Raising a Nerdy Child: A Catalog of Artifacts, Part One

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I will love my daughter whatever and whoever she becomes. But yeah, I’m not going to lie to you, it would be cool if she turned out nerdy like her dad.

Sadly, neuroscience has not progressed to the point where I can literally force Lily, through a nightmarish barrage of drugs, neurosurgery and post-hypnotic commands, to behave in a nerdy fashion. So I’m just going to supply her with some of the key nerdy artifacts of my own childhood and see if they contribute to the natural emergence of nerdy behavior.

On days when I have nothing more important to blog about, I will catalog these items here.

Artifact 1: D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths, by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

If anybody ever scans my brain with an MRI, they will probably see the ghostly image of this book cover overlaid on my lobes: Odin on his eight-legged steed Sleipnir, galloping through the air above a pitched battle, hefting his spear Gungnir, while Valkyrie claim heroes to take to Valhalla in the background. I read it that many times.

The really magnificent thing about this book is that although it simplifies the Norse myths, it does so without sanitizing them. The pages are chock-full of colorful drawings of heroes chopping each other into bits. It also somehow keeps the weirdness and wildness of the stories. Like when Loki changes himself into a sexy girl-horse, and seduces a boy horse, and they have a baby horse together (that’s Sleipnir) of whom Loki is the mommy. The kids should know about these things.

And sure, there’s a goat that lives on top of Valhalla and rains mead down out of its udders for dead heroes to drink. And sure, there’s a squirrel that runs up and down Yggdrasil, the world-tree, ferrying insults back and forth between the eagle that sits at the top and the dragon that gnaws on its roots. Why wouldn’t there be?

And Odin hangs himself on Yggdrasil so that he can come back more powerful than ever. When I read her that part I could almost see Lil’s brain just getting weirder and more complex, second by second, as she thought about the sheer recursiveness of it. The dude sacrificed himself to himself.

Of course, she’s still into all the Disney princesses. And she calls the warrior’s helmets “opera hats.” Doesn’t matter. The seed has been planted.