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

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

To Me, Gentle Parenting Means …

I am participating this week in the 2012 Carnival of Gentle Discipline hosted by Parenting Gently. I wrote the following article for the Carnival. Please visit ParentingGently.com to read other parents’ takes on Gentle Parenting …

Being Teachable:  Ideas & Ideals

I am in no way a Gentle Parenting expert. Frankly, I only recently heard the term and started learning about the concepts.  To me Gentle Parenting means treating my children with the same love, compassion, respect and kindness with which I want the world to treat me. And for me, living up to that ideal is no easy feat!

I firmly believe my two daughters are my best teachers, and we’re growing up together, step by step.  When I pay attention, I can learn from them how to listen to myself, stay in the moment and enjoy the adventure that is raising them. As an aspiring gentle mom, I want to be the kind of parent who:

  • Makes nurturing myself and getting support a priority
  • Offers myself and my children choices and boundaries
  • Identifies with my children’s successes and challenges
  • Finds the joy in parenting

While these ideas don’t come naturally or easily to me, here’s what I’m learning:

Nurturing Me

My goal as a parent is to celebrate and enjoy my children.  Rather than parenting with resentment or martyrdom, as often as possible, I want to give to my family from a place of willingness and joy. Unfortunately, I tend to be reactive. And a perfectionist. A volatile combination – and not exactly conducive to joy and fun! I have noticed that when I take in more mothering from loving friends and more nurturing for myself, I’m less reactive and better able to lovingly connect with myself and my children.

When I focus on myself and consciously look at all the ways I treat myself both lovingly and hurtfully, I recognize that I naturally treat my children in those same ways. In my experience, I can’t neglect my needs or ignore my own emotions without at some point offering the same to my children. For example, when I yell out of frustration or offer shaming messages to my children, chances are good I’m treating myself to those same powerful messages. Yet when I’m accepting and forgiving of myself, I tend to model those traits in my interactions with my kids.

To make those positive interactions a reality, I need a lot of loving self-care; things like regular meals, consistent exercise, bathroom breaks when needed (not put off until I’ve completed five more “urgent” things!), sufficient rest and downtime, some grown-up play and fun, a little fresh air and, possibly most importantly for me, connection with other loving people. If I don’t make these things a priority in my life, there is little chance I’ll interact with my children with love and compassion.

Making Choices/Setting Boundaries

Gentle Parenting to me means choices. When I am able to take a deep breath before I respond to my kids, I find I have more choices in how I interact with them. You’d think breathing would be an easy task, given that I’m presumably doing it regularly. You’d be wrong! When something isn’t going my way or is different from my plan, my typical reaction is to control, not breathe; tighten, not soften. When I’m able to remember to breathe, slow down and be gentle with myself, I tend to enjoy family interactions more. I’m guessing my kids do too!

Gentle Parenting to me is letting go, primarily of my expectations. I struggle daily with letting go – thus re-dos are a big part of my parenting. As I was working on this article, eager to finish it on my timeframe, my daughter Ava (8) asked me to read a Harry Potter book to her, one of our favorite mommy-daughter activities. My first reaction was “no,” I had to get this article done. The question, “Why?” popped in my head. I love to read with my daughters. And I love to write. Writing would give me a sense of accomplishment, a “to do” checked off my list. I knew I’d have some writing time later in the afternoon when our babysitter arrived, yet I still wasn’t convinced.

Anxiety drove my initial “no” response.  Then, when I stopped, breathed and asked myself what would bring me more joy in the long-term, I realized I had choices. And here’s the tricky part:   there was no “right” choice! Choosing to stop writing and read to my daughter would have been a fine choice; choosing to keep writing and agreeing on a time later in the day to read together would have been a fine choice, too (even if my daughter had feelings about my choice – yikes!). It seems important to me to be conscious that I have many choices and am making choices all the time.

This time, I asked Ava for a redo. When at first she wasn’t interested, I got up off my chair and went to her. We had a delightful time cuddling and reading together. When the babysitter arrived later and I started writing again, I felt happier and more in touch with joy.

While I strive to make my relationships with my daughters my first priority, it’s also important for me to remember that I deserve to set boundaries. I’m not always available at the exact moment when my children (and others!) want my attention. Neither are they. When I accept my limitations and imperfections, our time together feels more authentically loving.

Identifying Vs. Controlling

Being gentle in my parenting means being gentle and loving with myself first, something I have little patience for on my own. I like efficiency and order, the antithesis of humanness (and my children!). When I can appreciate that my girls are providing me with opportunities to grow, to open my heart and live a fuller life, I soften. When I identify with them rather than try to control them, we all grow.

For example, my daughter Ava (8) and I often struggle over her homework during the school year. Whenever I’m focused on her progress and how easily distracted she is, I end up trying to control her by pressuring and nagging. When instead I focus on my own feelings, I realize how alike we are and how hard it can be for me to focus after a long day.

When I explain to Ava that I understand and often feel the same way, we connect. When I make our relationship more important than my expectations about her homework, my daughter tends to blossom. I like to think I do, too.

Finding More Joy

To me gentle parenting is the opposite of control – it suggests forgiveness of myself first for all the ways I don’t live up to my expectations as a mom. It requires humility that I don’t always know what’s best and an open mind to let in new ideas. Gentle parenting means embracing forgiveness – of myself first – and teaching my children by modeling that there’s no shame in making mistakes, there is no shame in owning our humanness, there’s only more joy to be found.

