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I’m no “Pokemon Master.” I’m a little too old to have played the card game or watched the TV show when it first hit the States in the ’90s. But I am a mom, a mom whose kids are into this Pokemon thing. So, I downloaded Pokemon GO because it’s what a responsible parent does. She downloads apps first to make sure they’re safe and appropriate for her kids.

And from time to time I download apps for my kids and decide that I really, really want to catch a Pikachu. Isn’t it good to be tuned in to my inner child? Yes, I got the app because I’m a good mom who gets involved in my kid’s interests, but I’m also a middle-aged woman who keeps playing because I’m going to beat the teenager who lives next door the next time I’m up against his overrated Vileplume.

But never mind my Pokegoals. There’s something more valuable happening here: parent–child bonding. We’re closer than ever because of this game! We talk about the Pokemon we’d like to enslave in our digital balls. We trash talk rival teams. We plan our little walks and, sure, sometimes I take those walks before my kid wakes up in the morning. But let’s be honest, he spent all of my Weedle candy powering up a 10 CP Weedle instead of saving it to evolve my Kakuna into a Beedrill. That’s just idiotic.

When he wakes up early enough to catch me sneaking out to play, we go on Pokewalks together. I think it’s best to let him just kind of wander around the neighborhood holding my phone so I can safeguard him from oncoming traffic and piles of dog poo while chasing down a Poliwag. But it turns out he needs more help paying attention to the screen than the path. Just yesterday he was trying to show me a butterfly on a nearby bush instead of grabbing a Jinx we’d attracted with our incense. No matter, it’s all about being out in nature together, not about who is actually holding the phone (me). Time is precious and my battery life is tanking. 

Why, he and I are getting so much bonding time that we often have long conversations late into the night because of our shared love of Pokemon GO. A few nights ago, he woke up from a deep sleep when he realized I’d been pacing his room trying to trap what I think was a Charizard. Oh how we chatted! We talked about when he could have another turn and I reminded him that I had let him play for five minutes on Tuesday and this was only Thursday night. Hey, some kids’ moms don’t even play the game. My boy understands he’s #Pokeblessed.

Another wonderful perk of this game is that it’s a nifty way for us to become acquainted with our little city. I mean, yes, I spent 47 minutes in a local church parking lot yesterday battling a Starme at my team’s gym to build up our gym’s prestige (+135!), but he was very happily occupied sitting on the curb picking through pebbles and rusty bottle caps. Exploring our town in new ways sure has been fun! 

Of course, like any shared activity, we’ve had a few disagreements about how best to play the game. For instance, it’s best if I play because I can nab a “Pocket Monster” in one or two throws and he wastes eight, nine, sometimes ten Pokeballs just trying to catch an Eevee. He says he’d be better at it if I let him play more and I say some of us are born to catch ’em all and maybe that skill just skips a generation. 

Momtastic Pokemon Eevee

It’s not all Pokemon GO everywhere and always. No, I have set boundaries. For example, I don’t take him with me in the car just to troll for Pokemon. First, safety. Second, it makes more sense to wait until he’s old enough and can drive me around so that I can Pokehunt on the road. 

I’m sure my son will look back on these days and realize that though I was often busy trying to hatch Pokemon eggs by running circles around the outside of our house, the time we did spend together, as much as an hour or so a day when the servers were down and I couldn’t launch the app—was Pokemagical.

Momtastic Pokemon Servers Down

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Photo: Getty