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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mad at Harry
February 23, 2011 - 8:41am

Ok, maybe mad is a little strong to describe how I feel about the Hogwarts hero and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. But they’ve thrown a wrench into our bedtime reading routine. What can we possibly read now to replace the excitement of the Harry Potter saga? Is there life after Hogwarts?

We’re about halfway through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but we need to take a break from the series for a while, at least until the kids are a little older. My six- and nine-year old are hooked and hate the suggestion that we pause. I can hardly blame them. When my children were infants I read and re-read the books, often indulging my babies in extra-long breast-feeding sessions or occasional naps in my arms just so I wouldn’t have to put the book down. With the entire series now available and sitting right on our bookshelf, there’s no need to stop. Except to give our children a chance to grow up and be able to handle the darker material.

Our decision to wait before going on is in part selfish: we just want to get a good night’s sleep. Too much dark magic at bedtime interferes with the ability to sleep in one’s own bed. Or go to the bathroom or be upstairs alone. The kids want to hear more and more, but the vivid images and story stay with them later on. For children who are younger than the series, there’s no time to grow up between books. A child who’s an early reader can plow through the whole series and get into some frightening material that’s not appropriate for all kids.

Of course children vary in their tolerance for scary stuff. There’s no way my son would have been ready for the books when he was in kindergarten, but his younger sister is eating them up. She and her buddy have invented elaborate games based on the books’ characters. They take turns being Hermione, Ron, Harry, or Ginny, and more than once I’ve run upstairs to investigate their shouts, only to find them yelling at Peeves the poltergeist to stop making mischief. Strips of paper colored with markers and dipped into bowls of water are essential for “potions” class (the remnant multihued mess in the bathroom is usually Snape’s fault), and of course I can never find the broom if I need to sweep because it’s being used in a Quidditch game.

The beauty of the series is that we’ve all been so entertained. We’ve looked forward to bedtime reading together as a family. Although our kids are more than three years apart in age, they’re both equally engaged. We cozy up together on our bed, while my husband reads and I fold laundry or snuggle with the kids (or fall asleep).

So where should we go from here? I know it’s hardly the case that Harry has spoiled my kids for other books, but the excitement and cliffhangers are a hard act to follow. I’d like to hear any recommendations for breaking the Harry Potter habit. Are there series you’ve enjoyed as a family? I know we’ll face a lot of resistance to taking a break. But I suppose if my children sneak into a closet to read ahead, I’ll not be too disappointed.


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