“Can we go to the park? There are sooooo many Poké Stops.”
“Look! Look! Watch me evolve my Kakuna to a Beedrill!”
*Over-exaggerated sigh* “Not another Rattata … ”
These were the cries heard ‘round my house all weekend. No, I do not have a preteen son. I have a 27-year-old husband, and we are both mildly obsessed with Pokémon GO. Although, I am going to make the bold claim that our Pokémon GO-dominated weekend made those two days better for our 8-month-old as well.
Hear me out.
My husband and I tend to be a little introverted. It’s not uncommon for us to high-five over our lack of plans when the long workweek ends. On the weekends, we may have one or two obligations, but we enjoy spending time around the house. When we do venture out, it’s to the same pool to cool off, the same restaurants for a treat, the same exhibits at the zoo, the same destinations on a short list of activities that aren’t entirely draining.
But when you are training to be a Pokémon master, you don’t have the luxury of staying within your comfort zone.
So off we ventured out into the unknown. We packed sandwiches for ourselves, strawberry-apple puffs for the baby, and plenty of water for everyone before heading into foreign territory to try to catch some rare Pokémon.
Leaving the house isn’t unusual for our son, it happens several times every day. What was new, however, was going to the lake and way out onto a half mile-long pier in the pursuit of a Pikachu. (Milwaukee players — making the trek to the end of the McKinley Pier is worth it.) While our purpose in going that direction was to catch ‘em all, we stopped with our son, who is beginning to discover the world beyond staring at his parents, to show him something a little more interesting than the pool.
He saw waves gently crashing on the rocks below. He maybe noticed the fishy smell of Lake Michigan. He stared in awe at the endless expanse of blue. This memory probably wasn’t burned into his brain, and I’m sure he wasn’t reminiscing on it beyond the car ride home, but it was an experience he hadn’t enjoyed before — an experience he has now had thanks to that distant Pikachu.
This continued for the rest of the afternoon. We walked through the marina filled with boats and stood next to giant sculptures in the park. While my husband and I made exclamations along the lines of “Oooh, a Geodude!” our son would squeal and look at us for confirmation of how exciting the real world was, too. Together, the three of us would cheer for our respective discoveries.
When we didn’t have the time to make the journey too far away from home, we ventured over to the small park just a few houses down. We have been there dozens of times before to walk and sit in the grass. Occasionally, we would run into another person, and if things were really crazy, that person would have a dog with them.
This tiny park, about the size of city block, is now a hotbed for Pokémon activity with no less than nine Poké Stops in a loop that takes no more than 10 minutes to walk. All day, all sorts of people are gathered in this usually forgotten park — groups of teenage boys, families walking with their kids, brothers and sisters, businessmen still in their suits — all staring down at their phones, but consistently looking up to give each other friendly smiles of solidarity.
Since this park is so close to home, we have frequented it quite a bit. Now that it is hub for our new favorite game, we hit it up several times a day. And each time we go, there are new people for our son to interact with.
We had a small group of teenage boys ask my husband and I if we, too, were playing Pokémon GO. When we laughed, with a twinge of embarrassment, to tell them we were, these boys went on to tell us how awesome it was that we made Pokémon into a family event with our son. I can’t count the number of times strangers have complimented my family, but this was the first it came from a teenage boy.
Another time, as we pushed the stroller down the path, two young kids jumped out excitedly to peer into it. The boy, who looked about 5, stared down at my son, looked up at us, and matter-of-factly announced, “I hate babies.” While the parents apologized, we laughed.
On the short walk home, we celebrated our spoils at the Poké Stops and laughed about the actual human interaction we got because of our phone game.
While our son doesn’t know the difference between a bell pepper and Bellsprout, he certainly enjoyed the weekend that our hunt for the latter brought him. I’m normally one to channel my inner octogenarian with rants about how technology is destroying the next generation, but I’m now going to make sure my phone is always charged in case I’m on good hunting grounds.
Ya know, to benefit the family.More On