Pokemon: A lesson in adaptability

Fog greeted the day, and steady rain played background to our playful chatter. Tucked away in a toasty home, we barely cared the sun never showed up this Sunday. We spent the afternoon getting odd jobs done around the house and attempting to decipher the Pokemon trading card game.

Pokemon is complicated. The cards evolve from basic to advanced versions and there are more rules than Monopoly and Life combined. That’s about as far as we got.

Around dinner time, I asked my seven-year-old son to get the cards off the dining room table and clean up the game board spread across the living room.

His plan was to get all the cards and coins and game pieces inside the original small tin package. He carefully placed everything inside. More careful than usual because the Pokemon cards (for some reason I cannot determine) are extremely important. He also insisted on getting the two plastic space holders from the original package back into the box. He pushed and pushed on the top, certain he was going to get it to close.

“It won’t work the way I want it to,” I heard him cry from my station in front of the stove.

Cry doesn’t really explain the level of upset my boy had reached. He was nearly inconsolable, questioning why he bought the cards in the first place, wondering about his ultimate demise (not really, that’s just my attempt at humor.)

Not wanting to fix it for him, but not wanting to condone his highly over reactive state, I sat down on the floor beside him.

“Is being upset making this better or worse?” I asked.

This is a common question I pose when he’s obviously more upset than warranted by the situation, and I when I actually have the patience to await a response.


“Worse,” he whimpers.

We were painstakingly making our way to a solution when something dawned on me.

My child needs to learn adaptability.

I swear it’s taken me every bit of 35 years to realize a fundamental life truth.

Just because I make a plan and want something to be a certain way, there is little to no chance it will work out according to my plan.

I will either have to adjust my plan or adjust my expectation to come close to an outcome I can tolerate.

Teaching children to adapt to changing circumstances, and in fact to expect change, could save them a great deal of wasted time and energy.

It could also allow them to bypass some of the vital life lessons learned from running headstrong into a relationship or job convinced that just because I say it’s so, it will be so.

Since I do not think parenting, or living for that matter, is about avoiding hard lessons, my best bet is to model adaptability for the rest of my son’s early years. If he sees me back flip into the deep end every time a doctor’s appointment runs late or there’s an unexpected repair at home or with the car (all of which happened in the last month though I’ve more or less been able to take it all in stride), he’ll only know how to overreact. He’ll dig in and try to force the world to conform to his expectations. He’ll be disappointed every time!

It’s obvious by the Pokemon catastrophe he could use a few more examples of accepting and adapting to change. Or else I totally don’t get the whole Pokemon thing (which is completely possible).

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