For this blog I’m making a point of acknowledging a parenting win. I struggled to figure out what to write about this week, between the Stanford rape case and the powerful letter written by the victim that sparked a much needed national conversation, and Hillary Clinton making history as the first female presumptive presidential nominee of a major political party. Regardless of political ideology, the fact that the black sitting president had a conversation with the Jewish contender about the female presumptive nominee is a pretty good indication that we are at least moving in the right direction.
I care about all of these social and political issues, but this week, for me, has been about history being made in my own household. My seven-year old son has discovered Harry Potter. This is a big deal to me. Not just because I love the series (I do) or even because I love seeing my son develop a love of reading (I couldn’t be prouder.)
But as a mom, it’s a big deal because he’s always been his Papa’s boy. They are two peas building Legos in the same pod. I’m invited to see what they create, but I’m definitely a spectator. His eyes don’t light up when I suggest we go to the park or drive RC cars or play a game. I’m just not as exciting a playmate. I get it. The two of them are equally excited about the same things whereas I play along because I want to connect to something he loves. Their bond is wonderful, adorable and deeply connected. It’s organic. And I’m so glad they have each other. But sometimes I feel a little left out.
Occasionally I interject with something like drawing or gardening that gets his attention briefly, but then my husband gets a new RC car and I’m left to finish planting on my own. I never found an activity that drew him in enough that it would trump everything else on offer.
But finally, it’s my turn. Harry Potter has been the great equalizer. Since I’m the reader in the family I got to introduce my son to the wonderful world of Hogwarts. And he loves it. I have read over 450 pages aloud in the last week as we finished “Prisoner of Azkaban” and are well into “Goblet of Fire.” He’s so excited that he makes me read to him while he eats breakfast before school, restarting the second he comes home. He skipped Kung Fu (which he loves) because he wanted time to read. He was excited they didn’t have homework this week because it gave us more time to read. He sat reading by himself while his friends ran around waiting for their parents to pick them up after school.
He wears his Gryffindor robe around the house, carries his wand and holds his stuffed Hedwig as I read. His nose wrinkles in frustration when Malfoy does or says something mean. He yells out ideas about which spells Harry should use to get past the dragon in the first challenge of the Triwizard Tournament. He cracks up when Mad Eye Moody turns Malfoy into a ferret for attacking Harry with his back turned. He built Hogwarts out of Legos while I slept in this morning, complete with secret passageways and Hagrid’s hut.
I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. I’ve spent countless hours lost in worlds of someone else’s creation. And I’ve chosen to create worlds of my own to hopefully offer that same experience to others. But I have never felt so much affection for an author as I do for JK Rowling right now. I absolutely loved the books when I first read them, but that’s not the affection to which I’m referring.
It is an entirely different thing getting to watch my son lose himself in a fictional world, unable to sleep without knowing what happens next. He told me his “tummy feels weird from all the excitement, nervousness, frustration and courage.” What a great description of some complicated feelings.
I overheard him telling his Papa—who had to take over reading briefly—that that’s not how the characters sound because “they sound more like Mama.” My husband’s Australian accent was apparently not up to par, even after we told him his accent is actually much closer to Harry’s British one. In the movies they all have British accents, too. Nope, he wasn’t having it. That was unacceptable. The characters all officially sound like Mama. End of discussion.
I can see that this is one of those experiences that’s affecting him on such a deep level that it’s footprint will remain long after he’s finished book 7. As a mother, I am so grateful for the author who created something that ignited my son’s love of reading, introducing him to that amazing feeling of immersion where the real world slips away and the only thing that matters is finding out what happens on the next page.
As a writer, it has made me more aware of that potential as I work on my first YA trilogy. The idea that a world I create could potentially ignite a young reader’s love of fiction and make their real world slip away as they immerse themselves in my imaginary one is inspiring beyond words.
So thank you JK Rowling. Thank you for sharing your imagination with us. Thank you for entertaining and inspiring a new generation’s love of reading. And thank you for writing seven wonderfully long books that allow me to spend time snuggling and bonding in my own pod with my son. It is an experience I will always cherish.