I’d love to know … What do you think of when you hear the term Gentle Parenting? What does parenting gently mean to you? 



Please join us all week, June 25-June30, 2012, as we explore the world of gentle, effective parenting. We have new posts each day by talented authors providing us with insight into why gentle parenting is worth your time and how to implement it on a daily basis. Check out all the carnival posts over on ParentingGently.com

We are also giving away several parenting book and other goodies from our sponsors this week. Please stop by and enter to win!

This year’s beautiful motherhood artwork is by Patchwork Family Art. Visit the store to see all her work.


Harry Potter Is My Higher Power

Our Family is Blessed By Harry Potter

Scene:  Our kitchen, yesterday morning …

My husband:  “Honey, thanks for making mornings so enjoyable around here. It’s miraculous.”

Me:  “Are you insane? Did you not just hear the apocalyptic battle between good and evil unfolding in Ava’s room?”

Husband:  “Exactly. Every morning used to start that way. Now, I appreciate that those mornings are so rare.”

Me:  “Hmm. You’re right.” (Not a statement I offer often or lightly to my beloved spouse.)

To what or whom do we owe this wondrous morning transformation? What is our miracle method for rousing a grouchy eight-year-old from a deep slumber; turning a recurring power struggle into an enjoyable morning ritual? Want to know our secret? Prayer and meditation, of course!

I’m a firm believer that connecting to a higher power through prayer and meditation is an ideal way to start any morning. My daughter and I share this devotional practice every weekday at 6:30 am sharp. That the higher power we worship is Harry Potter is perhaps unusual, certainly blasphemous, yet undeniably transformative!

Ava and I pray that the evil Lord Voldemort will succumb to the holy trinity of Harry, Ron and Hermione. We meditate on the incredible power of Dumbledore’s loving guidance. (And we giggle at how much Hermione’s bossy ways remind us of me.) My daughter and I have been waking up to Harry Potter’s engrossing hi-jinx for the past year. Five books down, two to go. Every morning, Mr. Potter helps me gently rouse and bond with my daughter.

Mornings at our house pre-Harry Potter:

Me:  “Ava, time to get up. Didn’t you hear your alarm?”

Ava:

Me:  “Ava, wake up. It’s time to get going. Come on, honey. You can do it. Come on, love. Wake up … come on …”

Ava:

Me:  “Ava, I’m going to count to three. You better have your butt out of that bed by three or you’re going to school in your pajamas.”

Ava: “Mooooooommmmmmmmmm. That’s a threat. You said we don’t threaten. Leave me alone. I need five more minutes.”

Mornings with Harry Potter:

Me:  “Good morning, sunshine! Move over and I’ll read you Harry Potter.”

Ava:  “Good morning, mommy! I love you! I’m ready to get up and start my day and I can’t wait to read Harry Potter with you. Let me make my bed first.”

Sorry, I must have dozed off for a moment. Let’s try that again …

Me:  “Good morning, sunshine! Move over and I’ll read you Harry Potter.”

Ava:  “Growl … Moooooommmmmm, you’re squishing me!”

Me:  “If you move over, we can find out if Harry Potter kisses Cho Chang.”

Ava:  “Ewwww.”

Ava:  “Ok.”

Me:  “I’ll read to you for five minutes then it will be time to get dressed.”

Ava:  “Ok, mom. Read.”

Ease. Connection. A gripping tale. What could be better?

Since Harry Potter came into our lives, there’s often laughter in our house in the mornings – deep, connecting, mother/daughter laughter. Before I start rushing Ava to eat her breakfast, brush her teeth and get in the car, we giggle, cuddle and engage in lengthy strategy sessions of how Harry can exact revenge on the cruel Professor Snape.

I was as surprised as my daughter to discover Harry Potter’s myriad charms. I had never succumbed to Harry Potter mania when the books were de rigueur reading. My sister and niece were rabid fans; I had little interest in finding out what the fascination was for myself. Ava had even less interest. I originally pressured her into reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; the rest is family history.

Ava and I have our own secret language indecipherable by my husband and our younger daughter. When Ava yells, “Accio Mama,” I understand she’s conjuring me for a hug. When she whispers, “You’re meaner than Malfoy,” I hear her (and ignore this monumental insult). When she off-handedly announces, “I’m doing arithmancy for my math homework,” I smile before calling her bluff.  This morning, during my drill sergeant routine of “Brush your teeth, get your shoes on, grab your lunch, go, go, go,” she calmly and generously replied, “No, Mom, I won’t. I am not under your ‘imperious curse.’”

God, I mean Harry Potter, I love that kid.

What will we do when we’re through the Harry Potter series? Suggestions?

Perhaps there is an equally riveting book series with a heroine who listens attentively to every request her mother makes, dutifully caries out those requests with a pleasant disposition and even manages an occasional “Thanks, Mom.”

Truth is, I wouldn’t trade my rebellious little witch for a Stepford child any day. I am, however, willing to meditate on the idea …

Ms. Rowling, my family salutes you. Should you ever again find yourself destitute or in search of a new career path, consider touting Harry Potter’s mythical powers as a parenting tool. I’ll happily provide your first testimonial.

*Note:  In case you missed the announcement, Amazon will soon offer all seven books in the Harry Potter series as free downloads in its Kindle Lending Library.