Recently my son has decided that he loves “Pokemon.” Pokemon, as far as I have gleaned, is a Japanese-made cartoon television show about some children and their monsters, called Pokemon, who live in balls, transform, and do stuff. What they actually do I’m a little fuzzy on, but it seems a harmless enough show for my 7-year-old, and he enjoys it tremendously. He will often talk to me, starry-eyed, about the latest things they have been doing, these Pokemon. To my great shame I tend to listen with feigned interest. I would love to cultivate a real shared interest with my son, but somehow every time he talks about it, my eyes glaze over and my mind drifts to what I’m supposed to be making for dinner, or how many minutes there are until bedtime, no matter how hard I try to understand his belaboured explanations about the one named “Charzedoo” and the one named “Pikachu” and the other one named “Pangage” or something and … that’s all my brain has absorbed, and it’s probably wrong.
Now, all of a sudden, all of his friends at school are into Pokemon cards, which they use to “Pokemon battle” each other. These are important to have to play with at recess, and also to demonstrate to your friends that you are cool. And I also used to be a kid, trying to be cool, so I can get THAT aspect of it, even though now I have joined the ranks of the decidedly uncool parent, working to convince my child that he is ALREADY cool, even without having Pokemon cards. Oddly enough, this is not that convincing, perhaps because I am not also a boy in grade 2.
So it seems we have unceremoniously entered the era of him needing to have things that other people have to fit in. And I am trying to navigate this era effectively, because it brings up some issues. On one hand, I want him to learn the value of money, and the fact that to have things you have to work hard for them, and you can’t have everything you want all of the time. But on the other hand I don’t want him to be the odd kid out, and I also want to respect that he comes by his love for Pokemon honestly, and that this may be a great opportunity to cultivate a shared interest with his friends at school, whose eyes probably don’t glaze over when he talks to them about Pokemon. The other day, these factors, plus his sweet little furrowed brow, convinced me to finally take him to get some Pokemon cards. He had a doctors appointment, and we were in a little plaza with lots of other shops in it, and so I thought to myself, “Surely, at least one of these stores must have some Pokemon cards!” and with that I took my two kids by their hands and ventured into the first store.
“Excuse me? Do you have Pokemon cards?” I asked the sympathetic-looking girl behind the counter, after a brief scan of the greeting cards section. “No, we don’t,” she said, “but just head over to Shoppers. They have Pokemon Cards!” I looked over to where she was pointing, way across at the opposite end of the busy plaza. I glanced down at A’s face. His eyes were lit up, not unlike Pikachu, the one Pokemon I actually do remember, with his adorable, moist, quivering, Japanese-animated eyes. (The Japanese do moist, quivering, adorable eyes quite well, don’t they?)
And so I tugged my slow-moving kids across the huge, rainy parking lot and into the Shoppers, where we quickly found the Pokemon cards. Success! Excitement! UNTIL we discovered that these were the WRONG KIND of Pokemon cards. APPARENTLY there are several kinds. “Mommy!” A said, his excitement turning to crushing disappointment, “THESE Pokemon are from Pokemon: X&Y, not Pokemon: Black and White! I don’t even know any of these guys!” And his eyes welled with tears.
Sigh. “Well honey, I’m not sure where to FIND the right Pokemon cards … maybe I’ll text Daddy …” A looked at me hopefully, eyes as welled as they could possibly be without spilling over. And so, after texting, we ended up walking BACK to the car, in the rain, and driving across town to the Toys R Us at the mall. And in we went, straight to the video games section.
“Pokemon Cards?” I muttered to a helpful-looking teenage employee, my soggy children waiting breathlessly on either side of me.
“Yep, they’re right over there.” He said.
“Oh YES,” I said, making no effort to hide an embarrassing amount of relief and excitement. I glanced over. “Where are the Pokemon: Black and White ones?” I asked, confidently, as if I knew what the difference was.
“Hmm. Pretty sure we only have X&Y, not Black and White.”
I now believe that I did not truly know the meaning of the word “crestfallen” until that moment. The sky was getting dark, nobody was at home making dinner, and I would have to be leaving for work in an hour, and somehow get my kids fed before then. With my last ounce of strength I turned to A: “Honey, there is a board game store at the other end of the mall. They MAY have the Pokemon cards you want, but they may not. But if we go quickly, we can check. But that is the last place we will be able to go, okay?”
“Okay, Mommy,” said my little boy, cautious hopefulness in his quivering voice.
And so we shlepped down to the board game store. And, as it turns out, there are several types of Pokemon: Black and White cards in existence, which is just ridiculous, in my opinion. The type A wanted were the most basic, and the man at the board game store didn’t even think he HAD those. But by some miracle we found a dusty box of old ones, for 25 cents each. And my thrilled little boy picked out his ten favourites, and we left, he excited, me exhausted, and my daughter suddenly declaring that she needs to have “My Little Pony” cards, whose existence she had just discovered at the board game store.
So now A has some Pokemon cards. And he keeps these cards in a box with some other ones that he made himself, out of pencil and paper. He prizes them, sleeps with them, and brings them everywhere, proudly showing them off to everyone he makes contact with. And the other day he said to me, “Mommy, the kids at school said that all of the Pokemon cards I picked are of weak Pokemon, and that I will lose every battle, but I don’t mind, because I really like my Pokemon Cards that I picked, and I wouldn’t trade them for any other ones, anyway.”
So … worth it all? Absolutely.