I did something last week that I’ve never done before. I wrote something and sent it in to a contest. It’s just something stupid for the local newspaper (a chance to win tickets for an early screening of the last Harry Potter movie)…however, it was a big deal to me. When I was writing, I really felt like each word was important and created the tone that I wanted to express. And I wanted to win for the Jakester, to show him that good things can happen if we just try. Unfortunately, I don’t think I won–the contest closed on Thursday at 2:00, and I haven’t heard anything–not even a “Thanks, but you suck” reply. But, I’m glad I wrote it and sent it in anyway.

So…for your viewing pleasure, here’s my essay….I’d love to know what you think…

How Albus Dumbledore Made Me a Better Parent

     It’s amazing the way some literary characters grab hold of us and refuse to let go. The Harry Potter books, love them or not, were filled to the brim with interesting, well-rounded people. Ron Weasley, for instance, tugs at my heart: the almost-but-not-quite-good-enough-so-he-gets-Hermione-as-a-parting-gift guy. I just knew as I read Mrs. Rowling’s increasing tomes that she would somehow let Ron be a winner–not just a side-kick. True, he had a few small moments, but nothing major. Then, there’s Professor McGonagall. She tugs at my teacher side. She says that kids will be kids, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still need discipline. You just have to know when to let them lead. Finding that balance is the strength of a great teacher.
     For me, however, it is Professor Albus Dumbledore who resonates most soundly.  We, of course, see him as a pseudo-parent — a father-figure — for poor, orphaned Harry. As readers we wanted him to let Harry stay at Hogwarts during long summer breaks rather than sending him back to his bullying, uncaring Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. But, he never did; his reasoning not revealed until The Chamber of Secrets when Dumbledore told Harry that staying with his Aunt sealed Harry’s mother’s charm that kept him safe from Voldemort. See, Dumbledore was just looking out for Harry.
     Dumbledore powers my mother side. I have found myself over these many years repeating Dumbledore-isms (as I call them) when I see a need arise with my eighteen year-old son. On countless occasions, I have told Jake, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. ” (Chamber of Secrets, pg 18). Jake usually rolls his eyes, but I know he hears me. For a boy who was never the standout in school, but who tried every single day, Jake needed to hear those words. He had connected to Harry since he started reading the books at age eight–Harry wasn’t the smartest or the most talented, but he could figure things out. Jake knew (and still knows) that Dumbledore’s words mean he should try new things, watch what kinds of friends he has, and pay attention to what’s going on around him. Jake’s choices helped him have a successful first year of college–away from home for the first time, and the only grandchild in our family to achieve this milestone (I’m keeping my fingers crossed for years two through four!).
     Another favorite piece of parental advice for me is: “What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally, the whole school knows” (Sorcerer’s Stone, pg. 296). Jake, like so many other people online these days, tend to see social media spaces as “theirs” where no one can see what they don’t give permission for. However, from many media accounts, we know this isn’t true. Once, when I’d read something not-so-nice on his FaceBook page (I know; who friends their mom??), I reminded him of how many people would see it, and whose feelings would be hurt. He argued for a minute about his “privacy”; however, there is no such thing anymore in our fast-paced world. Secrets never stay dormant too long.
     What I hope Jake always remembers from our life together is this quote from Dumbledore, again from Sorceror’s Stone: If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves it own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign . . . to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin (pg. 298). I hope that I have signed his heart with as much love as possible, so he knows in the very depth of his soul that he’s okay just the way he is. I hope that he’s known how proud of him I have always been, and always will be. I hope that he and I will continue to share this Harry Potter experience of reading together, connecting to the characters, and hoping they can get themselves out of whatever disaster that JK Rowling created for them. And I hope that when Jake has a family of his own, he’ll remember to take Dumbledore’s advice one more time: ‘You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow up to be!” (Goblet of Fire, pg. 708).
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