When you have a kid your life really does change, but who you are doesn’t have to. I’m a geek. I do geeky things. I go to geeky places. When I do those things and go to those places, I now have a kid in tow. Comic-Con is no different.
Going to Comic-Con itself is thoroughly overwhelming. The first time I attended the convention in 2011, we arrived at midday on Thursday. I was tired from the drive from Orange County to San Diego but invigorated upon checking in and getting our badges and bags. I was hyped and ready for the convention.
Upon hitting the floor I immediately turned to my wife Judy and told her I wanted to go home. This is in no way a joke, I actually said this. We went home for the night, not home home, but at our friend Jim’s in San Diego and settled in. We’d wake up the next morning and decide what to do, go home or go back to the convention center. We went back to the convention center and I had a pretty damn good time.
Two years ago we encountered a new challenge, Comic-Con with a 6-month-old. It went relatively smoothly, we ran into some friends, including our own Tyler. I learned a few things about bringing a kid to not just a comic book convention, but the comic con to end all comic cons, San Diego International Comic-Con. With that, we kick off what will be a regular column here in the halls for the Grand Geek Gathering: A Geek Dad’s Guide to Raising a Cool Kid. And Comic-Con is already underway and this is only now posted, darn kid, she’s a scamp!
Episode 1: Taking a Kid to Comic-Con
Starring: Josiah as The Geek Dad
Judy as the Nerd Mom
Penny as the Cool Kid
And Featuring Tyler as … The Nanny?
When you have a small kid it’s fair to take a stroller, however, I also believe you should be considerate of others. By that I mean choose a stroller that isn’t super huge. Be it Comic-Con, Disneyland, or the local grocery store you’re bound to get in somebody’s way, make it as painless as you possibly can. Sure Comic-Con is full of people without kids who won’t be as sympathetic as other parents, but they’re also generally cool people. I find myself perpetually apologizing for being in the way even when we’re not in the way. That said, read the crowds, if you find yourself in a jammed aisle, try to find a less busy way around (to be fair at Comic-Con this can be unavoidable). If they’re still tiny, go with a baby carrier. Last year for preview night Penny and I stormed the convention. She actually held my badge from me to show convention security as we entered the show floor. The clip below is from our loooooong walk from the car to the convention center.
I recommend some kind of umbrella stroller, the lighter the better. Ours weighs less than ten pounds. It folds quickly and easily but doesn’t have much room for collectibles. Ah! Collectible hauling, the real upside to bringing a stroller! If you do want to haul collectibles I’d recommend the UppaBaby Cruz. The Cruz is on the smaller side, not super wide and not super deep, but has a fairly large storage area under the stroller’s seat. In fact, it’s our everyday stroller of choice. Below is a clip of Penny’s first every Comic-Con.
Comic-Con does offer childcare, but I can’t say anything about it. I read a bit and it’s run by an outside company that promises a healthy ratio of staff to kids. It’s nice if you’ll be at the convention center non-stop as they are housed in a room upstairs. You may have seen them as you shuffle your way in, up, around, and back down onto the exhibit floor in the mornings. The real catch here is that you have to register in advance (as is the case with most things Comic-Con related).
With very young children you may well still have a nursing baby. If that is the case, head on over to the Disabled Services area. You’ll see tables where people help those with various disabilities. Behind those tables are areas with blue curtains. I’d seen them many times through the years without giving them a second thought, turns out that’s where you breastfeed. It’s a cramped little space, by myself, Judy, our UppaBaby Cruz and of course Penny all fit.
Try to have your kid nap regularly (quick aside, my computer is a creeper as it wants kid & nap to be “corrected” to kidnap). If they nap in the stroller you’re golden, just roll that thing around the convention floor, buy collectibles, snap pictures, and enjoy the “kid-free” time. However, if they don’t (Penny doesn’t), try to get them to nap. Penny is a different kid when she doesn’t nap than when she does. The obvious downside is less time to spend at the convention, but ideally, parenting is a team sport and you and your geeky groom can take turns. If you’re lucky enough to have a hotel within walking distance a midday nap is highly recommended (for both the kid and the adult). The last bit of advice is not to worry about naps. I know, I know. I said how important they are, but there are days when a kid just doesn’t nap. Life will go on, albeit a bit crankier, but after a day or two of Comic-Con, we’re all the best kind of cranky.
Flexibility is the real key. This year Judy is 7 months pregnant and our Penny is 2 and a half years old. You can’t plan for everything, so don’t overcommit and be flexible. Before Penny, Judy and I would gladly get up at 2:00 AM to go in a line for several hours to sit all day to see the Marvel Panel at 5:00 PM. Now, we’d just pass out by 7:00 AM. This year we were very careful not to overbook ourselves. We still have a few key things we want to do and see, but we’ve prioritized. Frankly, even without a kid, you have to prioritize, it’s impossible to do everything. If you miss something because the kid just rolled on the floor crying for twenty minutes, jam a gummy worm in her mouth and move to the next item on your list.
This advice transcends children and is just generally a good idea. Bring snacks! Like most kids our daughter loves goldfish, but also try to bring healthy snacks, a banana is great, although it may not be the easiest thing to transport without getting a bit bruised. Applesauce pouches are also an excellent choice. They’re healthy (relative to candy, etc.) and come in some really delicious flavor options. Healthy is ideal, however, a sweet treat goes a long way. Fruit snacks are great as they are not as terrible, but candy can help the kid chill out. Penny loves gummy snacks and lollipops and the promise of one will (usually) help her be less terrible. Also, remember what I said about Judy being 7 months pregnant? Gummy snacks go a long way.
Anytime you travel with your kid I’d recommend surprising them with a new toy. Penny loves sticker books and we have a really cool one to spring on her at Comic-Con. It is zombies and she actually picked it! Her favorite color is pink, but she still loves a good zombie. You know what your kid likes, so bring some of his or her favorites.
Oh and don’t forget the sunscreen. You’ll spend plenty of time indoors, but there are tons of outside events and depending on where you park / how you get there, it could be a very long walk.
That is my best advice in the broadest possible strokes for doing Comic-Con with a kid. Comic-Con is exhausting, and honestly taking a small child is challenging, but I’m a grown-up geek, carrying my daughter into the convention floor at Comic-Con in San Diego will remain etched on my nerd soul. As having a kid in general, it is a challenge, but it’s a kick-ass challenge that makes life better (and more exhausting). Hopefully, we’ll be well-rested and full of gummy worms.
POST SCRIPT: As the father to that afore (and repeatedly) mentioned 2.5 year old, I likely can’t make it, but please support the Gathering by attending Unnecessary Debate on Friday the 19th at 9:00 PM. The event will be held at the Marriott and will feature Jenny Jaffe (writer, Rugrats), Clayton Thomas (comedian, BET’s Comicview), Andrew Raab (writer, House of Cards), Genevieve Marie (cosplayer), Kyle Vogt (actor, The Room), and Michael Tanner (writer, Junior Braves of the Apocalypse) and moderated by Tyler McPhail (founder, The Grand Geek Gathering).