My second-grade son has been taken over by the Pokemon phenomenon. It all happened so fast…
One day he was knee deep in Legos and the next day he came home from school with one piddly Pokemon card, which a good friend had given to him to get him started. And there unleashed a beast.
He came home, his eyes alive with excitement as he spoke of the playground Pokemon battles. He spoke of numerical powers each invented creature held on their card and how kids flip them and battle, with the goal being to power down another player’s deck.
But he needed more cards. He got one card from his friend helping to get him started but needed more in order to really compete at school. So, off to his piggy bank he went and counted out enough money to buy him a starter tin, equipped with four separate new decks of Pokemon characters. And the obsession was then enhanced. At school, the kids were trading cards for higher-powered competitors and at home, my son would flip through his deck so many times, the cards were worn within hours.
During dinnertime discussions, my son told us of how Zekrom EX battled Carracosta and won. We heard of the HP numbers of each card and how they would power the others. It took me so long to definitively decipher what HP stood for. (HP indicates the Hit Points, one of the most important stats, as it shows how much health the Pokémon has before fainting.)
I was slowly developing a clot of confusion when it came to Pokemon. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t think the characters were cute, and couldn’t understand the method or reasoning of the game.
Our lazy afternoons playing games I was able to lead were over. Goodbye Banangrams, Sorry and Clue and welcome Pokemon -- only no matter how I tried, I could not understand the object nor the process of the game.
One card was flipped, then mine. The two sentences on the card were read and that would lead us to deliberate the winner and then another card was drawn. I was blown away at the amount of math my son had to use – he was adding, subtracting and remembering the total – all without the use of a pad of paper. His arithmetic skills were being enhanced by this odd cast of characters in a deck of trading cards… finally the bright spot for me!
But three frustrating afternoons later there I sat in my living room, my son’s deck unabashedly whooping the paltry powered cards I held. I would just sit across from my son apathetically losing a game I couldn’t grasp the concept of.
The competitive side of me grew frustrated, and I Googled Pokemon. I was blown away at the amount of YouTube instructives by other obsessed 7-year-olds from around the globe. We listened to one carefully crafted instruction by a boy who must live deep in London with his crisp and proper English accent. There were instructives in Japanese, Spanish and many from youngsters across our nation taking a crack at videoing their gaming strategies.
In watching these videos, I realized that each boy’s method differed from the next and it was hopeless for me. But the experience forced me to look at the bright side of Pokemon. My son was using math skills, collecting and sorting, respecting his things, earning his cards by purchasing them with his saved up allowances.
I think he realized my lack of Pokemon proclivity it as well. Ever so kindly, our Pokemon addict lured his little brother and sister into the mix by selling them each two cards for a dollar. Seems to be a much better match up than his critical old mom. He can be in control of the family game without his mom snapping out “I don’t get it..” questions from the sidelines.
And just as soon as it came on, his interest is waining a bit, in part because his teachers won’t allow the cards at school. And thankfully, the draw of fresh air and exercise have lured him outside to kick the ball around. Now we are knee-deep in a soccer game in the backyard that so far has yielded no winner. But we’re applying the same Pokemon skills – remembering our score in a game we both understand and enjoy.