UAE: Parenting Tips from Harry Potter

Harry Potter

My husband is a New Yorker whose theatergoing parents always planned their theater outings well in advance. He’s adopted this same long-range planning attitude, and that’s how we ended up with tickets to “the Harry Potter play” this past September. In a fit of jet-lag , he’d bought tickets the previous November during an airport layover en route to Abu Dhabi.

Using our airline miles, we flew to London in September, during the Eid holidays, to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We took our children, of course, which meant that it wasn’t a vacation but a family trip. Although you might want to think that these are synonyms, they’re really not. If you’re on vacation, you’re never forced to whisper-yell at someone to put down his phone and pay attention when he’s going through security, or explain (for the umpteenth time) that we didn’t fly all the way to London just to hang out in the Jack Wills store.

Those of you with small children or infants might think that traveling with older children looks easy. Their gear tends to be smaller and there’s that whole “go to the bathroom on their own” thing, which is pretty great. But with a small child, there is always the chance that she will fall asleep in her stroller, a cracker crushed in her pudgy fist, and then you can proceed to stroll in the park, or walk through a gallery without much whinging. Older children whinge; they have opinions and needs.

Other people’s children whinge, that is. My family travels in an entirely whinge-free zone. No whinging here, nope, nothing to see here, move along.

Wrapped in our whinge-free bubble, we went off to the play, about which I can say nothing. I’m pretty much sworn to secrecy about the play’s magic, other than to say that all the effects were accomplished through stagecraft. There weren’t any digital effects or computer-aided sorcery, which in this day and age is rather a marvel, all by itself. The plot was… well, you may have already read the book (which is the script of the play), so you know the plot. It’s the standard Rowling combination of magic and family, with the emphasis on family.

There is one key plot point that sets the play apart: Harry Potter is forty. He works for the Ministry of Magic and has discovered, as so many of us do, that life as an adult isn’t as much fun as we thought it would be. Harry longs to continue dashing around in an invisibility cloak, but there are reports to write and files to go through—all the joys of adult work. He’s chafing a bit, is our Harry. Ron even jokes that Harry’s scar aches not because of any Voldemort-related reason but because of middle age. Everything aches a bit these days, he points out.

When the play starts, Harry and his family are standing on platform 9 ¾, and Harry’s elder sons, James and Albus, are bickering so violently that Harry whisper-yells at them to “behave!” Can I tell you how heartening it is to see that even Harry Potter’s children misbehave in public?

At its heart, the Harry Potter series is about a child wondering about his parents. The play flips the tables: now it’s a parent wondering about his children. Harry’s son Albus feels the weight of being the son of “the boy who lived” and, as is the case with most teenagers, Albus doesn’t always handle his feelings gracefully. Of course, as is the case with most parents, Harry doesn’t always handle his feelings gracefully, either.

In an effort to keep Albus safe, Harry imposes more and more rules, which have precisely the opposite effect. As I watched Harry struggle with Albus, I winced in recognition. Lately it seems that in my efforts to connect with my almost sixteen-year old son, I inevitably say the wrong thing at the wrong time and before you know it, one of us is yelling. (And of course, the fault is always mine. My son makes that abundantly clear.)

Harry’s questions remind me of my own: how do I keep my teenager safe and, at the same time, let him grow and develop in his own way, even if that means letting him take risks and (occasionally) be really quite an idiot?  When my children were toddlers, I wished someone would invent a kind of bubble wrap suit that I could wrap around them to prevent bruising, and now that my children are older, I wish there were emotional bubble wrap that would prevent the inevitable heartache that comes with growing up. If only Jack Wills made such a thing.

As Harry and Albus slowly find their way back to one another after the emotional battles that wound them both, they learn to accept one another’s imperfections. The lesson of the Harry Potter play highlights the fact that we don’t need to be perfect to be loved—and therein lies the real magic.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn, Mannahattamamma of the UAE. Photo credit to the author.



Mannahattamamma (UAE)

After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.

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readingLast week I took my daughter to a local book store to spend a gift card she received for her birthday. My daughter loves books and had a hard time deciding what she wanted most, to purchase the final books in one of her existing collections or get something totally new.

While I was in a different section, my daughter engaged the children’s department manager in a book discussion. Evidently sharing with the woman all of her latest good-reads, which included much of the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, all of the Harry Potters, and several non-fictions like I Am Malala and A Long Walk to Water.

When I arrived back on the scene, the woman commended me for raising such a voracious reader and said she was amazed that my daughter went to public school, being convinced that only private schools could produce such a 3rd grade equivalent.

I didn’t know if I should be flattered or offended.

The woman, who was in her late 50’s, was a retired educator herself and clearly had a deep passion for books and strong opinions about appropriate reading levels. She impressed upon me that many of my daughter’s book choices were advanced for her age and encouraged me to consider steering her away from further indulgences.

