When The Eldest One announced that he wanted the Match Attax starter pack (book and cards included) I initially thought well why not at least it gets him away from the telly. Over the past few months it's been a Match Attax frenzy in this house and The Eldest One has successfully managed to get most of his mates into collecting by manipulating me into buying their starter pack. Which finds their parents loving me then subsequently hating me. But be warned - we were in about Week Five of collecting when it dawned on me that these starter packs plus acquiring the full set of cards for my son was costing me the same as buying him his own real-life football club. It has left his piggy bank and my child benefit account depleted.
It works like this - the starter pack is £4.99 and then subsequent packs are 50p each for six cards. Spending a paltry 50p seems a bit mean so you're always going to round it up to £1 or £2. But then you realise that your kid is having a couple of friends over so you have to buy them Match Attax too. You end up spending a fiver which doesn't seem so bad when the ten shiny packs light up the faces of children. Three times a week. However the fact that you are the Cool Mum who always buys Match Attax far outweighs the cost.
The companies that make these cards are very very clever. They always introduce extremely rare cards. Or in the case of football when it's the transfer season they bring in the new players. It's a form of controlling us. George Orwell would have a lot to say about Match Attax.
The more the kids collect, the more likely they are to get 'bad' cards and only a few 'good' cards which they need. Their friends (and their friends' parents), who have just started collecting, benefit greatly from this as they get given all the swaps (more cards for the kid and less cost to their parents). Swaps can be a nightmare. My son's friend only needed the West Ham manager to complete his managers so my son swapped it with him for the Hull City goalie. I then asked The Eldest One what managers he needed and he said "The West Ham manager" BUT HE'D JUST SWAPPED IT!
The most devastating moment in The Eldest One's life happened last week when he had a friend over who didn't collect Match Attax. I was completely conned into buying them two packs each even though the mate wasn't bothered. And because The Tomboy simply has to have everything The Eldest One has, I had to buy her two packs too. Plus sweets. A fiver later seemed nothing compared to the twenty minutes of peace&quiet I was going to have. (Yes I will pay to escape parental duties, no matter what the cost). Imagine the scene - the one card The Eldest One had been coveting for a month was the West Ham manager (see above)...but lo and behold, it appeared in a pack that his mate had! The Eldest One had a COMPLETE MELTDOWN and seeing this reaction, the mate held onto it with his dear life even though he didn't collect Match Attax. And you'll never guess what I did. Realising that this could cause some serious emotional damage, I went back to the shop and bought packets until the West Ham manager appeared. I figured that eight quid was nothing compared to the price of therapy that would have been needed in his future years.
On a positive note, the card collection provides me with some serious negotiation and disciplinary means. It's the only thing that The Eldest One seems to care about if I take it away. His daily routine and behaviour are governed by the thought that I might buy him Match Attax. And if that means I get less back chat, well, that's priceless.