Harry Potter was, and continues to be, such an influence in my life. Without sounding too dramatic, it's helped mold and shape me into the person I am today and continues to be a source of inspiration when I need it, even in motherhood. While I figured I'd share the Wizarding World with my daughter some day, I didn't realize was how much it would affect my parenting, especially with this latest story. But Harry Potter & the Cursed Child has changed my parenting for the better. In fact, there's one moment in particular that I'll reference over and over again on the good and bad days of motherhood. (Especially the bad ones, let's be honest.)
If seeing Harry Potter as a father hasn't given you all the feels yet, reading about his tumultuous relationship with his middle son, Albus, will definitely make you reach for the tissues. (Although, let's be honest, there's a lot to cry about in Harry Potter & the Cursed Child.) Warning: Spoilers ahead for those not finished reading yet. Despite the fast pace of the play and the often confusing timeline, I stand by my belief that the characters of Harry and Albus are some of the most realistic portrayals of a parent and child I've ever seen in literature. There is no sugar-coating here: their relationship is flawed. Harry is proving to readers over and over again throughout the play that just being a parent isn't enough. Loving your child? It's not always enough. Harry deeply loves Albus, but there is so much he doesn't see beyond the surface of that love, and it almost ends in tragic consequences. That's enough of a lesson on its own, but there is one moment in this story that really clicked for me and made me realize one major, major thing: I have to listen to my kid.
Of course I'll want to protect her and I'll always want to keep her safe, but do those parenting truths require me to actually listen and hear her? Not always.
I know, I know. What kind of parent doesn't listen to their kid? And I'll tell you — an imperfect one. (So basically, all of us.) I hear my child when she tells me she's hungry. I hear her when she's crying from her room or when she asks for a hug or wants me to play with her. But am I listening when she's throwing a tantrum? When I scoop her up off the floor and make her sit down to eat a meal, am I actually listening to her? What if she just wanted five more minutes to play? What if she has a stomach ache and doesn't want to eat? What if she's full?
I feel like a good parent because I'm making sure she eats, but I'm not listening to her. When I think of our relationship growing and I think of all the things she's going to try to tell me, I realize that I may not be listening because I am blinded by my love for her. Of course I'll want to protect her and I'll always want to keep her safe, but do those parenting truths require me to actually listen and hear her? Not always. But they should.
In Harry Potter & the Cursed Child, there's one scene in particular that really hit this lesson home for me. After Scorpius and Albus have already messed with the Time-Turner, Harry takes matters into his own hands and decides he'll do whatever it takes to keep the two boys apart. But Draco, wanting to protect his own son, reaches out to Harry to explain how meaningful friendships can be. (I know, right? Thanks for making Draco the voice of reason for once, J.K.!) He tells Harry about how lonely he was as a child and how that became such a dark place for him. He had no friends and he had no parents, because despite their seemingly best interests, his mother and father weren't doing him any favors by trying so hard to protect him.
There will inevitably be days when my daughter is older that I'll think I'm doing the right thing by ignoring her. I'll think I'm protecting her by making a decision above hers, by refusing to hear what she has to say, and by cutting out her own wishes. And when that time comes, I'll most likely think I'm being a good parent.
And he mentions that Tom Riddle never emerged from his dark place. Instead, he became Lord Voldemort.
While I don't think my daughter will grow up to be the darkest wizard of our time, this scene sucker punched me right in the feels. There will inevitably be days when my daughter is older that I'll think I'm doing the right thing by ignoring her. I'll think I'm protecting her by making a decision above hers, by refusing to hear what she has to say, and by cutting out her own wishes. And when that time comes, I'll most likely think I'm being a good parent. After all, I am loving her, I am protecting her, I am keeping her safe.
But I'm not listening to her.
All children want is to be heard. Whether it's a big thing or a small thing doesn't matter — to them, everything is a big thing. And when I tune out my child's wishes, ideas, dreams, and thoughts, I'm telling her she doesn't matter. I'm telling her that no matter what she thinks, I can trump it simply because I am her mother. I'm telling her she doesn't have ideas or dreams or hopes worthy of anything, not even my own attention.
And I'm sending her right into her own dark place.
Listening to them is, honestly, the best protection you can give them.
Of course there will be days when I have to make a decision, even if it goes against what she wants, but the important thing I'm going to remember is that I have to listen to her. I have to hear her out. I have to let her do all the talking, without interjecting, and let her tell me how she feels.
Albus is obviously hurting through the entire story. He is lonely, he feels disconnected, and he is deeply unhappy. But all Harry can see is the surface. Harry is irritated that his son doesn't connect with him. Harry is angry that his son refuses to make things better for himself. But Harry isn't listening to Albus.
Even when you don't think your children are saying anything, they are. Listening to them is, honestly, the best protection you can give them. You are telling them that you are there, you hear them, and that you can be trusted.
Listening to them pulls them out of their dark place.
I can't always be a friend to my daughter. Sometimes I'll have to go over her and do something that makes her unhappy in order to keep her safe, but I'll always, always listen to her. Even when I think she's being ridiculous. Even when she's throwing a tantrum. Even when she's blaming me for everything that's going wrong, I'm still going to listen. Because in those moments, it's more obvious than ever that she's trying to tell me something.