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Finishing Harry Potter

The twins and I finished Harry Potter.  As in, we finished the whole series.  Our last day with the last book contained a 9-hour-long reading session and a lot of tears that culminated in a massive headache.  We ended by closing the last book and opening the first to read the opening paragraph.  And it begins again.

My friend responded to the fact that we finished by writing me the final three words of the book: “all was well.”  Three simple words, but I clung to them because I was so tired, so emotional, the whole thing was so bittersweet.  You only get one first time.  They will never read the books in the same way again.  And that’s both a beautiful thing, but it’s also a hard thing to think about because… it means that they’re growing up and they’re growing away from me.

I hope I’ve taught them well.

I know it sounds a bit silly, but I feel like I started this journey with them in Kindergarten, shepherding them across a verbal river, and now, I’ve delivered them to the other side as promised.  I got them to the end of the series without (for the most part) plot points being inadvertently spoiled.

And maybe silly as well, but reading the series aloud with the twins feels like one of the most important things I’ve done as a parent.  I don’t think it had to be the Harry Potter series in particular, but I do think that the series itself helped.  It gave me a door to talk about some very hard topics: not only how we process bullying or what we’ll do for our friends, but death and mourning and fear and love and hope.

By asking the twins over and over again while we read, “what would you do?” I learned who they were, what was important to them, how they viewed the world, and what they wanted for their future.

It made me love my children even more — something I didn’t think was actually possible — and I hope it helped them to understand me.  What I was really doing when I was reading those books was reassuring them.  That yes, the world is a big scary place, but we have each other.  And that sort of connection is unending.  No matter what.

Reading those books aloud to them allowed me to be witness to them realizing the ferocity of Josh and my love as well as make sure that they will extend that love to others in the world.

And I hope that they will always remember how deeply these books made them feel and chase that across pages of future books for the rest of their life.

16 comments

1 andy { 04.21.15 at 7:53 am }

Reading out loud is one of my favorite parenting moments and I’m so glad that even as Liam is on the cusp of teenagehood (OMG he will be 13 in 3 months!!) that he still enjoys it as much as I do.

2 Chickenpig { 04.21.15 at 8:30 am }

You are all very lucky. I have one twin that refuses to have anything to do with Harry Potter, and one that can’t stand to have people read aloud in his presence…at all…without screaming bloody murder. My daughter is my only hope. She prefers her Dad to read to her, which is fine. Right now they are reading Treasure Island. I have had many wonderful conversations with my boys as I’m putting them to bed at night, but it would be nice to have a framework like Harry Potter, and it would be lovely to read out loud.

3 Cristy { 04.21.15 at 11:17 am }

I still cherish the bedtime ritual of reading my dad and I use to have. It started because I was behind with reading and it became a way for me to practice those skills. Unknowingly, it became something more. It was with my dad that I first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy (8 yrs old at the time) and those stories have shaped so much of my being. But also the act of reading together became a treasured bond.

May this second round yield more discussions and treasured memories.

4 Geochick { 04.21.15 at 12:26 pm }

Reading to our kids is one of our favorite activities. We’re working through all the Dr Seuss books now* and I can’t wait to share Harry Potter with them when they’re older.

*slowly considering the 3 yo obsession with rereading books a gazillion times

5 Natalie { 04.21.15 at 2:49 pm }

My daughter and I read the Little House On the Prairie series together last summer and I really loved the time we spent together. I’m sad that this year we aren’t doing as much reading because I had a new baby and am overwhelmed. Your posts about Harry Potter are reminding me that I need to find time to get back to reading with her again.

6 Karen (River Run Dry) { 04.21.15 at 3:00 pm }

We haven’t found our series yet.

Owen refuses Harry Potter, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, even the Hardy Boys. He’s seemed to be interested in Captain Underpants at night, but those books go by so quickly that they kind of don’t count. We’ll keep trying on HP, though. I’m not giving up. Not yet.

I love that my son loves math and science, but I also grieve that I don’t have someone I can share my love of books with.

7 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.21.15 at 3:34 pm }

I know how meaningful these books are to you personally and to your family. Now they’re interwoven into your own family narrative.

There must be some really powerful archetypes and parables here. I do intend to read some day. Maybe you can sit beside me during my firsts.

8 Turia { 04.21.15 at 8:30 pm }

I hope E. will still want to read with me when he can read himself. I don’t remember reading with my parents once I could read well myself. I guess the two younger sisters probably made bedtimes pretty chaotic.

He will (at the rate he’s going) not be ready for Harry Potter before he’s sixteen, but I’m still looking forward to sharing the books with him. I don’t think I’ll be sad to reach the end though- I love rereading my favourite books so much that coming to the end of a series just means I get to revisit it and understand so much more the second time.

9 Mali { 04.21.15 at 9:55 pm }

I’m not surprised you were all tired and emotional after a nine hour reading session! I can only imagine how it was for you. I know though when I finish a book I love, I’ll often sit there and hold it to me, unable to bear the wrench of putting it down. (Though it’s not quite the same with the iPad!)

10 Shannon { 04.21.15 at 10:16 pm }

I’m really looking forward to sharing Harry Potter with my boys. But I’d never really thought about how emotional it would be to read some of the parts to them. And I love the thought of stopping to ask them what they’d do in certain situations. I do that some with picture books now, but it never occurred to me to do that with longer books.

I’d planned on waiting until I could read them to both boys together, but the younger one already has less interest in books that the older one did at this age. And the (almost) 4 year old has taken my Harry Potters off the shelf, completely unprompted, multiple times to ask me to read them. I think he’s still a bit too young, but he did love the first Star Wars movie, so maybe he’ll be ready for book 1 soon. You started them in kindergarten? That might work for us, too.

11 Queenie { 04.21.15 at 11:40 pm }

Wait, what??! Lori has never read Harry Potter??!

I love this post. I love reading to my kids, and I can’t wait to start reading the series to them. Although curiously, my three year old loves the first movie (which I can’t believe my husband let her watch, but anyway. . .), and my five year old is terrified by it, so we may wait a while still.

12 Bronwyn Joy { 04.22.15 at 9:28 am }

Mel I read your post on Harry Potter appropriate reading ages before we read book one together. P was immediately obsessed. We ended up reading the first three together at which point I said the rest were a bit beyond his years (per your advice) and he could pick it up again later.

By the following week he had become an atrocious child and I was having a behavioural conference with his teacher. In the course of our investigations it transpired that he was skipping food all day to read the fourth book in fifteen minute snatches during recess in the school library. Long story short he’s just finished the fifth book. I envy your slow reveal! But it is a great story with many openings for discussion, of which we’ve had a few.

I suppose we’ll have more time to read them again?

13 earthandink { 04.22.15 at 12:59 pm }

This post has me teary. I think this was a good choice for a family reading and the chance to talk about all sorts of important and unimportant things.

“All was well”. I plan on getting that tattooed on my arm when my situation is over. Such a perfect phrase.

Your friend is right. You did a beautiful thing as a parent. All was well.

14 Justine { 04.25.15 at 10:06 pm }

I love the way you’ve used these as a door into complex conversations. And I wish that I hadn’t let I. pull away so quickly to finish them on his own.

15 Tiara { 04.27.15 at 1:46 pm }

They won’t forget that. My dad read The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe series to my brother & I & it is one of my most cherished memories. I love that you did this with them.

16 LN { 04.29.15 at 5:22 pm }

Not silly at all.
Love you, Mel.

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