“A Zubat! Mom! I actually caught it!” Ruby yelled at me in delight this morning.
“I know where there’s a Lickitung hiding in the garage,” my coworker said casually over coffee.
“Ms. Eve, there are tons of Squirtles in the park,” Ruby’s best friend informed me. “Will you please take us?”
A week ago, I would’ve thought everyone was talking nonsense. But now I speak Pokemon. I don’t feel any better or worse about knowing this stuff, even though I am not particularly into it myself. I also don’t care that much about the Kardashians or all of Dora the Explorer’s sidekicks, but there are just some dues you have to pay as part of having kids and/or being a part of popular culture.
That said, I definitely have twinges of concern watching Ruby get into a fad.
The first time she really went absolutely nuts for something was these puffball headbands that almost all of the third grade girls have at her school. A few days before her birthday party, she started telling me how much she wanted one, too, and how much she hoped she got one as a present.
“We can just buy one,” I told her. “If you really want one, I’ll go halfsies with you.”
“No, Mom,” she said with a sigh, “you don’t just buy one. You have to get one from a girl who already has one.” (Luckily, she got one, and she screamed the damn house down with her exuberance.) I’m sure we had equally complicated rituals of belonging when I was a kid, but I must have (mercifully) blocked them all out.
It’s not that I want to isolate her from trends. I think there are plenty of good things about being part of a collective enthusiasm, and when I think back on my own childhood, even though I was a shy, awkward kid, I still had the Esprit tops and the neon slouch socks and the L.A. Gear shoes with the multicolored laces. I read Baby-Sitters Club books and had a favorite New Kid and a preference between Brandon and Dylan on Beverly Hills 90210 (Joey and Brandon, respectively). These are the things that I can talk about when I meet other people around my age; these are things that I’m going to have in common with almost any other American female born between roughly 1978 and 1984.
Your generation might be different – my aunt loved Elvis; my sister wore bellbottoms; the girl who babysits for me was a huge NSYNC fan – but we all have shared experiences with our peers, and mostly, I think that’s pretty cool. As a parent, I even feel a certain amount of relief watching Ruby in her camp shorts and Skechers trying, like seemingly everyone else in America, to catch a Jigglypuff: She’s normal; she’s fitting in; she likes the same stuff everyone else likes. Phew.
But I also feel a little bit of sadness because as she becomes a part of the wider world, she is less just mine – not that kids are ever ours, I guess, but still … there was a time when I felt her every move, her every hiccup. Once she was outside the womb, I understood her cries in a way that no one else did. When she started to talk, I was one of the very few people who could understand her.
Every new milestone that she has reached has been joyful, but it has also made me aware of how quickly she has become her own independent person out in the huge scary world. She now hiccups 1,000 miles away from me and cares about puffball headbands without my even being aware of their existence and flies on airplanes and orders lunch and chats effortlessly with our neighbors about how she is planning to make a blackberry coulis.
It’s fantastic. It’s terrifying. And it’s a little bit sad.
She is growing up, one day, one month, one trend, one Pikachu at a time.