parenting styles and routines of your fellow tribe members. Kids notice the differences in how other families handle certain things, and handling your kid’s complaint of “Jamie gets to stay up so much later than I do!” is much easier when you, the parent, already know about those differences and are expecting some sort of reaction.

A close bond with fellow parents and other adults is also nice for providing a unified front on pop-culture exposure. For example, I was lucky enough to see an advance screening of Rogue One. Both my husband and I loved the movie, but we quickly determined that while our daughter loved Episodes I through VII, there was no way the new movie would be appropriate for her at this point in her maturity. We gave the appropriate members of our tribe a heads-up on our decision, and after seeing it they decided the same thing for their son.

This tribelike bond is really useful for taking geeklings to conventions, too. For example, I went down to DemiCon in Des Moines last month along with a family from our tribe who have a son six months younger than my daughter as well as an infant. We were able to get adjoining rooms, and instead of being two separate families trying to figure out how to manage the care and feeding of our respective kids, we were a three-person parenting collective. With the adjoining rooms, only one parent was needed to watch all three kids at bedtime, allowing the other two to enjoy room parties or music circles. During the day, only one adult needed to hang out with the two five-year-olds, allowing the other two to attend panels, sleep, or attend to the baby. At meal times and on car rides, the two older kids (mostly) entertained each other much better than an adult could.

When it comes to gaming, of either the board or tabletop flavor, letting the kids of the tribe do their own thing—with or without one adult supervising, depending on age or maturity of the kids—means that you can, as a parent, enjoy all of the things you loved doing with your friends pre-children while also knowing that your kids are having a great time. Just remember to rotate which adult is sacrificed to the children (or make it as fair as possible if rotating isn’t realistic) to make sure that all adults are happy with the arrangement. Eventually, you’ll be living the dream: playing board games with each other while your kids play a game of their own. (Okay, not a huge dream as dreams go, but a realistic one.)

So maintain your friendships. Let your kids and your friends’ kids get to know each other. Talk to other families at conventions. Don’t drop friends who don’t have kids, but, at the same time, don’t keep friendships on life support if they can’t be saved. You should have more in common than “we both have kids.”

In short, foster your own geek tribe. You’ll probably be glad that you did.

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