If you’ve not met Dr. Sheldon Cooper and his friends yet, you have missed out on the television show “The Big Bang Theory”. It’s a hysterical comedy that centers on a group of friends, each with their own neurosis. One of the main characters, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, shares some characteristics with my 9 year-old son, Daniel.
Dr. Sheldon Cooper, expertly portrayed by actor Jim Parsons, is considered the “breakout” character of the show. Sheldon has a superiority complex, is exceptionally logical, yet possesses a childlike quality that makes him endearing, in a strange sort of way. To say he is socially awkward is like saying “Galileo and the Pope had a little misunderstanding.” (To quote Dr. Cooper himself, from the episode “The Nerdvana Annihalation”.)
Although my son Daniel is not a genius (this mother has NOT had him tested), he does encapsulate the other attributes of one Sheldon Cooper: he’s very logical, is a little socially awkward and definitely has that childlike quality; for obvious reasons. Dr. Cooper surrounds himself with others that share his keen intellect, including his roommate, Leonard Hofstadter, an experimental physicist who puts up with Sheldon’s long list of idiosyncrasies. Leonard, while mild mannered, has a sweet and sensitive side, that is showcased around Penny, a waitress neighbor of theirs. Penny is not a genius, and her lack of education is a sore spot with Sheldon. Penny, however, has a mastery of sarcasm, and its use often perplexes Sheldon.
Another of their friends is Raj, an astrophysicist who has an affliction that renders him mute around women–unless he has consumed alcohol. While around Penny or any other female, Raj generally whispers all of his comments to Howard, the last of the friends. Howard is “just” an Aerospace Engineer, who happens to still live with his overbearing mother, and is often the object of disdain for Sheldon.
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Daniel, while substantially younger than the aforementioned group, would have no problem fitting in. He has an affinity for super hero t-shirts, loves video games and can name every planet in the Star Wars universe. Daniel is a member of the chess and checkers club at school and has seen every verision of the “Star Trek” movies. While Sheldon has claimed he is an honorary member of the Starfleet Academy, Daniel can boast that he has earned the ranking of Jedi Master, and has even battled Darth Maul…(at Disneyland). Daniel will now stand outside my bedroom door, knock, and say “Mom”; knock again and proclaim, “Mom”, and knock yet again while saying my name, just like Sheldon does with his neighbor Penny. Daniel, at age nine, correctly used “per se” in a sentence recently and when you tell him something like, “that dog is big”, he will respond with “Yes; yes he is.” Daniel received the right mix of geek from me and dork from his dad to create a hybrid being all his own.
While many parents may worry that their child will grow up to face a world of swirlies, wedgies, and random bullying by more popular kids, I am not worried about Daniel. I am certain that he will be able to weather the storm that is middle school. If other kids pick on him, I will constantly remind him that they are just jealous because he knows the temperature on Endor and they do not. I will assure him that Mom survived geekdom; he will survive, too. I will arm him with a sense of humor and a sense of self; you wear that Spiderman t-shirt, Dan, because it is totally “you”. And, I will remind him that he has four “nerdy” role models; guys that were made fun of but who are close friends and have a lot of fun playing Klingon Boggle, and don’t care who knows.
The other day, Daniel and I were discussing our favorite episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” while driving to our house. As we rounded the corner, we drove by the house of a neighbor who had just lost his wife earlier that week. Daniel remarked sweetly, “I wonder how he is doing all alone…”. It was at that moment I realized I am not raising a Sheldon Cooper; I am raising a sweet, sensitive Leonard Hofstadter.