23 Jul

PokemonNO

I was on board with the lure of the latest craze, the Pokemon GO app…for about an hour.  I first heard about this phenomenon on Monday, then again a few hours later, and then a few hours after that.  It seemed to be all anyone was talking about. Then I heard what a great opportunity it was for kids to ‘get outside and exercise’ during the long summer break. By Wednesday afternoon I was asking my 12-year old for help downloading the app to my phone.  Excitedly, I stood in my dining room and opened the newly installed app to discover that there was a Pokemon right here! Inside my house! I was so busy trying to figure out how to move both me and my designated avatar toward the prize that I completely missed the eye-rolls and snickers that were most assuredly coming from my son. I also completely missed the fact that I was about to….OUCH!!…bump into a piece of furniture.

 I was both cheering my successful capture and rubbing my bruised knee as I pondered how easily I forgot my surroundings. I considered my three attention-challenged children and began to feel uneasy about the potential harms that could befall them while hyper-focused on making the next capture. A short time later, my son told me about an incident where an individual was assaulted after following a Pokemon lure.  I pulled out my phone, uninstalled the app, and made the pronouncement that nobody in our family may play Pokemon GO. Period. Not on their phone. Not on their friends’ phones. Not in or out of my presence.

My children know that I do not make such pronouncements lightly, or frequently.  These pronouncements are not always rational. They do not seem to follow a predictable pattern. In fact, I spend a great deal of time existing in the realm of gray zones and spectrums, where situations are not always black and white, on or off, yes or no. This latest Pokemon pronouncement joins a short list of previous such edicts which include SpongeBob, Chris Brown, and Spring Break.

Though I didn’t start my life as a parent out this way, I was fairly loose with the TV watching rules. Initially I swore my children would not watch TV…and then I became pregnant with child #2 and was struck with overwhelming all-day sickness. I found myself begging my first born to watch Barney videos so I could lie on the sofa with my head near a bowl. Barney progressed to Blue’s Clues, Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, Legends of the Hidden Temple and Hey, Arnold. Then one day I watched an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants and my inner voice wanted to scream. There was something about the sarcastic, rude little yellow sponge that was like nails scratching down a chalkboard to me. And so I pronounced, “No SpongeBob!” Over the years I heard countless conversations between my children and their friends that went something like this:

Friend:  Let’s watch SpongeBob.

My child: We can’t. My mom won’t let us.

Friend: Why not?

My child: She thinks he’s mean.

And then life would go on. They’d find something else to watch, or something else to do. A line had been drawn and it was respected. The pleas for a reversal of my proclamation became fewer and, eventually, non-existent.

In early 2009, years after the SpongeBob proclamation, the news reported that Chris Brown had assaulted Rihanna on the evening of the Grammy Awards. As a staunch advocate for victims of domestic violence, I was outraged. I watched in anticipation to see what Rihanna’s reaction would be. Would she discontinue her relationship with Brown? She did, at least temporarily. I also watched Chris Brown’s reaction, which was one of minimization and entitlement. I turned to my children, then 11, 9, and 6 and announced, “No Chris Brown music or videos or TV performances. Ever.”  I explained why, in terms appropriate for their respective ages. This one took much less convincing than SpongeBob. To this day, if a Chris Brown song comes on the radio, my children will immediately change the station and announce why. Occasionally, my youngest (now 12) will be deposited home by a carpool parent, and he’ll tell me that Chris Brown came on the radio and he stated to the car that “My mom doesn’t let us listen to Chris Brown because he beat up Rihanna.” Often, the station gets changed. Sometimes it doesn’t and he tells me that he covered his ears and tried not to listen. I tell him that it’s his intention that matters to me and that I’m proud of his willingness to speak up—planting the seeds of awareness.

Nothing good happens on Spring Break. My kids know not to ask. We’ll take a family trip instead.

And this brings us to July, 2017. My kids were all big Pokemon fans at various points. There were Pokemon cards, Pokemon video games, Pokemon books, Pokemon stuffed animals (including one large Dialga), Pokemon posters and a visit to the Pokemon store in Tokyo, Japan, during an international trip. We loved all things Pokemon, so I anticipated that when Pokemon GO came out, we would embrace it as well. But once I tried it, that familiar feeling welled up inside of me which led to:

Proclamation #4:  Pokemon GO is a big NO for our family.

I attempted to make the transition easier for my 12-year old by announcing this stance to his friends myself for a few days. I do so non-judgmentally and unapologetically. I make no assumptions about what other families should or should not do. This is simply a line drawn for my family. After a few days, I overheard my son telling some friends that he is not able to play Pokemon GO, and he did so without a hint of regret.  

What I have realized is that these Family Proclamations, however random they may seem, have instilled the value of nonconformity in my children. They know that it is perfectly acceptable to say “No,” to something, even if everyone else is participating. They also know that if they ever feel the least bit uncomfortable drawing that line, they can always blame it on their Mom!

Blaire Sharpe is the author of NOT REALLY GONE.


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