Some of us here at The Nerds of Color are also fathers, and we decided to put together a popcorn style post about being dads. Happy Father’s Day!
Jedis, a Potter, and a Curupira
by Eric Silva Brenneman
My little girl enjoys making up stories with her stuffed animals and sometimes comes to me to help tie them into the worlds her brother always talks about. I love that I get to teach my son cello on a weekly basis and that, while we use a regular book, since his last birthday we work through Williams’ Star Wars themes too. It has been a great incentive. Our kids haven’t seen The Force Awakens yet, but my oldest has noticed how the Star Wars and Harry Potter characters on screen don’t look much like him. Besides his love of Yoda, of course, he mentioned how much he likes Mace Windu. I asked him why and he replied: “He’s the Jedi that looks most like us.” My daughter added: “I like Ahsoka. She’s a girl.”
They are already picking up on inclusion and representation and I’m curious to see how they’ll react to the new one. I also found it interesting that when my boy read or heard the different languages, real or made-up, he got excited. “When I switch between my three it’s like Harry speaking Parseltongue and Leia speaking that one (Ubese) with Jabba.” It’s amazing how in tune they are. They both know what’s happening politically here and around the world. Something related to climate change recently came up and I reminded them of a story I used to read to them about Curupira, a protector of forests from Brazilian folklore (red hair, green lips, oinks like a pig, and has backwards feet to confuse the hunters. Come on Professor X, no acceptance letter?), and how he needs our help. My son remarked it had been a while and I told him I hadn’t read it to his sister in some time either. It was nice to go back to one of our original superhero stories in our collective time of need.
by Bao Phi
Besides the very rare G.I. Joe or Transformer or ThunderCat, I didn’t have a lot of toys as a kid. My mom and dad were both good with their hands, and saved money by making me things like armor out of cardboard and felt and aluminum foil. Or encouraging me towards cheap activities like drawing (99 cents for blank pages) or reading books from the library. I’m a single co-parent these days. I look at my daughter now, surrounded by a constellation of plastic toys of various brands — Hello Kitty, My Little Pony, Doc McStuffins — and she makes them talk to each other, pitching her voice at varying levels for each character. She has a wonderful mother, who though also a nerd, spent a lot of time being actively outdoors in Alaska where she grew up. I spent too much of my outside time in Phillips running from bullies. When our daughter acts like a shut in, plays on her own, making her toys say things like “today we are going to learn Chinese. Yi, Er, San, Si. I don’t know all of the Chinese,” — being lost in imagination land is me in her. My daughter has no problem telling me what she likes, and she pretty much likes everything. I felt that way too, even when I couldn’t have much of anything. But I do remember at times the fear and shame of being a nerd. Sometimes it was cool to talk about what you were into. Sometimes it got you beat up, teased, chased down the block.
Looking back on it, it’s not always clear when I was being bullied because of my race or because I was a nerd or geek or wimp. I want my daughter to be fearless about what she’s into and who she is. At the same time, I fear her growing up in a culture that stereotypes, degrades, and exoticizes her based on her race and gender — and possibly, whom she may decide to love. Even in geek culture, which you think would learn a thing or two about being mocked and ridiculed and isolated, isn’t free from discrimination and bigotry.
She isn’t into the same things I was into. But sitting alone, getting lost in her own world, is an echo of me. Suddenly she gets up, leaves, and comes back with two pieces of wood taped together into the shape of a sword. “I made this for you at school, daddy,” she says. She doesn’t like Star Wars — too much fighting, she says — but she knows I do. I look at the makeshift lightsaber and it reminds me of something my mom or dad would make for me. I thank her, and hug her, hiding my tears. She goes back to her toys, picks them up, sits down, and immediately gets lost again, a chorus of voices emanating from her. I stay close, but I leave her be.
Feliz Dia del Padre, Dad!
by Diego Sanchez-Chavarria
When I was a kid, I often did not know how to approach my dad. He looked mainly serious and was no-nonsense a lot of the time but time and time again he always supported my interests, as geeky as they got. Back in the 16-bit era of video games, we would often play Streets of Rage 1 or 2 together. He played the first one to the point where he could beat the entire game on Hard (something I can’t even do today)! Sometimes I would just watch him play an intense game of Columns; I learned that once my dad got into something, he really got dedicated to it. He always made time out of the weekend to go rent some games and eventually let me subscribe to Sega Channel. Those were the days.
