By Michelle Belle
The wonderful thing about having geeky children is that they bring out the geek in me too.
This year seems to be the year of Comic-Con in our family. It was a conversation with my 13 year old nephew that started this when he told me about going to Birmingham Comicon last year. He had absolutely loved it but found that he didn’t really have anyone to go with that was as excited about it all as he was…
So for his birthday this year, I bought him tickets to the Leicester Comic-Con – yay!
We had an amazing day out together, I really have never had so much fun with my nephew! we woke up early and got dressed up together. I decided here to go with a bit of a mash up outfit and donned a Super Girl Hell-bunny dress with a Hitchhikers inspired necklace that I bought at the London Comic-Con… my theme for this outfit was… “Don’t Panic!”
(The funny thing here was that most of the children did not get the Hitchhikers reference, but they loved the Super Girl dress, however lots of the grown-ups loved the necklace!)
Boys who like to be girls and girls who like to be boys…
My nephew dressed as Yuno Gasai (I have to admit to not being geeky enough to know where this character comes from… we have not quite reached the age of serious ‘Anime’ in our house but the fantastic thing here was that in Cosplay there are no restrictions.)
How liberating for children too be able to express a side of themselves they normally feel like they have to hide to fit in with societal norms. At Comic-Con, anything goes and we saw boys dressed as girls, girls dressed as boys and even girls who like to be boys dressing as girls. It was a complete breath of fresh air to be in an environment with grown-ups and children where we could all throw aside our inhibitions and just be who we wanted to be for the day.
We met so many amazing people here, and one teenager who had come along on her own asked if she could hang out with us for the day – of course we welcomed her (or him – she was a boy that day!) and she hit if off with my nephew (who was a girl that day) and we all wandered around together geeking out at stalls and picking up trinkets from our favourite comics and shows.
We saw so many other families there enjoying it. Some parents had obviously come along to bring their children, whereas other embraced it and whole families were dressed in teams of super hero’s – we even saw a baby bat girl – it was fantastic!
I first heard of cosplay from my youngest. I had caught her and her big sister having words and big sister was complaining that she didn’t want to play cosplay anymore! Cosplay? What happened to playing dressing up?
I have since learned via the geek girls, that Cosplay and dressing up are different, I am still not sure how, but they are different apparently and Cosplay is best!
After visiting a couple of Comic-Cons and seeing all of the children there, I decided it was the perfect environment to take my own children.
I had concerns that it might be too busy and too grown up for them…
I was so wrong!
I found an event in Sheffield called Cosplay – Con. This was slightly different from Comic-Con but the premise was the same…
Lets get dressed up and go out and have fun together!
We invited a bunch of friends along and their children and after a horrendously early start for a Saturday, and at least two hours of make-up and hair-dressing – we set off – already dressed up! I was a Ghostbuster, the youngest geek as Misty from Pokemon, the eldest geek was Sadness from Inside out and my nephew was Daenerys Targaryen.
I did actually pray at this point that we wouldn’t need to stop for the toilet on the way as I had visions of us walking through a service station and everybody staring at us! Thankfully we didn’t need to stop on the way there (although running out of petrol on the way home and having to pull in to a service station and fill up dressed as a Ghostbuster was an experience all in itself!)
We chatted all the way up about what it might be like and as we arrived we could already see hundreds of people outside – all dressed up!
It was fantastic, I genuinely cannot remember another time where I have seen my children so excited and happy. They were spotting people they knew the costumes for, running around looking at everything (and wanting to buy everything!) and generally just enjoying being in the moment.
Like taking an Alien back to their home planet…
If you have a child that is lets say… slightly more ‘offbeat’ than their peers, then like me you just might be amazed at what happens when they are at an event like this.
Seeing my children, nephew, friends and other children in this environment, expressing whichever character they felt like being that day… with no judgement or rules or boundaries to who they were, was literally like taking Aliens back to their home planet.
There are so many rules in life that society dictates that we have to follow, and here you can just all push that aside and exist in a little parallel world for the day.
Why would you not want to do this with your children? My face actually hurt from laughing and smiling the whole day, and as we bundled ourselves in the car exhausted and headed home, we talked about the costumes we liked, the shows we liked, the terrible karaoke, the presents we had bought ourselves. We came home with rainbow wigs, Anime cushions, posters, badges and my geeky children personal favourite – stickers of unicorn poop!
