No joke, but I probably hear this statement at least 3-5 times per day. The Nerd comes running in from the other room as if his pants are on fire claiming:
“Dad, I just had the greatest idea.”
This typically happens right when I’m knee-deep into something truly important like checking my Facebook status or trying to figure out how this Twitter thing works.
At this point, I have a few choices on how best to react to this potentially world-changing moment:
“That’s great son, but I just got a like for my sleepy puppy video and it’s about to go viral. I need to focus.”
“Cool, but a robotic dog walker will never work. Besides, that’s why I have you.”
“Really, tell me all about it.”
Trust me, I’m no superhero and most of the time I very much want to lean into #1 and #2. Raising a Nerd can be exhausting and it’s just way too easy to brush of the Nerd’s great idea.
So, as tired and unfocused as I often am, I strive for #3: active listening. Many of the Nerd’s ideas are crazy and beyond reality, but that’s okay. Imagination and curiosity are what’s really important. The odds of him following through on many of these plans are remote anyway. He just needs to know that I’m interested.
Suppose for a moment that I simply brush off his curiosity or discount his crazy idea as unrealistic. That kind of reaction might just discourage him from coming up with the next “greatest idea.” Or worse, he may never come to me again for any ideas. Neither result is high up on my list for my Nerd.
That’s why we need to keep the Nerds curious. Encourage their crazy thinking and promote them to go deeper into the unrealistic. Who am I to determine if his idea is a good one or not?!? It’s not like I’m tearing up the world with my latest inventions or scientific theory.
And who knows, one of those ideas might just be the next Theory of Relativity or dare I say, a real Hoverboard (not the fake one that keeps catching fire). (Note: I’m not saying that my Nerd is the next Einstein. I’m just saying I shouldn’t be the one to determine he’s not.)
So, instead of being a selfish, unfocused Clueless Dad (like I truly am), I instead listen to every crazy idea that the Nerd comes up with. I listen. I ask questions — how will that work; who will use it; what’s it made of, etc. I push him to write the idea down in his “Ideas Journal” so he doesn’t forget it. And I always encourage him to research more and figure out if it can become something real.
Most of the time, he’ll linger on the idea for a few days, do some research and then he’s off to the next “greatest idea.” Which is totally fine. Maybe he’ll come back to it and make it a reality, maybe not. The point is to keep him curious and keep him imagining a great future.
What’s the craziest idea your Nerd has ever come up with?