We have our very first guest post here at We’ll Eat You Up, We Love You So! It’s courtesy of Scott Beller, who is the “Chief Word Nerd” at the blog Raising Nerd. As a completely unabashed nerd myself, I was proud to write a guest post for him last week on inspirational female scientists in movies. He’s returning the favor this week, with a blog post that ties together three of my favorite things: Mystery Science Theater 3000, science and Santa.
My daughter giggled as she watched the gigantic blue and yellow egg hatch. The glowing blue larva emerged, surrounded by hundreds of worshipping natives on Infant Island. It was coaxed into action by two miniature, telepathic fairies in distress.
My daughter’s eyes widened.
“Is this real?” she asked, giggling some more.
This past summer, I brought my 9-year-old, RocketteGirl, to see the Rifftrax screening of 1961’s kaiju classic Mothra. While the former Mystery Science Theater 3000 trio of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett made fun of the movie’s ridiculous plot, dialog, acting, set design, and (lack of truly) special effects, dozens more questions filled my daughters head.
Moments later, like a fuzzy torpedo, the animatronic caterpillar was speeding across the South Pacific towards mainland Japan to save the captured fairies.
Now both of us were laughing.
The movie outing was, in my opinion, a perfect dad-daughter bonding experience fueled by a mutual love for creative comedy, goofy science fiction, and a dash of critical thinking. Mission accomplished!
Fast-forward to early December. This time, the Rifftrax guys were riffing the 1964 cheesefest Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and I’d brought along not only RocketteGirl, but also my 7-year-old, Lightning McQueen.
It didn’t occur me until we were on our way home that the clash of mythology and far-out science fiction might cause some internal conflict for my inquisitive girls. The backseat was unusually quiet.
Holding On to Santa
At their age, Rockette Girl and Lightning McQueen are still Santa enthusiasts. They also believe the Elf on the Shelf is his watchdog and responsible for filling our Advent calendar (one more thing for which dad gets no credit!). But they are on the cusp of what many scientists would call “harsh reality.”
On my blog Raising Nerd, our mission is to support parents as they inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and creative problem-solvers. But we also realize there are many roads to Nerd-dom. And just like becoming a Nerd, moving beyond “the Santa story” is a phased process that’s paced differently for every kid. The duration of that process, of course, can be greatly influenced by their parents. And this Imperfect Dad, while respectful and exuberant about science and scientific inquiry, is in no hurry to douse my kids’ imaginations or enjoyment of the holiday spirit.
Sure, encouraging young kids to be curious, explore, and flex their scientific minds can be tricky business this time of year. But the good news for parents with kids not quite ready to bid farewell to The Man With the Bag, is that a belief in Santa can actually be supported and, therefore, extended by injecting a little STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) into the narrative.
Science and Santa CAN Coexist
Movies and pop culture, in addition to being fun, non-threatening conversation starters with your kids, are a perfect, under-the-radar way to introduce science, engineering, and creative problem solving into the Santa situation.
Answering questions about the existence of Mothra or any other kaiju is easier than dealing with the more loaded, “Daddy, is Santa real?” Sometimes, a cheesy, sci-fi movie like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians or a more contemporary one like our family’s favorite, Arthur Christmas, can be the perfect jumping off point to discussing Claus plausibility (Clausibility?). After all, the bridge to science reality has often been science fiction.
Once the discussion starts, you can turn the Santa question back to your kids: “What do you think?” or “How might it all be possible?” Then research the science at the library or online together to test their theories and answer any follow-up questions older kids might have.
When asked if they believe in Santa, younger kids might simply say, “Yes.” In that case, you count your blessings and continue on your merry way.
Or you could always press the issue with them by exploring how it’s physically possible for an obese man to fly his sleigh, drawn by eight reindeer (or nine, depending on Rudolph’s availability or existence) around the world, break into millions of houses through the chimney, and deliver pre-packaged presents to every good little boy and girl. All in just one night.
You’re the parent, so you are free to make that call.
Good luck, happy holidays, and, as we like to say at Raising Nerd: Nerd on!
Scott Beller, AKA Imperfect Dad, is a writer, former public relations executive, and currently Chief Word Nerd at Raising Nerd (www.RaisingNerd.com). He lives in Arlington, VA, with his wife and two brilliant, amazingly creative, and exhausting daughters.
Thanks to Scott for sharing his unique perspective with us!