This sentiment concerned me because, until recently, I had kept close tabs on what my children were reading and most of the advanced books were ones we read together. But lately, my daughter had been zooming ahead of me, finding pockets of reading time at school and also before lights out at night.

Admitedly, I hadn’t read any of the Percy Jackson books. Knowing that the books had been made in to PG-13 movies did have me somewhat concerned about content but was I really hearing this book specialist right? Was she really trying to stymie my child’s enthusiasm for reading by directing her choices?

The woman was trying to point out that my daughter is only a third grader once and there were plenty of sweet, age-appropriate books out there for her to indulge in. Didn’t I want to save these 6th, 7th and 8th grade books for later?

I really had to think about this.

After all aren’t I always trying to slow my daughter’s maturity? Aren’t I the same mother that won’t let her watch teen television shows because they’re too sassy and full of content ahead of her age? Could  books be presenting the same issue?

I’ve grappled with this for the better part of 7 days now. What are the demigods in Percy Jackson doing up there at Camp Half Blood? Aside from the reality of Malala Yousafzai getting shot point blank by the Taliban, what fictional characters might be playing out scandalous scenes in my daughter’s young mind from The Secret Benedict Society?

Does it make me a less engaged parent if I don’t keep my finger on the pulse of my childrens’ literary lives? Do I need to give up my own sacred reading time to be sure I’m on topic with my kids?

A writer friend of mine told me once that the difference between books and movies was that movies spoon feed us all of the images and visuals in a story whereas books let our imaginations fill in the scenery.

When kids read books with ideas or content beyond their experience levels, their minds fill in the pictures age appropriately.

I saw this first hand when My daughter read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in first grade without having bad dreams but when she saw the movie in second grade, she had nightmares about the final images of Voldemort for months.

I love my daughter passion for reading and I’m proud of her advanced and eclectic book selections but now there’s a little nagging voice whispering in my ear every time she picks up a new and unfamiliar novel.

And in the end, instead of helping us find a few new, good books, I think the well-intentioned saleswoman may have done more harm than good.

Where do you stand with letting your children read ahead of their age level? Do you think this saleswoman had a point?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog from our senior editor and mom to two, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post is credited to the author.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

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TEXAS, USA: It’s Time

TEXAS, USA: It’s Time


I remember when we brought my son home, he had the squishiest face, the most delicious chin, the chubbiest thighs and the most beautiful brown eyes that had every looked at me. He was the most precious thing I had ever held, touched or seen.

I remember his “clingy” phase of not wanting anyone else but me. I was so exhausted, but he was so happy to just have me with him. I remember his first days of preschool and the crying fits he had when I left and repeated to him over and over, “Mommy always comes back.” It broke my heart to leave him, but I also knew that it was part of him growing up and that it was time.

It’s funny when you hear that phrase…It’s time. It always means that change is coming… (more…)

Meredith (USA)

Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.

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NEVADA, USA: Unfinished

NEVADA, USA: Unfinished

by LizzEDWhen you walk into my apartment, you’ll see immediately three beautifully painted Athenian green walls. The fourth wall, one that  also leads you down the hallway to the rest of the house, started off as your typical apartment-white. I started to paint it an off-white that I thought would match the green. When I realized it didn’t, I stopped painting. I never restarted the search for a secondary color. There is a distinct line between the two shades of white.

There is a particular shelf in my room that I put together and left on the floor for over a year before I finally got around to hanging it. It was another month before I put anything on the shelf. I haven’t even begun to pick a color for the walls, or hung curtain rods, or hung any decor. The walls are bare. My son’s room was painted when we first moved in, to avoid the baby sleeping with paint fumes.

I can’t even finish two loads of laundry in a single day because I leave it in the dryer for at least 24 hours before moving it to the couch–where it sits until I finally fold it a day or two later. (more…)

Roxanne (USA)

Roxanne is a single mother to a 9-year-old superhero (who was born 7 weeks premature), living in the biggest little city and blogging all about her journey at Unintentionally Brilliant. She works as a Program Coordinator for the NevadaTeach program at the University of Nevada, Reno. Roxanne has a B.A. in English from Sierra Nevada College. She has about 5 novels in progress and dreams about completing one before her son goes to high school.

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Saturday Sidebar: What book is on your nightstand?

This week World Moms Blog writer Kyla P’an wants to know…

“What book is on your night stand and would you recommend it to other World Moms?”

Check out what some of our World Moms had to say…

Asha of Nigeria writes:
“There are two books on my night stand.  “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, which I’m reading to my oldest child.  Also “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I just finished. It’s about the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War. It was excellent and really informative about a period of Nigerian history I knew nothing about.” (more…)

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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