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

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.