Like many eight-year-olds, my son Griff is deeply obsessed with the Harry Potter series. Each night before bed, we used to read about 20 pages of one of the books, and then we would spend a fair amount of time the next day talking about characters and plotlines. Griff spoke of the characters with great affection, made guesses as to what he thought would happen next, and it was nice to have something to talk about other than Pokemon Go.
His first literary crush was Hermione, which I realized only after Viktor Krum takes her to the Yule Ball in The Goblet of Fire. That same night, in the dark, Griff said to me, “Dad, I don’t really like Viktor.”
“Oh, no?” I asked, realizing what was happening.
“I don’t think he’s good enough for Hermione.”
“I guess I don’t think so either,” I told him.
These emotions died down after he became fascinated by Luna Lovegood.
For Halloween, Griff was Neville Longbottom, his favorite character, the person to whom he feels most closely connected. Incidentally, Neville is also my favorite character in the books.
Recently, however, while we were reading the opening pages of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Griff had a meltdown that caused me to question whether we could continue.
. . . .
And so Griff and I started the first book. I immediately remembered something that had up to that point seemed like a minor issue. Harry’s parents were dead. Right from the start, they were stone-cold dead. As parents do when reading books, I edited on the fly. A few pages in, I read, “The rumor is that Lily and James Potter are—are—that they’re . . . missing.”
“They’re missing?” Griff asked.
“Yes,” I told him. “I guess Harry’s parents went missing.”
“Will he find them?”
“I guess we’ll need to read and find out.”
I wish I had not done this. I wish I had talked to Griff about it and tried to decide if he wanted to keep reading. Or, maybe, I wish I had waited until he was older to read the books. But he was interested now, wanted to know how this was all going to turn out. So we moved forward. It took some doing, but I managed to get a few hundred pages into the book with only some creative editing.
One night, Griff stopped me in the middle of some random sentence and asked, “Are Harry’s parents dead?”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Are they dead?” he asked again.
“Well . . . they are. Yeah, they died.”
“Voldemort killed them?” he asked.
I watched him process this. As a parent, you feel like a failure more often than you feel like a success.
“Okay,” he said.
“Why did you think about that?” I asked him.
“Some kids at school told me.” Several of his friends had seen the movies or were also reading the books.
“Do you want me to keep reading?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said, though I could tell that he was still processing this new information, trying to work back through the book to figure out what he’d missed, what I’d kept from him.