Saturday, January 14, 2017

All Good Things Must Be Twisted into a Parenting Nightmare

When last I wrote about Pokemon Go, I was full of praise for the app's miraculous ability to prevent childhood obesity and promote parental peace.  I discovered a further benefit when I asked my kids what they wanted for Christmas, and they told me all they wanted were Pokemon cards ($4/pack and very easily packed in a suitcase to come home from grandma's house after Christmas) and Pokemon Go tokens (don't ask; slightly more expensive, as it turns out, but taking up only virtual space).  Life was good for me and Pokemon Go, we were young and impulsive and deeply in love.  And like many couples in that situation, we did not foresee the eventual problems in our relationship that would tear us apart.

Problem #1: Winter Arrived.  As it does.  Every year, without fail, or until the Arctic melts.  It turns out I'm not so excited about going on walks with my kids when it is cold and yucky outside.  Yet they still want to play Pokemon Go (they are now Level 24, I'll have you know).  Ergo, they play it inside the house using incense (don't ask) or I drive them around in the car to play.  Which COMPLETELY DEFEATS THE WHOLE PURPOSE BEHIND POKEMON GO.  Now it is just another evil "screen time" device that will rot their cerebral cortexes and ruin their svelte figures.

Problem #2: Crap, this thing costs money??? What???  Then came the shocking, horrific, apocalyptic day that no one saw coming and the polls did not adequately predict that shook America to its core and made us fear for the future.  Yes, Donald Trump was elected president, but much worse, MY CHILDREN RAN OUT OF POKE BALLS (don't ask).  And you can't play the game without Poke balls, unless you are a budding photographer, content to snap selfies of you and that rare Jigglypuff (don't ask) that you are unable to capture.  My children are not content with this. They are the Pokemon Go equivalent of that Minnesotan dentist who just couldn't rest until he had Cecil the Lion's head mounted above his toilet (an instant and all-natural laxative).  They whined. They complained. They rioted.  They triggered my anxiety disorder.  Before I knew it, I was rifling quickly through every button in the app desperately trying to figure out a solution while imaginary bullets flew past my head (as they often do).  Before suffering a fatal but imaginary head wound, I figured out that there are tokens that you buy--with real money, like US dollars, and sadly not Zimbabwean bond notes--that the children can then use to purchase all kinds of other stuff, including Poke balls, incense, Pokestop incense, potions, eggs, incubators, and more space (SERIOUSLY, JUST STOP ASKING. YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW).  I bought them a whole bunch of balls as quickly as I could. Crisis averted. Panic attack ends.  Until they ran out of space and could no longer store any more Pokemon.  Crisis, panic, imaginary bullets.  Poverty.  Because these things started adding up, and before I knew it, I had spent the GDP of a small island nation on Pokecrap.  What to do??  Was I destined to a life of enslavement to Pokemon Go? Would I have to take out a second mortgage on my house with the Pokebank, at 37% interest, in order to feed my children's insatiable virtual appetite?

Fortunately, I started talking to other parents about my problems, as one does with all parenting dilemmas.  Where else can you learn that Amazon sells a talking toilet paper dispenser for $79 that gently reassures frightened toddlers that butt-wiping will not attract the toilet sea monsters? That the trick to getting children to eat vegetables is pulverizing them into a fine power and mixing it into play dough?  That that channel 7 news report about an entire family's deaths from a super-bacteria bred in the Goldfish cracker crumbs of their minivan is actually Russian propaganda? And that you can create free space on your Pokedex through a transference process (don't ask) that will not cause your children to flip out?

That last revelation solved the one problem (Lawson is still afraid of wiping his butt), but the Pokeballs were still an issue.  The mom informant told me it is not a problem for her, because she works right near a few Pokestops downtown and simply gathers balls from them multiple times a day, you know, while she is trying to finish highly complex reports on reducing health care spending and running to Capitol Hill for meetings with congressional aides.  The main thing is that while she may not stop the implosion of the American health care system, she doesn't spend any money on Pokeballs.  But my problem is I don't work near any Pokestops, and we only have a few near our house, so it remains a challenge.

The bottom line is I have been reduced to a desperately Pokeball-hunting prisoner of my children's hobbies wherever I go.  Yesterday, while we closed on a mortgage loan refinancing, which was fortunately within range of three Pokestops, I was surreptitiously gathering balls under the table.  I continued to do so while Kevin and I had lunch later near another Pokestop. What can I say, I'm a terribly interesting date.  Then, driving home through urban, Pokestop-rich terrain, I made Kevin drive super slowly so I could scoop up all of those balls, too.  I have decided that doing this while driving myself is a safety hazard, so I do have my limits.  But I'll have you know that yesterday alone, I managed to acquire over 100 Pokeballs for my grateful-ish children.

Who then used all of them up at dinner that evening.

They now want more.

Along with their many other prodigious talents--to include bringing out the dark underbelly of Disneyland and driving up sales of psychiatric drugs--children have an uncanny knack for taking something that seems wonderful on its face and turning it into something that enslaves and torments their parents.  Like falling in love with math (awesome! they will end up at MIT!) then bombarding their parents with endless multiplication table drills while they are trying to make dinner.  Or developing an interest in taekwondo (great! they are getting exercise and learning to kick pedophile butt!) that devolves into incessant demands to curtail family vacations so they don't miss any class (true story).  Or finding a video game that actually could prevent couch potato-dom but instead forces their mom into a Sophie's Choice-like conundrum of either spending her entire salary on Poke balls or quitting her job to go gather them.

I know you are all thinking, this is ridiculous, aren't you the adult in charge? Just say no more Pokemon Go.  You would have an excellent point.  But to quote the late, great Carrie Fisher, "Like any abused child wearing a metal bikini, chained to a giant slug, about to die, I keep coming back for more."