In my family, we like a lot of things. My children have a ton of passion and energy, so there is always room to explore something new. We like board games. We like Pokemon. We like Disney. We like karate, gymnastics and swimming. But nothing, I repeat nothing, beats Harry Potter in our house. The twins are convinced that their Hogwarts letters will be coming on their 11th birthday (and I am afraid that day may be fairly disappointing in the scheme of things).
I wasn’t a huge fan until a year ago when I started reading the books to my children. I had seen all the movies during the initial craze, but I wasn’t an avid reader at that point. I thought the movies were pretty good, but I had seen better, so I never got caught up in it. Then I opened the first book and read the first chapter to my kids, and the rest, as they say, is history. We read the first two books together in a very short time. Immediately after, I started reading the third book. After I read it, I decided it was appropriate for my eight-year-olds, so I read it to them. I read a book twice, back-to-back, and was not bored of it for a second. And of course, I continued reading the other books and did not stop until I had read every word. I was hooked.
Since that time, my kids and I will watch the first three movies and discuss Harry Potter whenever the opportunity arises. I try not to blow the plot for them, but their friends at school do it anyway. While not everything will be a surprise, I am sure they will love the rest of the books when they read them in the years to come.
In many families, it stops there. But being the cognitive, meaning-seeking individual that I am, I could not help but find lessons in these stories, lessons that I have used in my daily parenting. Kids love stories. Kids listen and relate to stories. And since I am always looking for ways to get through to my kids, I use stories. I don’t know if J.K. Rowling was attempting to pass these gems along, but I use them anyway. Here is my list of life lessons from the Harry Potter series:
1) Our Greatest Fear is Never Greater Than Us. My favorite scene in the entire Harry Potter series comes when Lupin teaches the kids how to use the riddikulus spell to ward off boggarts. This scene has helped me teach my children that their worst fears can be conquered by having a sense of humor about them. Perspective is our best friend. When my daughter was afraid of the dark, I told her to bring her Hermoine wand, which conveniently has a light at the tip of it.
2) Pay Attention. Throughout the Harry Potter series, the muggles never seem to notice what is happening around them. I have made sure to explain to my children that if we aren’t paying attention, we might just miss the magic. Kids are better at noticing their surroundings than adults, but if the message sinks in, maybe they will remember in twenty years.
3) Help Comes in Many Forms. Sometimes, the help Harry received didn’t seem very helpful. Dobby sure seemed to be a part of the problem during the second story. I have been inundated with painful help in my life, and honestly, it can be the best help there is.
4) Everyone is Equal in Talent and Ability. For my social justice friends, I am not suggesting that the stories are flawless when it comes to equality. There are many white males in very important roles. However, there is a message that equality matters. Whether it is the fight to free the elves, or the multiple admissions that Harry and Ron would be dead without Hermione, the message is clear. And my daughter loves the strong, intelligent and wise female character.
5) You Don’t Need Parents to Change the World. This is a critical point in our family. We are working at a deficit with no father or extended family, but that doesn’t mean my kids have any less chance of manifesting anything they want.
6) Take Risks and You Will be Supported. Okay. This might be a message for me. Even though kids may be born with the courage to try anything (including death-defying feats), they tend to lose that passion for risk-taking as they are inundated with the societal and parental warnings. But if they need an example of risk-taking for the right reasons, they have that in Harry Potter.
7) Don’t Do it Alone. Take Your Friends. It never hurts to have friends. And through all their ups and downs, Harry and his friends get so much more done together. And in many cases, his friends are his motivation to keep going.
8) There is Soul-Sucking Evil in the World, But You Have Love. When my kids were first introduced to dementors, they struggled to understand that level of evil, and I was glad they did. But I made sure they knew that there is love. There is so much more love.
9) When Everyone Else Succumbs to Fear, Stay Who You Are Meant to Be. I struggled to believe that a young kid would have the incredible guts to stand his ground when others turned on him over and over again. He never gave in. He kept his integrity through it all. As humans, we must keep our focus on who we are, no matter what happens.
10) Magic is Everywhere. My son always tells me that he believes in magic. I tell him that I do too. It just looks a little different. Miracles are all around us. And I hope he never forgets it.