On Raising A Family of Nerds

Blog | | Friday, April 11, 2014
My wife and I grew up nerds but tried to raise our family differently — until our rules changed.
An entire nerd family: the Reinis.

The generations of nerds: the Reinis.

My wife, Becky, and I didn’t set out to raise a family of nerds. But perhaps it was inevitable, given our personal affinity for geek culture. We did, after all, grow up in the Seventies during the golden age of Original Star Wars, and our courtship included reading the entirety of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter series together.

So, yes, we were nerds back when being a nerd wasn’t cool. Maybe it still isn’t, but please don’t tell our adult children. In validation of both nature and nurture, they never really had a choice in the matter.

But, as I said, we didn’t set out to indoctrinate our children in geekdom. In fact, in our early days of parenthood, we faced some interesting theological and practical parenting decisions. While we desperately wanted our children to be able to appreciate a masterpiece like The Empire Strikes Back, we had to prayerfully consider this: Did our love for sci-fi line up with our love for Christ? Did the somewhat “new-agey” worldview of George Lucas, et al., line up with scriptural teachings? And most importantly, as Christian parents, were we comfortable introducing our children to those elements?

At first, we weren’t. For family entertainment, we turned, instead, to Christian-based dramas like Adventures in Odyssey. (Fantastic, intricate nerd-level storytelling in its own right, it turned out.) Rather than watching television, we read books—a LOT of books—out loud as a family. The kids grew up on a steady diet of Stevenson, Twain, Lewis, and Ingalls-Wilder. It’s not that we had some grand master plan—we were just doing the best we could at the time. But without realizing it—or even having a clue as to what we were doing—we ended up inadvertently planting a seed, sowing a love for a well-told story that would bring our entire family a tremendous amount of joy in years to come, along with countless two a.m. rants about why Pixar is infinitely better than Dreamworks.

For our children, the rules changed one night when we left them in the care of a trusted baby sitter. Looking for some entertainment, he pulled a VHS copy of Star Wars off the shelf.  (No, we hadn’t thrown it away—we were young parents, not idiots.)  The kids knew it wasn’t something we let them watch, so of course they were apprehensive—and mesmerized.

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Two second-generation Reinis in full nerd mode.

When we discovered this grievous infraction of our house rules, we were more relieved than upset. We began to realize that our children were getting older and their ability to process the difference between fantasy and reality had matured, as had our own personal faith. We weren’t so much afraid of “hurting” our kids with exposure to alternative worldviews as we were excited to see them applying critical thinking to allegories, morality plays, and studies of good versus evil. But who are we kidding? We were mostly excited to be introducing a new generation—our children—to the characters, the stories, and the genres that we had grown up loving.

We had no way of knowing at the time how much this nerdy interaction would permeate and bless every element of our family life. One night, I overheard our four year old humming the Trench Run passage from the Star Wars score, exactly, note for intricate note. He, his brother, and his sister, would all go on to become all-state vocalists in choir and small groups. We would listen, with great joy, as they would passionately debate and prove, empirically, that The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars film, and that, while the prequels were bad, it was the “Special” Editions that were the greater sin against everything good and holy. As a family, we probably drove friends and relatives crazy with inside jokes—every other sentence between us a quote or reference from a film or novel. All of this just served to draw us closer as a family. None of the kids was ever in serious trouble (to our knowledge), they were always well behaved (in public), they all, as adults, still love to spend time together, and yes, the inside jokes and references still dominate every conversation.

Aaron and Allen Reini, coauthors of Flight of the Angels.

Aaron and Allen Reini, coauthors of Flight of the Angels.

So, we are proud to have raised a family of self-professed nerds. We’re proud of the adults, and the people of faith, that they have become. We’re proud that all four (and spouses) are actively involved in ministry, and I am proud to have co-authored a sci-fi novel with our eldest.

But perhaps our greatest joy has come from seeing the impact this life has had on the next generation. Becky and I remember the day we were babysitting, and our six-year-old granddaughter walked into the room, DVD in hand.

“Papa,” she asked, “Can we watch Star Wars? We want to watch this one. It’s the good one.”

I could have wept.

She was holding The Empire Strikes Back.

 

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An enthusiastic sci-fi fan with over thirty years of business and leadership experience, Allan Reini brings his unique insights and humor to corporate and church events. Allan lives in Hibbing, Minnesota, where he and his wife, Becky, are thankful to have all four of their adult children and their four grandchildren in close proximity. He has admittedly raised a family of self-professed nerds, including his eldest son and co-author, Aaron. Their first novel, Flight of the Angels, released in October 2012.

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5 responses

  1. Awesome.
    I come from a long line of Christian geeks. My dad’s family is full of geeky Christians: one uncle is a Baptist pastor, and it’s him and his wife who introduced me to such things as Firefly and Mystery Science Theater. I have a copy of A Wizard of Earthsea that belonged to my great-grandmother, who was a missionary and a pastor’s wife.  My dad’s an elder in our church, and he would take us kids to see comets, and read books like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit to us before bed. It’s been great watching my nephews get into things like Star Wars.
    To me, it’s been tremendously valuable that my parents let us read/watch things that maybe didn’t always jive with our beliefs. Because we talked about it, and they encouraged us to think first and judge later, and to notice the parts that did agree. A guy I knew in college once pointed out that one thing he loved about Star Wars was Han’s story: Han doesn’t believe in the Force (at least at first), yet he was pivotal in restoring balance to the Force. You don’t have to believe in God for God to use you.
    Or as a wise man once said, “All truth is God’s truth.” It may be fragmented, distorted, mixed in with other things, and so on, but truth shouldn’t be denied just because it showed up somewhere strange.

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    • Syncallio,
      It always amazes me just how many of us (Christian Geeks) there are. Your list of influences from your uncle, grandmother, and dad read like it was taken directly from our shelves at our home. (Although I have to admit I am unfamiliar with A Wizard of Earthsea–another one to add to my list. Thank you!)
      I’m thankful that the word is getting out that we Christian nerds are out there, we have a rich family tradition, and our ranks are growing!  Sites like Speculative Faith, as well as podcasts like The Sci-Fi Christian, Strangers and Aliens, and Geekually Yoked (among many, many others) are doing a great job of advancing the conversation.

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  2. I thank my dad for turning me into a Christian geek. And that’s not sarcasm, I’m really grateful. I think I first watched the original Star Wars trilogy when I was seven or eight years old, curled up beside him on the couch. (My personal favorite is Return of the Jedi; seeing Ewoks beat the stuffing out of stormtroopers still makes me squeal with glee.) 
    Dad introduced me to so many great stories (Star Wars only being the first) that shaped my decision to become a scifi/fantasy writer.

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  3. While my mom read LWW to me, I can’t say I have a family heritage of geekdom.  Narnia is the only spec stuff I can refer to and have everyone know what I mean–and even then, sometimes it requires a lot of prodding.  LotR? Maybe. Doctor Who? Only the 12 year old? Graphic novels? Forget it.
    I want to raise a family of geeks someday, but right now I’m stuck.

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    • Julie,
      Narnia is an AWESOME choice to begin your family’s journey to nerdom! As the kids age, all the other choices will flow naturally, I’m thinking! Geek on!

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