Walking my son through the playground to his classroom he turned to me and begged, "Mum I want to collect the DreamWorks cards!"
Not even knowing what he was talking about, I used my throw-away answer "There's no such thing, honey."
"But everyone at school has them, Mum!"
Moments later we entered his classroom to a sea of glittering holographic Woolworths DreamWorks Hero cards. My mouth dropped in shock. The classroom had been taken over and Shrek was leading a gang of frenzied children all trying to trade their cards. Wall Street had nothing on this tradefest.
Hovering anxiously nearby were mums making sure cards were being traded in fairness and the teacher standing back willing the school bell to ring.
My son stood there empty handed, no cards, no folder, no-one talking to him. My mummy guilt dropped the pit of my stomach to my feet. I went straight from school to Woolworths. We don't usually shop there, but the fear of my son missing out sent me in there. My shopping had already been done for the week; nevertheless, I randomly threw some items into my basket, just to get these cards. My total spend came to $39.60 - forty cents short of getting two cards. My heart sank. The poor sales assistant took pity on me and handed me two cards. But I felt gut wrenched. Two cards - how could my son possibly play in the trading wars with just two cards?
I came home frazzled. I had two cards and no folder, since they are completely sold out, and my first instinct was to jump on eBay. It not only seemed logical to me, but practical, if not sanity saving. There was listing upon listing of DreamWorks Hero cards. A full set plus folder was fifty dollars. Slowly collecting cards from Woolworths, not taking into account double ups, would require a minimum spend of $840. For me it was a no brainer.
Come bedtime and sitting on the edge of my son’s bed I asked him and my husband what they thought about buying these cards from eBay. There was instant outcry. Almost in chorus they informed me that it was not just about collecting a full set and placing the folder away neatly on a shelf. It was the dynamics of trading cards, the skills and negotiation of the worth of each card. It was the excitement and anticipation of getting that one last card. We were speaking two different languages. I wanted the ease and efficiency of eBay - one click and I would have a complete set with no stress. My son and husband wanted the thrill of the chase.
I walked out of my son’s bedroom that night defeated. I still only had two cards. I didn’t like shopping at Woolworths and yet here I was about to spend $800 there, just to get these cards. And that was only for one set; my younger son would inevitably want them too, so make that almost $2000 spent at Woolworths.
Just before I reached for my phone about to text message everyone I knew and beg them for spare cards, I stopped myself. No one would need to know if I bought them from eBay, would they?
In the end everyone won. I bought the cards from eBay and slowly handed them out to my son. He was able to get amongst the thick of it all at school and trade like Wall Street was crashing. Having survived this first round of trade card mayhem, I’m not so sure I am ready for the inevitable next wave from the Woolworths marketing department.
Perhaps then, I’ll assume the brace position and pray it passes without too much destruction, both to my hip pocket and my sanity.
Josefa Pete is a freelance writer and mother to two boys. You can follow her on Facebook or at alwaysjosefa.com.