Let’s get this out of the way. Pokemon makes no sense. The card game has no rules other than the ones that your kids make up as they go. The kid who makes up the best rules in their favour wins.
So my son wins. Or won.
My boys aren’t particularly athletic and in the schoolyard politics of elementary school, that can be a problem. When my oldest, who is now 14, was little he wasn’t great at making new friends in the chaotic insular world of a schoolyard. He is competitive but not skilled. He is hilarious, but doesn’t always know the rules.
But when he was in Kindergarten his reading buddy gave him a binder full of Pokemon cards. And suddenly he had something in common with other kids. He could sit and trade for hours, he started with a small pile but would come home with binders. He educated kids older than him on the intricate hierarchies of Charzard and the difference between the cockamamie versions. He was suddenly King of the Nerds.
Along with is royal ascent, came playdates and relationships. And an increasing confidence in the playground and classrooms. I was shelling out money for Pokemon cards, but the cost was small in comparison to what he was getting back for it.
It makes me laugh now, how I checked in with my friend about the violence level of the Pokemon cartoons before I would let him watch. I was so conscientious back then!
When my middle son got a DS, the two of them would spend hours on the Pokemon Gold and Silver games. They can still talk about the evolutions of each character. And I am not exaggerating when I tell you that my 14-year old spent the Christmas holidays playing the new Pokemon Omega Ruby game on a DS2 (thanks to Nintendo’s generosity). The entire week. Some habits die hard.
Super Mario is a mere sidestep from Pokemon. And our family became immersed in all things Nintendo. Our Wii gave hours of family, and friend fun. A decade later, we still play Mario Kart as a family and it ranks as our favourite game ever. (But I will never understand Super Smash Brothers.)
From Nintendo to Star Wars and then off on other geekery including Doctor Who, superheroes, Mineceraft and a long list of video games (some of which I am embarrassed to mention). He found his place in the world and I find that I enjoy it too.
I used to force myself to engage in a conversation about the different evolutions of some obscure Poke-characters and now I find that I am even interested. I can talk origin stories of superheroes, DC versus Marvel, and I can even sort of follow a conversation about Doctor Who. And I am now a reluctant fan of Dean and Sam Winchester of Supernatural. (because Hello? Sam!))
I am raising nerds, and I couldn't be happier. One of the reasons is because nerds think about things, and talk about them. No conversation is off-limits. Sometimes the things they are into are dark and have complicated messages and sometimes they just don’t make sense. But we can pick it apart and in doing so, talk about the world we live in. Their media is part of what makes them who they are, and who I am too. I have fallen down a dark hole of geekery and it’s all because of Pikachu. Thanks, little guy.
You have to meet your kids where they are. And you may find that a little part of you is there too.