A decade ago when I was teaching in NYC, Pokemon cards were all the rage with the elementary crowd. So intense were the conversations about evolutions, strengths and rarity of these little trading cards, that we had many rules surrounding Pokemon.
1) You do not talk about Pokemon.
2) You do not talk about Pokemon in the classroom.
3) You do not talk about Pokemon on the carpet.
4)You do not write about Pokemon in writing.
5) If I see Pokemon cards in school I keep them.
They might not sound quite as harsh as Tyler Durden's rules, but they were just as strictly carried out.
Damn, I hated those cards.
Fast forward to last week.
My kids became obsessed with Pokemon. They used all of their allowance money to buy cards. They have ben discussing their team names and gearing up for the world championships (your surprise that this exists is warranted.) I had to firmly dissuade them from spending all of their allowance on one, 'very rare EX card'. For $25. For one card. No, thank you.
When they got the cards, I firmly said, "No. You may not take them to school. No way."
They persisted. I wavered and asked a little bit more about what they wanted.
"Lots of kids bring them."
"The teacher said we could as long as we keep them in our backpacks or desks."
"We only play on the playground and on the bus."
"We don't take them out during the day."
I caved. Because there is a point where your kids are excluded because of things like this, and I am trying to walk to line. "Fine. You can take them. I am opposed to this though, because you might lose them, someone might take them, or the teacher might take them away if you are not using them responsibly. So you have been warned. They are your responsibility."
I couldn't believe I was reliving my Pokemon rules.
Fast forward to yesterday, after school.
When Asher got off of the bus, words were just spewing out of his mouth. "CAN YOU COME TO SCHOOL TOMORROW IT HAS TO BE IN THE MORNING AND I NEED THAT THING VIDEOTAPED AND MISS HESSE CAME IN THIS MORNING AND WE HAVE A NEW BOOK AND I DON'T WANT TO TGO TO THE LIBRARY ALSO CAN I HAVE A PLAYDATE WITH GRAHAM AND IF JUSTINE CALLS YOU IT IS ABOUT THE TEAM WE ARE MAKING...."
He just kept going and going. After a few minutes though, I could tell he was really agitated. He started yelling when I asked him questions about a new homework assignment. Then, as he and Jacob were leaving for a neighbor's house, Asher said he did NOT want to take his beloved Pokemon cards and he screamed at Jacob. I pulled him aside and asked if he was OK, but he brushed me off and took off down the street.
When the boys returned to our house with their friend, all seemed normal. But after about 30 minutes, Asher insisted that he was done playing and his friend had to go home. He started ranting and crying and got a book while Jacob and the neighbor played Pokemon upstairs.
After bedtime Dan and I were settling in to watch Parenthood (have you seen the latest episode? Double knife stab to the heart. Topics covered: Open heart surgery and a heavy dose of poking fun at gluten sensitivity. Not cool, Parenthood. Not cool.)
We were starting to watch Parenthood when Asher made his semi-regular appearance at the bottom of the stairs. We both let out heavy sigh, as this routine usually goes something like:
"I can't sleep and I've tried everything."
"Get some water, and go back to bed."
"That doesn't work."
"Give us a kiss and hug and go back to bed. Please."
"But can I read for longer?"
"No. Go back to bed."
"Just five minutes?"
But tonight he said, "There is something that I need to talk to you about." And then tears welled up in his eyes. "Remember when you asked if everything was OK before? Well, I didn't want to tell you but I was goofing around in line and I lost my Pokemon cards at school." Commence solid crying.
Insert giant paradigm shift right here.
You see, this is wonderful. This is amazing. He had a problem. He tried to handle it, and when he couldn't he came to tell us, even though it meant we might be mad. THIS is the parenting win!!
(AND OMFG THE GODDAMNED POKEMON CARDS)
But I didn't say that! I said something like, "We are so glad to came to talk to us. We are always here to help you if you have a problem. Let's try to fix it together..." etc. etc.
And that, my friends, is why I went to school at 7 A.M. this morning to look for the lost Pokemon cards. Because to an 8 year old, they are his world right now, and he took a risk coming to us. We might have given him a great big I TOLD YOU SO! And sent him back to bed. But with loving kindness, we heard him and helped him, and as I said before, that is the parenting win.
He went to bed relieved, but still sad. I think that's just fine. We heard. We supported. We were there to share. We did not fix immediately.
This morning, after a sweep of the school and a peek at the lost and found, the cards are still missing. And here is where the stellar parenting must continue. I still effing hate those damn cards and think they do not belong in school. But now I think it is the time for him to learn the good lesson with us on his side.
I will not buy him new cards. I will allow him to make his own decisions about using his money to replace them or not. (He will. I'd bet you a $25 Squirtle). I will also let him decide how to not have this happen in the future.
I keep telling myself that this is actually WONDERFUL! So glad it happened with $12 worth of trading cards, and not an iPod, or laptop, or a teen pregnancy, or some other terrible 15 year old secret. Telling us his worst problem now and getting help is more important than my opinion about Pokemon. And keeping my opinions to myself during all of this will be just as challenging as a 3 A.M. feeding. Bigger kids. Bigger problems. Bigger lessons. Bigger real life payoff.