When H was six or seven (could it really have been nearly ten years ago?) he was obsessed with Pokemon. Obsessed. He studied the cards constantly, memorized them and then followed me around, asking questions like, “Did you know that Metapod has more hit points than Bulbasaur?” or “Did you know that Tentacruel’s ability is liquid ooze?” (These days when H complains about Mr. T nattering on, telling his imaginary stories, I remind him of his Pokemon days. I don’t think he quite believes that he actually talked like that.)
Of course, as a homeschooling mama I am nothing if not resourceful, so I capitalized on H’s obsession. I wrote down his Pokemon stories, helped him make Pokemon books, invented Pokemon word problems with him. By the time H finally moved on from that obsession to baseball cards over a year later, I was so tired of Pikachu and all his friends that I was happy to dismiss them from my brain forever.
So imagine my horror at our last homeschooling park day, when I saw Mr. T sitting with another seven-year-old and his collection of Pokemon cards, studying them for over an hour. Heaven help me, I thought, here we go again…
I was sure Mr. T would want to rush home and dig out his brother’s thick-as-the-Oxford-English-Dictionary binder of Pokemon cards. But no. Mr. T is not his brother. He doesn’t have a fascination with statistics, nor a mindset that borders on obsessive. He doesn’t even like to follow game rules. What intrigued him wasn’t the Pokemon game itself but the idea of a multitude of imaginary characters. Characters that can evolve into other characters. When I mentioned that H once made up his own Pokemon-style characters and cards, which he called Zamblasto cards, Mr. T’s eyes lit up like they’d been sparked by Pikachu’s thunderbolt tail.
He quickly spread himself and his supplies across the kitchen table and began drawing his own characters and their evolutions.
He made up abilities for them, and asked me to write them down. Check them out.
I especially like Surprising Scare in Dark Cave and Crack Open Balls of Power. Sort of like manga meets haiku.
One of my favorite parts of watching Mr. T draw is witnessing how it’s a process of animating his own imagination. Bringing it to life. He narrates the characters’ words as he draws, then has them interact, with lots of action and sound effects. Sometimes the scene gets so exciting that his very pencil comes to life, and starts zooming through the air, with plenty of “pshoo, pshoo” mouth noises.
Which all brings me back to the idea that sometimes my kids’ most banal interests can spark their best creativity. Which reminds me not to cave so quickly to my Waldorf guilt, and dismiss Bulbasaur, Mario and Luigi and all their compatriots. If that’s what fascinates my kids, so be it. Rather than pretending those characters don’t exist, I can realize their power in my kids’ minds–and I can put my arm around them and try to introduce them to my kids’ creative brains.
Even if it means I’m going to be regaled with hours and hours of stories about characters with abilities like Cannon Do-Dow, Honk-n-Zap and Haunted House Evil Liquid.