After finally stashing the 1,000 trading cards in the closet, I never expected to be taken in by another Pokémon craze. But the new Pokémon Go app is as much fun for me as it is for my boys.
"Are you ready?" Three sets of eyes plead in their own unique way. The little brown ones look about to pop from his head, the almost 14-year-old hazel ones smile with a king's knowing complacency, while my middle green-eyed boy, the too-cool-for-school one, affects a shrug. Whatever.
We are going on a Pokémon hunt. We're gonna catch them all. Or our cell phone batteries are going to die trying.
In the last few days, the new Pokémon Go app has overtaken our lives. My boys—who were already fanatic about their phones—are now freaks, staring endlessly at them while they almost walk into walls or trees, despite the super helpful, 'Beware of your surroundings' disclaimer.
It's one of the reasons I don't trust my 14-year-old to take his anywhere beyond the few blocks around our house. He's too engaged in the hunt to be a responsible watcher. Unfortunately, my kids have exhausted our area and need further exploration, and I, being the boring mom who is (so far) unaffected by this new craze, am recruited.
We start our walk and I follow their lead, heading left. No right. Wait, it's over there! No! It moved! Now it's three steps away! Wait! Stop. It's disappeared. No! It's back.
The stop-and-start, back-and-forth ends as they all freeze, working on their devices like mad. With an Evie captured, we continue on our way, passing a woman about my age, head down focused on her phone and walking up the street.
"She's playing," My middle guy says.
"She is not," I disagree, but then watch her turn and walk back the way she came, then turn and walk toward us again, and then freeze.
Six knowing eyes stare me down smugly.
"Okay, maybe," I concede.
We continue on, coming to three teens. They are about 18 or so, confidently strutting their greasy hair, piercings, and skateboards. The contrast against my three babies is stark, but their interests are clearly the same.
"Pokémon?" I ask.
None of the older boys make eye contact but one of the teens, acknowledges me enough to smirk, "Maybe," he says as they pass.
We get to the water in our town and find at least two Pokémon hiding and a bunch of other goodies like eggs, healing potions, and incense. My boys are ecstatic and we continue on, the only downside being the glitch factor. When 50,000 people are using an app at the same time, the server gets overloaded. A lot.
I honestly can't believe what I am seeing. All of a sudden it seems like the whole world, or at least my whole town, is playing this game. It's like I'm living in an alternate universe, one I know well. When my boys were younger, we lived, breathed, and ate Pokémon. We still have probably a thousand cards, toy figures, and even movies stuffed away in closets, but like Snorlax, the sleepy Pokémon, every so often my boys' interest (along with the trading cards) reemerges, and they capture our attention once again.
But another reason to look at our devices is something I don't need.
We walk many more blocks finding all sorts of exciting stuff that my boys chat about with complete glee before coming upon what they call a Gym, but really is just the middle of a random block near the train station.
"It's right there!" My oldest cries and runs (not at all aware of his surroundings) toward something I don't see. My younger boys follow and then I notice that we are not alone. All at once, at least seven other boys are with us, staring at their devices, converging to the same spot like a bunch of zombies. Apparently a major battle is in the works.
My boys are in awe but don't engage—their devices barely have 10 percent power left, they don't have enough Poke strength, the phone is glitching—but they will live to fight again.
On the way home, they run into a Jiggly Puff Pokémon and my middle son gives me his phone.
"You get it mom, like this." And he shows me.
I see the pink balloon like creature on the screen and walk in circles to capture it. I am aware of nothing else but this weird little cartoon animal and when I do get him I am giddy with the thrill of the hunt. I win!! This is so fun!! I don't want to give the phone back. "Wait," I say, "Let me find one more." And I make my son chase after me.
We make it home laughing and exhausted. If nothing else, the kids walked about three miles around our neighborhood without their arms, bodies, and faces dragging and begging me to stop.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but it was a great afternoon outing. We captured Pokémon. We saw Zombies. We exercised! I watched my boys smiling and encouraging each other instead of teasing or fighting. It was a wonderful family bonding experience that we all enjoyed.
So much so that when they all ask if we can go out for another walk after their devices are charged, I immediately agree. This new app is awesome. Go, Pokémon Go!
Well, at least until we run out of data.