Finding my son's love - thanks to Pokemon

connecting with my autistic son and developing the love I thought would never happen

There is nothing that I have wanted more than to feel loved by my 8-year-old son. Unfortunately, he just didn’t want to love me and nothing I tried made any difference. I was on the verge of accepting that we would never have a loving relationship when everything changed.

For years we have struggled to connect as love is something he measures and he routinely told me that he didn't love me. He loved his Dad, but not me. It hurt, and I feared that we would never have a bond. Even worse, he wanted nothing to do with me and insisted that I didn’t go near him or do anything for him. If I brushed past him, he would physically recoil and try to brush off my touch.

I was an unwanted presence in the house. The person he wanted to come into the house via the back door, so he knew to be excited when Dad got home. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't do anything right and I couldn't win him over. Everything that went wrong was my fault, and the praise for anything that I did right was attributed to Dad.

We were always at odds with each other, and I would routinely end up shouting at him in frustration when he refused to listen to me. I sometimes wondered if it would be better if I wasn't in the house, as I worried that my own behaviour was having a negative effect on my kids. Parenting was anything but a positive experience and the lack of love was not bringing out the best in me. I was an angry parent, and my guilt about not having a bond with my son was all consuming. What kind of mum doesn't connect with their son?

Then we found Pokemon. Or to be more accurate, I found Pokemon.

It was 8 weeks before his birthday, and he wanted a Pokemon party. As with each previous year, I was keen to ensure the party met his expectations as it was the one time of the year that I was recognised for doing something right. With a list of requests, I set about planning his special day.

Everything was set, except for the entertainment. He wanted a Pokemon trainer. Having exhausted all options, I asked for suggestions online. That’s when I learnt about the Pokemon Trading Card game. There was a whole other world, and the options were endless. Introductory guided games, leagues, theme decks, elite trainer kits, booster packs and an online game.

The guided games seemed like the perfect option for the party. I couldn’t find a trainer, but I could learn the basics and host the guided games at the party. Simple, or so I thought. There is nothing simple about the Pokemon TCG. Our first game took about 4 hours (it should have taken 20 minutes), as my son struggled with the challenge of learning something new. Finishing that first game was a marathon, with meltdowns and yelling (not just him) but we made it. After that, each game got a little easier and we both grew in our knowledge of how to play.

The party was largely a success, and our game playing has evolved. We have a growing collection of cards, bought online and at our local comic book shop. Together we have spent hours cataloguing our collection and talking about which cards we want to get. Online we teamed up to compete against other players and shared the joy of winning, along with the struggles of losing when things didn’t go in our favour.

connecting with my son over a shared love of pokemon

The impact on our relationship has been even greater. We have found "our thing" and formed a connection that has brought us closer. These days you may walk into the house to find us at the table with him sitting on my lap as we look at Pokemon in his encyclopaedia, or curled up on the coach giving each other high fives as we win online. We are less at odds with each other, and the atmosphere in our house has changed for the better. Weekends are less fraught and I am relishing our shared moments.

Dad is still the firm favourite, but I am out of the starting blocks. I am no longer an unwanted presence in the house and feel a surge of love each time I am asked to do battle or re-organise our catalogue of cards. Our relationship has taken a giant leap forward, and our bond is slowly developing.

No Valentine's day card, flowers or chocolates could make me feel more special.


  1. It's so amazing that you have managed to break through and find this bond and I'm so happy for you! Think I have a bit of catching up to do in terms of my Pokemon knowledge... ;)

    1. I sometimes pinch myself during our moments together, as it is such a change to how things were before.

      I found the online game was a great way to learn.

  2. This is so sweet, finding something you can do together makes a big difference. My eldest son was very destructive and angry all the time when he was younger (he wasn't diagnosed with Autism until he was 12 although it was evident, I didn't know what I was dealing with.) Anyway, he discovered Pokemon when it first came around and we used to play cards together for hours and he was always calm and happy. Your post has reminded me of this x

    1. The common connection has made the biggest difference. Just this morning he chose to sit next to me at breakfast instead of dad ... first time ever!!!


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