Monday, October 17, 2011

Parental Fear

On Saturday my husband and I took our thirteen-month-old daughter, Emilia, Halloween shopping.  We wound up buying a Hog's Head sign for our front door.  Hog's Head, for those not in the know, is the shady pub frequented by unsavory characters in Hogsmeade, the village in the shadow of Hogwarts.

We hung it on the door.  It looks awesome.  We brought Emilia outside to show her.  She took one look at the dark, curly-tusked boar's head and started crying.

And I started to fear...what if she doesn't like Harry Potter?

I mean, seriously!  The day I start reading Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone with her is going to be a monumental day in my house.  I've been looking forward to it since the little screen read Pregnant! on the pregnancy test.  What if we get halfway through the book and she says to me, "I'm bored?" 

What if we go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios and she doesn't want to leave covered head to toe in Hogwarts paraphernalia?

What if she doesn't want to dress up as Hermione for three Halloweens in a row?  Or hang a Gryffindor banner on her wall?

In other words, what if she's different than me?

My husband and I have a joke.  He says, "She can be anything she wants when she grows up, except an actor."  I say, "She can be anything she wants when she grows up, except a Republican."  He talks about getting her into horror movies and zombie books, while I dream about bringing her to Sephora and getting makeovers.

In other words, we want her to be both a tomboy and a girly-girl.  We want her to be an artist and a scientist.  We want her to cure cancer, win a Pulitzer and be President.  We want her to love all the same things we do, and wish for all the same things that we wish for her.

I'm a little ashamed that I want her to like the same things I did when I was a girl - like ballet and horses, reading and The Last Unicorn.  I've always had a loathing for mothers who impress their own agenda onto their children; having spent so much time in the theatre, I've seen what stage (s)mothering can do, and it ain't pretty.  But when I find myself having a little fantasy about her being accepted into The School of American Ballet, I think, am I really any better?

Is this a deep-seated fear that all parents have?  What if we expose our children to all the things we love, only to discover it's not what brings them joy?  What if we instill in them the values and ideals that we cherish, only to see them choose a different path?  I'll never forget the 1996 Presidential election, when I went to the polling place with my dad.  It was the second election I'd voted in, but the previous one I had done by absentee ballot.  So I'd never actually used a voting machine.  It was a small town, and we knew everyone working the polls, so they allowed my dad to come into the booth with me to show me how to do it.  For every single ballot, I flicked the Democratic ticket.  I put my hand on the lever.  My father, a lifelong Republican, looked at me and said, "Are you sure you want to do that?"  I met his eye, said "Yes," in a definitive voice, and pulled the lever down.

I've always been proud of that moment, for claiming my own voice and standing up for what I believe in.  But now I see it from my dad's point of view.  What must it have been like, to see his daughter vote for the complete opposite of everything he believed in?

And the thing is, I want to raise a strong, independent woman, who knows her truth and speaks up for it.  Even if that truth is different from my own.  And really, in the end, as long as she's happy, of course I'll be happy.  Even if she chooses to go see Scream 10 with Daddy instead of shopping at Anthropologie with Mommy.  Even if she doesn't weep at the end of Gone With the Wind, or paint a mural of a horse on her wall (as I did when I was twelve).  I mean, if she does become a Republican, am I really going to love her any less?  Of course not.  Because she'll be her own person, and I think that's the best possible thing she could be.

But if she doesn't like Harry Potter, she will be disowned.


  1. Oh, Nicole, I feel your pain! My 13 year old daughter loves chick-lit and realistic fiction, but she doesn't like paranormal fiction, and guess what genre I write? Of course ... paranormal. I read the first six Harry Potters out loud to my son, who is five years older, so my daughter has heard them all, but she has no interest in hearing them (or reading them herself) again. Take heart, though ... when my son was 15 months old, a red Power Ranger scared the dickens out of him on Halloween, and he went on to adore the Power Rangers when he was a few years older. There is hope for Emilia!

  2. I agree with Gina, there is hope yet. My daughter didn't discover her love for all things Harry Potter until last year, her 4th year. And guess what, she dressed up as Hermione for Halloween too! She was awesome. My son's friend was Voldemort and kept trying to vanquish her.

    But I understand what you are saying. Both of my kids are showing their own interests, which are not ours. We have had to learn to let go of our desires and just let them be the best "them" they can be. To help them in that, we won't force unwanted molds upon them.

  3. Nicole! Your daughter will be raised with a lot of interest for books, seriously love your post.

  4. This is adorable and hilarious. If it makes you feel better, you can see if she cries at the GOP debates.