With my daughter away at sleepaway camp all summer, I’ve been getting some really yummy alone time with my son.
He’s such a different kid without his big sister around; it’s as if he can really be himself, without having to worry about her interrupting him or making him feel stupid by teasing him. As much as I miss my daughter, I do love this time with my son, because I feel like I get to know him in a way that I otherwise never would.
What I hadn’t bargained for, however, is the education I’ve been receiving in all things Pokémon.
My son has cycled through just about all of the little boy obsessions. It was cute when he was two and he was really into trucks and Thomas the Train. It was mildly disturbing when he was three and all he wanted to do was fight people with lightsabers. It was annoying when he turned five and insisted on owning every iteration of Power Ranger figures from the last two decades (Sumurai Rangers! Ninja Storm Rangers! Mystic Force Rangers! Operation Overdrive!), even though they all looked exactly the same to me. But Pokémon is by far the worst. Pokémon is its own special kind of hell.
If you’re lucky enough to not be schooled in Pokémon lore (and I hope you never are – I really wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy), I’ll give you a quick primer. As far as I can tell, the Pokémon world is sort of like a parallel universe to our own, except with these monsters living in it called Pokémon. In this world, people called Trainers try to catch Pokémon in order to learn about them, get to know them, and well, train them so that they can eventually battle other Pokémon. Each Pokémon has a special power, and as they become better at using it, the power grows stronger, at which point the Pokémon evolves into a new form of Pokémon that’s better suited to handle the increased power. Depending on how you look at it, the whole thing is either totally genius or horrifically stupid (hint: I’m in the latter camp).
Anyway, a typical day in my house goes something like this: my son wakes up and immediately opens his Pokémon handbook, which is like, three hundred pages long and is the only book he is interested in reading, despite my attempts to entice him with books about Super Wedgies and Farting Dogs.
Then, after much consultation, he wanders into the kitchen and begins talking to me in a foreign language. Mom, I can’t believe that Pidgey evolves into a Pidgeotto and that Slugma has Magma Armor, but he can’t beat Wartortle’s Rain Dish. And I’m like, wow, I can’t believe that either, that’s totally crazy. But can you please eat breakfast so we’re not late for camp?
The entire drive to camp I get a running monologue about Oshowat and Weedle and Metapod and Squirtle, delivered with the kind of enthusiasm that is usually reserved for recounting a home run or an amazing tag out in dodgeball. When I pick him up in the afternoons he picks up exactly where he left off, rolling his eyes at me every time I try to get in a question like, how was camp today? (Good.) What did you do? (Stuff.) Did you talk about anything other than Pokémon with your friends? (No. But guess what? William told me that he leveled up in Pokémon Black yesterday, and now his Ratatta is a Raticate!)
And I’m like, dude, how is it that you can remember the names of six hundred and forty-nine Pokémon, you can remember what they evolve into, and you can remember the specific powers of every single one of them, but you can’t remember what seven plus eight is?
Like I said, I’m enjoying this time alone with my son. I really am. I’m happy that there’s something he’s into that he gets super excited about, even if it is totally worthless and will never teach him any kind of meaningful skill or information. And I’m happy that he wants to share to it with me, even if listening to is possibly worse than listening to The Bee Gees greatest hits in Muzak form. On repeat.
Because the thing is, at some point, I know that he’ll stop being obsessed with all of these little boy things, and he’ll start becoming obsessed with girls. And when that happens, he’s not going to want to tell me about any of it, enthusiastically or otherwise. And I’ll look back on this summer fondly, and, as hard as it is to believe, I’ll wish more than anything that he would sit down and read his old Pokémon handbook with me.