Life with Liz: Lessons from Harry Potter
Christmas break is one of the few times a year that I encourage my kids to veg out as much as possible. Sleep late every day? Sure. Graze through the kitchen on a whim and forgo all scheduled meal times? Absolutely. The electronic devices that have been under lock and key since September? Run wild, kids. Play until your thumbs fall off. Go days without paying any attention at all to hygiene? OK, I draw the line somewhere, and if teeth are brushed and no one smells too bad, I can live with a little laxness.
Admittedly, this is because this is my two-week reprieve from work and every and all scheduled activities, and I need the break from the schedule as much as they do. The long slog of school and activities from January until spring is also on the horizon, and since it’s unlikely that all of us will be home at the same time for the next few months, it’s also a chance to just enjoy doing nothing together.
The boys and the WH engaged in some hunting and fishing over break. The mild temperatures encouraged at least a little bit of outdoor activity. E and I painted fingernails and did a little bit of shopping. Luckily for me, E was eager to use her new Fitbit, and she did a great job of dragging me out to get our steps logged every day. Evenings brought us all crashing together on the couch. The first few days of break, we caught up on all the summer blockbuster movies that we missed. Then, G had the great idea to re-watch all the Harry Potter movies.
I love Harry Potter. I enjoyed rereading the whole series a few years ago as A was reading them. Although I am the first person to always believe a book is way better than a movie, and this series is no exception, I do believe these movies belong in their own class as they brought so much of the magic to life. I went to opening night of every single movie, and of course, riding all the Harry Potter rides and visiting Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios a few years ago delighted the whole family. In all this time, though, I never watched the movies back to back over the course of a week.
When the books and the movies were released, literal years passed between, episodes and the changes and the development of the characters were much subtler and more expected. But seeing Harry change from an impish 11-year-old to a masculine 16-year-old in just a few days drove home the “coming of age” aspect of this tale. E decided that she didn’t want to watch the movies anymore after the truly dark magic starts to appear in “The Goblet of Fire” and tuned in to “Fuller House” episodes on her tablet and headphones instead. The sunny, bright adventures of the Tanner family were much more her speed than darkness and destruction of the Order of the Phoenix.
The boys still have the immaturity to groan and moan when any of the romantic stuff starts happening between Harry and Cho and Ron and Hermione, but it made me realize that they are only a few years away from starting on those adventures themselves. A friend had recently commented on a picture of A about how quickly he has matured, and as I watched Harry and Ron go through the awkward stages of adolescence, it reminded me very much of my own two boys.
One of my favorite parts of the series is how J.K. Rowling depicts her heroes as flawed: the impulsive, self-absorbed youngsters who morph into sullen, moody teenagers, while at the same time saving the world. The first time I saw most of the movies, I still probably thought of myself as one of the young heroes. These days, I identify much more closely with Mrs. Weasley or Professor McGonagall, ready to grab an ear or deduct 10 points for bad behavior, while simultaneously being so worried that I’m doing everything I can to prepare them for their future, whether it holds dragons and Dark Lords, or driver’s licenses and the SATs.
When we finally sat down together for a meal on New Year’s Day, the conversation quickly turned to our shared experiences of the past few days, and a debate began to rage about where the Sorting Hat would place each of us. I was surprised that they didn’t automatically put themselves into Gryffindor. A pronounced himself a Ravenclaw, and I decided I would probably join him there, too.
E decided she’d be most at home in Hufflepuff, although, I think the name conjures up pink, fuzzy things for her more than it does the traits of hard work, patience and loyalty. Regardless, I think that’s where she’d end up anyway.
G, as expected, flirted slightly with Slytherin, but ultimately landed on Gryffindor with the Wonderful Husband, which I think is just about the perfect place for them. They have always reminded me a little bit of Ron. All in all, it was a good discussion of what traits my kids recognize in themselves and each other.
Therein lies the true magic of a well-told story: finding common ground and bringing people together, despite their differences. I’m grateful that such a mindless, couch potato exercise could have such great benefits for our family, and I’m glad that the kids are heading back into school with visions of Hogwarts dancing in their heads.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.