Real Parenting: Bonding Moments They’ll Remember
It was roughly 8 PM when I decided to go upstairs and switch over to my pajamas when I looked in on my eleven year old son while I was passing by his room. He was by himself with a mess of Pokémon cards around him…and I mean a real mess. It looked like someone had converted eighty rainbows into one large alcoholic beverage, chugged it in five seconds flat, and ejected it along with whatever food they had consumed over the past three months onto the floor.
I wasn’t surprised…my son is very smart scholastically but he could always stand to improve on his organizational skills. Part of that stems from his ADHD…something that experienced parents would know is difficult to treat and deal with on a day-to-day basis. I also wasn’t surprised because just a half hour prior he was watching me sort out my Magic: The Gathering cards…parents who don’t think that what you do rubs off on your kids are sadly mistaken.
So, I walked into his room and saw him look up at me as he was trying to mash a bunch of cards together. I asked him what he was doing and he explained that he was trying to build the ultimate Pokémon deck. He had two decks his older “step” brother had made for him and every other card he had left over from that in front of him…he was trying to sort through them and pick what he wanted for his new deck.
“I don’t have enough energy cards.” He said with a hint of frustration in his voice.
Energy cards…I had no idea what they were of course, but I had just got done sorting through my Magic cards and the basic premise looked like it was the same. I took a wild guess and assumed that energy cards were similar to the land cards you played in Magic that allowed you to summon monsters and activate abilities.
“Okay,” I said with a renewed confidence, my knees groaning in protest as I knelt in front of the mess. “let’s see what we have.”
He watched as I took all of his cards and put them off to the side. I then made a pile for each type of energy card (grass, fire, water, electric, etc) and a pile for each Pokémon of a specific type (grass, fire, water, electric, etc). I ran into some support cards that I had no idea how they were played, but I assumed they worked like interrupt or sorcery cards that helped to support the player and their summoned monsters…I put those into their own pile.
He seemed genuinely surprised to learn that he had more energy cards than he thought. Organization does wonders.
Once all of the cards were separated, he pulled out the trainer’s beginner guide he got with the starter kit I purchased for him and he started to read off all the types he wanted in his deck. I smiled when he said he wanted five or six types in one deck…and he got silent when I told him that having too many different types in one deck was a bad idea. I may not know anything about Pokémon, but I know a thing or two about customizable card games in general.
Most decks, no matter what game you are playing, are limited to a set number of cards…usually sixty. The more types of cards you use in your deck, the less chance you have in drawing the required energy / land type to activate them. I tried explaining this to him and he got stubborn…so I tried a realistic example and seeded a fake deck with three fire energy cards and five fire Pokémon and dealt him a hand. He had a fire Pokémon in his hand and to illustrate my point, showed him the deck. All of the fire energy cards were near the bottom of the deck, so the fire Pokémon card he had along with others he’d draw along the way would be useless until he got to the end of the deck.
Okay, so maybe I was off my rocker…as I said, I know practically nothing about Pokémon…but being good at math and understanding statistical odds helped my argument make a world of sense.
I told him to choose one or two types for his sixty card deck and no more. He opted for water and electric and picked out a few basic Pokémon cards (a “wild” color), along with ten of each energy card and five support cards. While he was doing this, I remarked that he had Servine, which was an advanced form of Snivy.
The look on his face was priceless. It went from, “Hey, look! I have a Servine!” to “Wait, Dad knows what a Servine is?” I scored some points, even though my entire library of Pokémon knowledge stemmed from the half hour I spent playing Pokémon Black on the Nintendo DS.
That all quickly faded however when he got excited and asked me what the evolved form of an Oshawatt was…sort of like a pop quiz. I racked my brain and knew that it was a starter Pokémon in the game I had played, but that was it. All I could come up with was a bad (but clever) Back to the Future joke.
“A Jigawatt?” I asked with a straight face.
He didn’t get it.
We quickly finished his deck and we placed the rest of the cards in his tote to keep them organized. I promised I’d invest in some rubber bands for him so that we could keep all his types separate and form a fully functional Pokémon library. He could add to it and draw from it as he needed to, forming new decks easily when he wanted to. He seemed thrilled.
An hour later I walked out of his room a hero…though Dad of the Month would have been acceptable.
People often poke fun at my interests. Video games, reading, writing, board games, card games…but it is these things that have enabled me to connect with the person that matters to me the most. These things have allowed those special bonding moments to occur between father and son…and those are the moments in life that truly matter.
So yeah, go ahead and call me a nerd. Go ahead and criticize my interests. Feel free to make assumptions about who I am and how I live my life. Remind me every other week about how often I’m on the computer and that I need to get out more. In the end, it doesn’t matter. There are very few people I care about earning respect from…and chances are, you’re not one of them. I admit, it does bother me how society singles out those that are different…but at the very least I can educate my son on the importance of accepting new ideas and different interests…because I have experience being on the receiving end of people who don’t.
If I have learned anything from my childhood, it’s that most people are cruel and selfish. Rarely will you meet someone willing to take time out of their day to help you if it meant sacrificing their own time and possessions. I remember, as a kid, being bullied by kids in school on a regular basis because my interests didn’t mesh well with theirs. I remember, as a kid in junior high, being pushed across a classroom and into a trash can by a kid twice my size because he was miserable at home…and that the school did NOTHING about it. I remember being teased by half the class because I used to write short stories about Star Trek. I remember the school counselor I had to see to help deal with my parents getting a divorce. I remember in high school how angry my own father was when I told him I no longer wished to go to church…angry enough to slam his body against my locked door repeatedly. I remember him telling me that I was the reason that his second marriage was failing…and the hour I spent running away from home on the same night. I remember meeting him for the first time in years, having not spoken to him in years…and after three minutes of conversation he turned and walked away to talk with someone else.
But you know what? I remember my father lifting me up to play Gauntlet in the arcade and the time he spent showing me how to play Star Trek on the old TRS-DOS computer system. As angry as I am at my father for some of the things he’s done in the past, I understand now part of what he was going through. Pressure does terrible things to a parent. It doesn’t excuse some of what he said or did, but I understand it.
What does all of this mean to me, now that I am playing the role of a parent?
For one, it taught me the importance of being there for your child no matter what. There comes a point in their teenage years where you need to let go by letting them make their own decisions…even if it means they’d fall flat on their face. No matter how old they get however, it’s important for your ”kids” to know that you are there for them…even if they either don’t want the help or are going through a phase where they rebel or reject their parents for whatever reason.
My experiences have grounded me in terms of being a human being…that is…realizing that no matter how hard I try to be a perfect father, it won’t turn out that way. The best any good parent can hope for is to instill the proper morals in their kids all the while reassuring them that you love them…even if it means being the bad guy sometimes.
I know I’m not the perfect father. I have my faults. Hell…I have many faults. Yet…I know how important it is for a child to know that there is someone there looking out for them, regardless of how much help they actually require. I know how important it is for a child to spend time with their parents or loved ones…because those are the moments that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
Yes, that includes the hour you spent sorting out Pokémon cards with your kid. Haters gonna hate, but every time my son plays with his Pokémon deck, he’ll remember who helped him build it.