Despite getting older and into my awkward teenaged years, his support was always there. Without my dad, I would have missed out on all the Sailor Moon episodes that always aired while I was on my way back to school. He even recorded all the new episodes while I was off to Peru for the summer. I still see the old VHS tapes in stored up whenever I visit him and it makes me smile. I remember there was a viewing of WXIII: Patlabor the Movie 3 in a distant mall that was at least a half an hour drive. None of my friends wanted to make the drive since it was so far away and had no interest in anime series, but my dad simply said “Come on, let’s go.” and off we went. Watching the movie together with him is still one of my favorite memories; it also helped that he enjoyed it.
If I ever end up being a father, I want to show the same support my dad gave me with my hobbies. It’s no exaggeration that I would not be the geeky person that I am today without him. Feliz Dia del Padre, dad!
by Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria
When I was 14 my dad took me to my first futbol game at a national stadium. My father and I didn’t get to do much stuff together so this was a big deal to me. It was a day I’ve yet to forget, especially that smirky smile he had when I stood up and cheered when my team scored. I recently understood that smirk as I had a chance to take my kids to see their favorite soccer player at a Copa America game at Soldier Field in Chicago. As they saw their favorite player score, their excitement and emotion made me smile like my father had. Understanding that this was a moment to treasure, a keepsake of memories to last me and them a lifetime.
In my origin story, I pointed out that I grew up watching, Robotech, Saint Seiya, Dragonball, Mazinger Z, etc. Anime ruled my TV. My kids as of late, with influence from their friends, have really immerse themselves in it. They have their own shows that they watch, shows they recommend, and they follow blogs about each show. My oldest is memorizing the theme song of some of them. They prefer subtitles over dubbed episodes, because they want to hear the language. When skyping with their uncle they talk about the anime or manga they are watching or reading and they converse on what should be next. But just a couple of days ago, now that school is over for the summer (cue Phineas and Ferb theme song). My oldest has been binge watching Naruto, which led to this twitter conversation.
Which will make a very interesting NOC summer in our house.
My Daughter the Cosplayer
by Jason Sperber
If you tell my seven-year-old daughter that the birthday party you are going to has a theme, she will assume that means that she should come dressed as an appropriate character. It doesn’t matter if you tell her that no one else, including the birthday celebrant, will be in costume. She will be in costume. She is a natural born cosplayer, though I haven’t introduced the word to her yet, and despite the fact that the one time I took her to a tiny con the adult cosplayers freaked her out. I know that it’s not uncommon for kids her age to play dress-up, or to change clothes multiple times a day, but it feels like more with her. It feels like a lifestyle.
She will go through her entire closet looking for what she already has that can approximate the right look for a character, either based on a brand or made-up. She will cut the sleeves off a shirt (without permission), or fashion jewelry out of pipe cleaners, or a wig out of construction paper. She can go through a multipack of Scotch tape in less than a week, altering shirts with hand-drawn-and-taped-on logos or motifs. Her craft table is covered with the remnants of homemade tails and crowns and cutie marks. I wish I could see the way she sees. A white tank top, sunglasses, and big headphones and she is DJ Pon3 from MLP:FiM. A pair of wings and she could be a fairy or a butterfly or something completely different. And when she dives into her makeup bag and closes her door, watch out. And if she decides that dinner out calls for the full Alice in Wonderland…
I know that I was never as fearless as she can be when I was her age. To be sure, the difficulty of making what’s in her head a physical reality with seven-year-old fingers and limited resources can sometimes lead to tears. But in her way, she is fearless, and I love that in her. She will tell whoever she sees who she is supposed to be that day, just in case you can’t tell, and she will tell you how she did it. One day, now that she’s older, I hope I get the chance to take her to a con so that she can see that she is not alone in her obsessions, in her creative longings to make the imaginary real and manifest, and so that she can know from people she’s not related to just how awesome she is.
Everybody Knows That
by Shawn Taylor
The thump that came from my daughter’s room was louder than I wanted it to be. The hell was that? No yelling. No crying. Several other thumps quickly followed. I peeked into her room and my daughter is battling a horde of imaginary villains with a lightsaber, while in her Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pajamas. She caught my eye, “Daddy! Watch out!” She then did some Jedi shit. She cartwheeled and cut down the bad guy who was sneaking up behind me. “You can’t come into a battle without a blade, daddy. Everybody knows that.” She then gave me a plastic sword.
Without hesitation, I joined her on her mission. We must have fought a battalion of bad guys when her mother walked in. She looked at us, smiled, and exited the battlefield. We kept going until we were called to dinner. While we ate, my old ass felt exhausted, but she had more fight left. Had to have her do her calming exercises a few times. After dinner, we cuddled on the couch, talking about our earlier adventures and how we could get back at them, because the bad guys overwhelmed us. After some whispered strategy planning, my daughter said, “Daddy? There is no one else I want to fight bad guys with. You kick butt.”
Best dad moment of my life.