How To Raise A Proud Nerd

by Joelle Wisler
bokan / Shutterstock

I knew, without a doubt, that I was raising a nerd after I tucked my son into bed the other night and noticed that he had a piece of paper taped to his bookshelf with the titles of every book he owned written meticulously on it.

“Is this the Dewey Decimal System?!” I asked, amazed and a little freaked out.

“Yes! I organized my books today,” he said proudly, showing me how each book was listed and how you could find it on the shelf.

Silly me, I thought he had been in his room screwing around on his iPad that afternoon, like every other 9-year-old boy. But no, he was down there practicing to be a librarian. The Dewey Decimal System was definitely a level of nerdiness that I hadn’t expected until at least high school.

Joelle Wisler

He had, of course, shown other signs of traveling down a pocket-protecting path for a few years. He had an affinity for cardigans. He had lined up all of his books, in reading order, prior to Thanksgiving break. He had asked for one thing for his birthday, and it was a calligraphy set.

And there was also that one day, right before summer vacation started, when I said to him, “You only have three days until summer break! Aren’t you so excited?”

He said, “Mom, I still have a lot of learning left to do. Don’t go all crazy.”

So yeah, the Dewey Decimal System wasn’t a huge surprise.

There are a few things that we have tried to do to make sure that our son grows up being a proud nerd and fully embracing his every circuit-building whim:

1. We make a conscious effort to let him know that we, as his parents, definitely dabbled in the nerd world. Math was my jam. His dad sang in an acapella quartet. We did lots of nerdy things, and we still managed to find people who would date us.

2. We celebrate the fact that he is a nerd. We teach him that being cool does not mean that you have to be the star of a sports team. He is reluctantly athletic and would probably choose to stay home and make up math problems or design infrastructure instead of playing soccer.

3. We have taught him that nerds rule the world and that being a nerd is a huge responsibility. I’m looking at you Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking.

4. We buy him lots of books to feed his nerdy soul: How to do Magic Tricks, How Everything in the World Words, and How to Build a Robot with Kitchen Tongs.

5. And, we teach him what to do about other kids who will inevitably bully him.

I saw firsthand at the playground one day how he put this last one into practice.

He ran up to me and said, “Hey Mom! That kid over there just said that I talked like a nerd!”

My heart sunk.

“What did you say?” I said, bracing myself to give him the Nerds Rule pep talk.

“I just said, that’s alright. That’s OK. You’re going to work for me someday.”

I have never been prouder.