Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter and the Parents Who Took Responsibility

Yes, we read Harry Potter. We're Christians, and we read Harry Potter. There, I said it.

All four members of my family love the stories and the movies. But do we the parents allow the children unlimited access to all of it?

No, because we're the parents and we take our job seriously.

I have to admit to some disenchantment with J. K. Rowling after the 6th book. It was full of drinking references (we're tee-totalers), bad language and general ickiness like the Inferi toward the end. I decried this loudly on a message board where I hang out a lot - what about the younger kids who are just now starting to read Harry Potter and decide that they want to read the next one, and the next one and so on? It's all well and good for the kids who were young when Harry first came out and have grown up alongside the characters.

I should have realized that I already knew the answer, because we were using it in our family already. It's called "parental responsibility" and exercise of said authority.

Our son is almost-12. He has been allowed to read the first 5 books on his own. Our daughter is almost-9, and has read the first 3 books on her own, and should be old enough for #4 soon. However, I have read all of the first 6 books aloud, and we are currently working our way through "Deathly Hallows".

It's a perfect solution. They get to find out what happens in the books that they're not allowed to read on their own yet, but I verbally edit where appropriate while reading. I can gloss over the icky parts when they show up (which thankfully aren't too many - tension is more Ms. Rowling's forte than outright horror) and change that glass of wine to just a glass. We read books together every night anyway, so it's not like I'm forcing them to sit still for reading time that they're not used to, just so they can hear the latest Potter story.

We also exercise caution with the movies. We weren't even Potter fans when the first movie came out, but we couldn't have gone to go see it even if we were - our son was only 6, and had only recently developed the fear of monsters that's more common to 3 year olds. There was no way we could have taken him to go see the first movie on screen. However, when it came out on video, he was a little older, and was able to handle it on the small screen at home. At that point, we got hooked on the books and began reading them.

When "Chamber of Secrets" came out, he was 7, but his sister was 4. I knew there was no way that we were going to take them to go see that giant snake on the big screen, so we skipped it, waiting for the video - a good call on our part.

We went to see "Prisoner of Azkaban" at the theater, and the kids really enjoyed it. When "Goblet of Fire" came out, though, I never could get a straight answer from my online friends with kids about how much language was in it, and just how scary the last part of the movie was - so once again, we skipped the theater experience.

This time around, we will go see the 5th movie as soon as my free tickets can be used. The kids are older, and they should be fine. We never go to the theater to see something more than once, so it's not like we're pounding it into them.

As far as ownership of the videos goes, we own 1 and 2, and that's it. We have occasionally rented 3 and 4, but not very often. I don't want to own those two movies until the kids are a good bit older, because then I don't have to fight over how long it's been since the last time they watched it. While we don't mind seeing them every once in a blue moon, we do realize that watching them over and over is not good for our children. We exercise proper caution and authority, and that's what parenting is all about, people. We don't give in to a future event just because the past events were fairly harmless. We know what's appropriate for their maturity level, and we hold them to their boundaries.

I realize that parents can't always screen every last thing that their child is exposed to. But when you do have the opportunity, take it! And if you know that something will not be appropriate for your child, grow up, take a stand, and forbid it. You're not going to cause them harm, and may just save them from problems. Be the parent, not the friend, and do the job that God gave to you. They will thank you some day.

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