Projections & (Potter)more

Her excitement was palpable. And contagious. Every ounce of her eight-year-old being oozed enthusiasm.

“Mom, I can’t wait to see what house I get into!”

So began our journey into Pottermore, JK Rowling’s online world of all things Harry Potter. After signing up and answering a series of questions, the website determines the best Hogwarts’ “house” for each participant.

Reminiscent of college sorority rush, the warning signs were there. And I wasn’t prepared.

My daughter is obsessed with Harry Potter. She, like her forefathers, read the first Harry Potter book two dozen times and fancies herself a Hermione doppelgänger, bushy hair and bossy intellect alike. And similar to many fans, she expected to be chosen for Gryffindor, the heroes’ house.

The computer screen returned the verdict:  Hufflepuff.

My heart plummeted.

“Mom, I can’t be a Hufflepuff,” she moaned, her disappointment as intense as her original anticipation. “They are boring and dumb. I didn’t answer the questions right. I must be a Gryffindor!”

My first instinct was to disavow her feelings and remind her that Pottermore is a silly computer game with zero impact on real life.

Instead I hugged her while she cried and told myself we could weather this storm. And she was learning a valuable lesson.

But what the f**k was the lesson? Don’t let a computer algorithm determine your self-worth? Can an eight year old understand that lesson? Can her forty-something mom?

I flashed back to college sorority rush. Hundreds of young women, dressed to impress, chatting and mingling as if the rituals were natural experiences instead of contrived, competitive events. I chatted, smiled and hoped I would get what I wanted – entrance into the “right” houses.

I wanted validation that I was worthwhile, that I mattered and was acceptable. I got the opposite:  none of the houses wanted me.

I was devastated and inconsolable. My friends soothing words felt hollow and disingenuous. They were accepted, not humiliated and filled with shame. The message:  I was worthless and unwanted.

And now my daughter was a Hufflepuff. Despair!

As I hugged my heartbroken daughter and fought my insecurities, my thoughts cleared. Could I be projecting my own feelings of devastation on to her? Would this disappointment truly derail her youth or was it possible my daughter was a separate being, with distinct insight and wisdom? Could I let her have her own experiences without superimposing my own?

After frantically trying to undo and redo the computer test, my daughter grabbed the telephone.

“I’m going to call Lexie and find out what house she got into,” she declared.

Lexie, my niece and fellow diehard Harry Potter fan, was assigned to Slytherin, the evil Lord Voldemort’s house! And yes, Lexie was equally disappointed with her results.

Relieved and resigned, my daughter decided her computer-generated house assignment was a mistake and wouldn’t stop her from enjoying Pottermore’s many other enticing features.

Ms. Rowling, thanks for the lesson. Apparently, my daughter’s resilience and self-worth surprisingly and thankfully surpass my own.

I am linking up with Yeah Write for Week Three of their Summer Writer’s Series

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33 thoughts on “Projections & (Potter)more

  1. “But what the f**k was the lesson? Don’t let a computer algorithm determine your self-worth? Can an eight year old understand that lesson? Can her forty-something mom”

    Sometimes I expect my 8-year old to get things that took my until my 40’s to understand myself. Impulse control being one of them! How can I expect my 3rd grader to control her own impulses with I can’t always control my own??

    Same thing with self worth – and looking for validation from others. It took me 40 years to become aware that I do this – it might take another 40 to get over it!

    As always, you are spot on for me!

    • Yes!! Me, too! Impulse control is a theme in our house and I do expect my daughters to miraculously have more of it than I can muster. I’m trusting that our self-worth is increasing exponentially and it will only take 20 more years :-). Thank you so much for your support!

  2. Remember those computer IQ tests that were everywhere several years ago? I think I took about 20 of them, and did not fare well:). Yes, I let a stupid computer algorithm determine my self worth! Finally, my husband told me I wasn’t dumb. Thanks, babe!

    I’m glad you daughter weathered the Pottermore’s storm!

    • Oh, yes, I remember! I recently came across an article listing all kinds of apps that do the same. I’m staying clear of those! Hope you give your husband a big hug for his comment!

    • Unscathed and waxing poetic! She’s been explaining to me how it doesn’t matter what house you get in because the entire site is from Harry’s point of view and he’s in Gryffindor. She’s a miracle! And in hindsight not getting into a sorority was good for me (though I wish I had had your clarity!). Mostly, I don’t want to reject myself anymore – that’s the most painful of all.

  3. I am glad that she was overcome her initial dissapointment. It is amazing how we project our own feelingss, thoughts, etc. on to our own kids. So, we have to deal with their crap and ours. Uggh!

  4. This hits home for me, but in a way you might not expect. My son has ADHD, and I’m always trying to stop myself from trying to mold him into the ‘perfect student’ (like I was) so that he can be ‘successful’ in life (even though I have no freakin’ clue what that means). As you so sweetly illustrate, sometimes the best thing to do for our kids is let them listen to their own wisdom and blaze their own trail. xoxo

  5. such a good lesson here about not projecting onto our kids what is ours to carry. so sorry that you have had that past rejection, and for her current one, but sounds like she has been gracious and adorable about living with it 🙂

  6. Funny how life keeps bringing us face to face with fear of not being accepted. I better at recognizing it now, but still often think the grass (or concrete) looks better “over there”

  7. Oh I’d rather be rejected a thousand times than watch my kids be rejected once! But, like we did, they have to learn to weather those moments. Great story and I love the happy ending.

    • Yes! It’s so painful to watch my children be rejected and it’s all part of being out in the world (ironic given we were at home in front of a computer!!). I’m happy her rejections are still kid-sized!

  8. Oh, I’d rather be rejected a thousand times than watch my kids be rejected once! But, like we did, they must learn to weather those moments. Great story and I love the happy ending!

  9. I love it when my kids teach me lessons like that! My daughter is one of those charmed children for who disappointment is almost non-existent. I’ll ask her if what she feels about situations and even if she is disappointed, she always says, “Well, it made me sad, but then I thought XYZ and I’m all fine now.” She’s so darn grounded for an almost-five-year-old. I think I might actually envy her confidence…

  10. You know what? One of the reasons I don’t want to explore Pottermore is the sorting thing. Too intimidating for words. I don’t like rejection, and not getting to pick where you live? Oh yeah. rejection city. I’d probably just re-cast myself until I got into Gryffindore or maybe Ravenclaw, if you want the truth. I’m a writer. I just change like that.

    • I agree! I thought about suggesting my daughter re-subscribe to the site until she got what she wanted (I was willing to create as many yahoo email accounts as necessary!). Thankfully, she got to an okay place with the sorting thing all on her own. On the other hand, I want to find a site that tells how to answer the questions to guarantee I get into Gryffindor before I take the test myself!

  11. This makes me want to sign up for Pottermore and see what house I’m assigned to, but I’m afraid of what it will do to my self-esteem. I think you did a good job letting your daughter work it out on her own, even though you were dying inside.

    • I’m scared to try out the “sorting” feature on Pottermore too! I prefer for my daughter to navigate all of it for me – she’s apparently the more resilient of the two of us!

  12. I completely love how you relate this to sorority rush. So accurate for a number of reasons! And this is something I try hard to remember – our perspective as an adult who knows how little their disappointment will affect the rest of their life should never diminish their disappointment. To them it’s so big and real. At least I tell myself that over and over and over when MY oldest has an online disappointment. 🙂

    • I have to remind myself often of the same thing – their hurts feel and are big to them. It’s hard to remember when I’m so busy telling myself to get over some disappointment or another. I hope to use the same loving voice I try to use with them on myself!

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