Please don’t read Harry Potter to my kid

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There are few things left in life to get truly, giddily excited about, and I can count them on one hand: the next season of Downton Abbey. The day my kid and his future unborn sibling(s) learn to march their little feet safely into the kitchen and pour themselves cereal so I can actually sleep in, i.e., know God, again. Bedazzled yoga pants that can double as formal wear. And reading Harry Potter to my children for the first time.

Perhaps you’ve dreamed of the day you’ll teach your kid to ride a bike or kick a soccer ball. While those aren’t on my particular “mom bucket list” because I live in fear of head injuries and I’m clinically afraid of catching a ball, I’ve fantasized about introducing my kiddo to the literal (and figurative) magic of Hogwarts since before he was born. While excessively worrying about hot dogs being choking hazards and the dangers of recalled crib tents (natch), I’ve also spent a meaningful amount of time concerned that some well-intentioned parent might, during an ill-fated playdate, decide it’s a “good idea” to read Potter to all the children present — including my own. Or, God forbid, some boggart masquerading as a responsible adult might actually (and this is hard to write) show my child a Harry Potter movie. I’m not sure what would be worse: my kid finding out which beloved character dies before he even understands the gravity of that event, or me not being there when it happens to comfort him and let him know that the world will, indeed, go on, even without X-wizard-who-cannot-be-named-in-this-post-because-there-might-still-be-future-readers-out-there-who-don’t-know-yet-and-I-just-can’t-do-that-to-them. (This is not a joke, people. You gotta respect the future fans.)

If you’re thinking this sounds like it’s entirely about me and not my kid at all (“Won’t he love Harry Potter whether you read it to him or not?”), then you’re one hundred percent correct. Maybe that makes me selfish. But I’d like to think that me sharing this with my child is one small reward for all the sleepless nights and diaper changes, and that time I played Legos with him for seven hours straight (that hasn’t technically happened yet, but surely it will? I’d like to cash in on that favor now; thanks).

As an adult, I found refuge and hope and utter delight in Harry’s world after September 11th. While I can never experience Butterbeer and Quidditch and Dementors for the first time again, my kid can, and I can live vicariously through him. (“Clean dried yogurt off the car seat straps” is the chief item on my To Do list tomorrow, okay? You gotta give me this one little thing.) So please, Parent A, Parent B, and Parent Smurf: Please don’t read Harry Potter to my kids or any of my potential future progeny. And please don’t show them any of the movies. And, for the love of Gryffindor, if for some hideous reason you do show them the movies, please don’t show them those movies out of sequence (but, really, please please please don’t show them the movies at all).

I want to be there to see the look on my son’s face when Harry finds out he’s a wizard. I want to snuggle under the covers with my sweet boy and rediscover Hogwart’s crooked hallways, and pinpoint its cast of characters on the Marauder’s Map. When it’s way too late at night, and we know we should both be sleeping, but we just can’t put The Prisoner of Azkaban down because it’s that good maybe-the-best-one-of-all, I will stroke my wee one’s damp-from-sweat bangs from his face, and feel his breath on my chest, and listen to his steady, certain heartbeat as he drifts off to sleep, while visions of broomsticks dance in his head.

I’m not asking for a lot, not really. If you for some reason really want to teach my kid to ride that bike, go for it. I won’t be sad I missed that milestone; I’ll probably be relieved because bike riding is still kind of one of those things I’m iffy at. But if you could avoid talking about who wins the Triwizard Tournament in his presence, I promise I’ll make sure he doesn’t ruin Santa for your wee one. Deal?

Thanks for understanding why this one particular issue is disproportionately important to me. I’m a writer, so I’m kind of in awe of the way a really, really really good story can transform and transport you. I think Harry Potter might make my son love this crazy, astounding world a teeny bit more than he already does, which is a whole lot. I just desperately don’t want to miss it.

18 thoughts on “Please don’t read Harry Potter to my kid

  1. I’m a HP virgin, so I CAN NOT WAIT to read it with the kids. What do you think is the right age? We’ve started reading some old-school chapter books to Finn (Charlotte’s Web, The Boxcar Children), and it’s amazing to re-live the joy. Loved this post.

    1. OOOH, you are the reason I tried not to inadvertently include any spoilers in this post! And there is a huge part of me that is INSANELY jealous that you still have the “magic” ahead of you!

      Not sure what the right age is. I think I will ask Lindsey Mead (lemead). I definitely don’t want to start too soon… and not that there IS a “too late,” but there’s a bigger risk of them seeing/reading it without me if I wait too long (Clearly, I am waaay overthinking this!) xox

  2. Oh, I love this. I feel SO strongly about Hogwarts, and Harry, and for the love of God, NO TO THE MOVIES. We watch them after we finish each book, which entails hiding in a room with Grace because Whit is three books behind her. I couldn’t possibly care more about the world of Harry Potter, and you’re absolutely right to look forward to discovering it with your children. It’s amazing. A true joy. xox

    1. Thanks, Lindsey — it’s good to know that it IS possible to project this little magic bubble (your kids are on different books, and they respect that? Awesome!) I absolutely can’t WAIT until Leo (and future child) is/are old enough. xox

  3. We can still be friends – I haven’t (and have no plans to) read the Harry Potter series (nor see the movies). Though, I do retain the right to change my mind, should Gavin decide he’s really into it and he wants me to be, too.

  4. When’s the toddler friendly version of the Harry Potter books coming out. I think I might have time to read those (certainly no time for the teenage/adult versions, haha). I won’t read it to him, don’t you worry!

  5. My kid and Harry Potter will by all means be a family Rite of Passage…there are so many lessons and life events in there I want to be the one that teaches my kid about them (via JK Rowling, of course).

  6. This reminds me of my oddball vision of my child at my feet, cuddled up in his favorite blanket, fire crackling in the fireplace, while I give voice to Alice In Wonderland. (I’ve actually tried once or twice, and he’s not ready yet. Soon I hope. Soon!)

      1. Impossible! (We’re holding out to show ours the movies and such as well — and we haven’t seen the movies, so it’ll be fun for all of us. Years in the making….)

  7. Love this. And you’re not crazy. I read Harry #1 to my oldest this past school year (he was in 2nd grade). It was everything you’re hoping for. He loved it. My fear is that he will now watch the other movies somehow rather than be patient to read them all with me. Though as he’s reading gets better I hope you can read them on his own. The words are very hard!

    1. Thanks, Nina — so happy to hear that Harry didn’t disappoint. I think you’re probably *right* in that age range where he’s almost ready to start reading them on his own — fingers crossed! xox

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