“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.