The story of the Unicorn Poop Show and Tell…
I had attended the main London Comic-Con with a friend, (I was Harley Quinn at this one) as I wanted to go and check it out this year and see if it would be ok for my children to attend. I wasn’t sure if they would be too young for an event this size (up to 50,000 people) and if it would be too busy.
It was busy and it was crazy, but it was also a lot of fun and I have said we will all be going to London next year.
However back to the unicorn poop! As I was looking around for a gift to take home to them, I met a lovely artist in the comic village area who had this amazing poster art of Unicorn Poop!
I bought a couple for my girls and they absolutely loved them. So much so that my youngest snuck her poster in to school for show and tell (yes she did a show and tell about Unicorn Poop!) In some ways I wish I was there to see it, in other ways… I’m glad I didn’t! The funny thing here was we met Katie again at the Sheffield Cosplay event and she remembered me and that I was getting the posters for my girls and gave them a free unicorn poop stickers. (These now stuck to the walls in the dining room – above the dining room table!) I told her about the show and tell and she laughed – why not!
Mum & Son…
We bumped in to so many lovely people there and it was interesting to chat to people and find out why they love coming to these events together.
Mum Pam (aka Melisandre) and son Josh (aka The Bounty Hunter) had come along together to enjoy the day out so I asked them what they thought and why they enjoyed it so much…
Having gone to other cosplay conventions and Comic-Cons, you find people get really in to character.
Taking mum around Comic Con was fine, I didn’t care. Some of my uni friends were there and I introduced my mum to them and she insisted on getting a picture with them!
“Was she an embarrassing mum?”
No, she was fine, it was fun to go together and its actually reinvigorated me and I am already planning my next outfit and event to go to with mum!
Seeing all the outfits was great, mum wants us to go to the next one in matching costumes – or as dead pools mum with me as dead pool… but I drew the line there! She can be my sidekick maybe!
It’s great for all ages, my little brother goes and he loves it and loves dressing up… its a great feeling for kids and character building. Its not everyones cup of tea and I think that parents don’t necessarily have to be in to it, but its great for parents to take an interest and dress up – why shouldn’t anyone dress up. Its part of it and you enjoy it more when you dress up.
The best part was finding new stuff, seeing peoples interpretations of characters and seeing gender swaps. I just love seeing the effort people put in to their costumes and its nice to see people who are enthusiastic towards their favourite characters or interest areas, its also great to speak to people and geek out!
Do you mind being called a geek?
“Its just a label, I don’t mind.”
“Because I was going to the the Cosplay event, I recently got called a geek on Facebook by my best friend, which is odd as I don’t consider myself a geek, I didn’t find it offensive – I thought it was funny.”
Im not really geeky, I can’t quote from star wars but I think theres a separation.
As teenagers, you want to be separate from your parents, and I was happy for that to be gaming so I didn’t join him at that time, it was his thing and wasn’t for me, but I want to still be in touch with his life, and the cosplay idea was a day out for us. A chance to bond and enjoy the same things, and also dress up together. I totally geeked out and we had an amazing day. I was really surprised by how much fun I had there. And it was so lovely to see so many shy people able to express themselves and put on a costume and it frees people.
There was a real sense of community there , and as we were stood in the queue I felt a bit nervous as everyone was staring, and it was my son who talked me through it. He said they are not judging you, they are just interested in your costumes, they are just admiring your outfit mum!
The best part aside from the characters was spending time with Josh in his environment, his area of expertise and letting him take charge. I learned a lot about him and what he likes and we bought some amazing stuff. It was a great day, not an expensive day either as it was all reasonably priced.
Id love to go again, and I would say put your heart and soul in to it and let your kids teach you, go in with an open mind. The drive up the motorway in costume is all part of the experience. You can make it something you like, let your kids teach you and be the expert and see and experience their joy. Its a great bonding experience!”
Children teach us how to live…
All in all each Comic-Con was an amazing experience. I have never seen so many happy people all in one place, or so many families having crazy fun together. Why would you not want to join in with your children and embrace this much fun?
There is a saying that captures this beautifully…
“Look to adults to teach you how to survive… look to children to teach you how to live…”
…and there is a deep truth to this saying, as I think as grown-up responsibilities take over we forget that its ok to unleash our inner child and throw away all notions of what a parent ‘should be’ and just be who we want to be and have fun with our children.
Taken from the July issue of Geek Parenting, out now!