My “Comment” About Harry Potter

Facebook status updates are a strange thing. I’m not one that likes to post what I’m doing, thinking, or where I’m shopping every moment of the day. If something makes me smile (especially my three year old who doesn’t get embarrassed) or if God reveals himself to me in an encouraging way… those things I share.

Not my teens. They post what they are thinking and what they are doing. They post what they are eating and inside jokes (that 221 of 223 of their “friends” don’t get.) Teens do that and are rewarded with no less than 20 “likes” or comments with each update. Sometimes I’m tempted to comment – like earlier today when my oldest child posted, “Off to see Harry Potter!!!!” I cringed. “Why tell everyone your parents allow you to see Harry Potter, dear?” my prideful self wondered. By the time I saw her status (and I’m the one who drove her to the theater), she isn’t “off” to see HP, she’s there!

Shortly after, I received a note in my inbox from a very sweet, dear friend of mine. I really appreciated her inquiry…

“I saw your daughter’s comment about going to see Harry Potter and I have to say I was a little surprised. I would have pegged you guys as anti-Harry Potter people. I don’t really care either way but with so many different opinions about the movies, I am just curious about your views.”

I’m not one to generally write about anything controversial. I view this blog to be a place of encouragement. However, occasionally I think it is appropriate to be real and admit that there are issues I deal with that are uncomfortable. So… here is my response to my friend (who has given me permission to post:)

“I saw her facebook update too and kind of wished she’d been quiet, lol!

Seriously, I am not a HP fan but my dislike of the series is from what I’ve heard and not personally researched. I prohibited the children from reading the books/seeing the movies for years. (More like I ignored they existed and they didn’t ask.)

Then, this past summer, our oldest decided she wanted to read the series. She asked Daniel to check it out for her. He did. I’ll admit it – I protested and let them know that even our pastor doesn’t approve of HP.

However, Daniel felt that for her, being 15, it’s a safe read. She’s mature enough to read and discuss issues. Forbidding HP from her would simply build her curiosity to the point of her wanting to sneak and watch them or make her feel untrusted. I think with teens, sometimes (certainly, not always) you have to let them just make their own decisions, and be there to bring to light any darkness that they, in their immaturity, may miss.

So… now many years after the first HP movies have been released, we are watching them as a family. We’ve watched the first two. So far, there hasn’t been much to “bring to light.” However, I’ve heard the later movies contain more obvious witchcraft. If that’s the case, we may stop or only watch with the older girls. Thankfully, the rest of our children completely take our word for what they should/shouldn’t see.

Our daughter has read all the HP books, so she is ahead of us. We let her go with her friends today and look forward to hearing her opinion.

I’m still probably not a fan, but thankful for my husband who makes some of the harder decisions about raising teens. If it were totally up to me, I have no doubt I would be overprotective and probably smother them with rules. Daniel balances me. He definitely has a much needed perspective.

When Daniel was in seminary, he came across a term – “approved deviance.” That sounds like an oxymoron to me, but the concept is that sometimes you should allow certain things with teens that you may not love but that fall in that “gray” area. Then when you really need to “lay down the law” (and for us we still have a huge list of “thou shall nots”), they will listen. Saying no to everything can cause major problems. So.. HP is on our “approved deviant” list, if that makes sense. We’re cautious because we know there are some themes we’ll need to discuss, but we’re willing to let her see it. For another child, our decision might have been different.

We’re at the beginning of the teen journey… just prayerfully trying to make these kind of decisions as they present themselves.”

I thought I’d publish my response, not because it’s right but because that is how we are approaching the years ahead… very prayerfully. I’m sure there will be many more Harry Potter type decisions to make. (Oh, I miss the days when my children didn’t even know what was playing at the theater!)

I was very tempted to say something (not sure what) under my daughter’s Harry Potter status update. However, I kept my mouth shut. I don’t fault her for excitedly announcing her plans for the day. But with the question in my inbox from a great friend, I couldn’t resist posting my thoughts – which obviously are a bit much for a facebook comment anyway!

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15 Responses to “My “Comment” About Harry Potter”

  1. Christine Says:

    My oldest is nearly nine, so we don’t need to worry about Harry Potter fame yet. I haven’t read any of them, and don’t know anything about the movies.

    I do appreciate and agree with this general philosophy: “Never say no unless you can’t say yes.” It does increase your child’s respect for your authority to know that you don’t overuse the “no” word for your convenience. The Corinthians passage about not eating meat sacrificed to idols is the Biblical version of this philosophy, it seems to me.

    Great post!

  2. Boo Jobe Says:

    Enjoyed your post as always!!

  3. Jody Conaway Says:

    Tina,

    I am amazed on a regular basis at how our lives are, in many ways, so much alike. I love reading your blogs…they NEVER fail to inspire me.

    Having said that, just yesterday, Friday, November 19th, marked what I hope to be the end of the Harry Potter battle under my own roof. How remarkable that you blogged about this very thing!

    My son is an avid reader. He LOVES to read and always has. He has all of the Harry Potter books and has read them many times. I honestly don’t recall how old he was when he got the first one, but it wasn’t long after they first one came out. At that time, I was saved but wasn’t living my life for the Lord, and didn’t give any thought to what he was reading in those books. But while he enjoyed reading them, I also didn’t notice any change that could have been influenced by what he read. After I rededicated my life to the Lord, and both of my children were soon after saved, I began to somewhat question allowing those books to be in the house. Our pastor has preached on multiple occassions about being cautious about what is allowed in a Christian home, and teaching us how important it is to steer our children in the right direction at all times, not expecting the few hours a week spent at church to do that work for us. BUT, again, since I had never seen any change in my son, and have since watched him develop into a very fine and devoted 19 year old servant of the Lord, I just dismissed the fact that those books were even on his shelf. I, like you and Daniel, realized he was mature enough to read such fiction without it having any sort of negative impact on him or the decisions he made in life.

    Well, I believe it was just a little over a month ago, my 11 year old daughter, Victoria, got her hands on a copy of the Twilight series from the school library. She was completely engrossed in them. Those books are THICK!! And she read all of them within a weeks time. She LOVED them. Every time I looked at her, she was reading. She didn’t even want to watch TV anymore, which I found GREAT! Now, I have to confess, I honestly had no idea what the Twilight series was about. I had read a lot of posts from those excited about the movies coming out, etc. But I am not a fan of fiction at all, and just never even cared to know what any of this was about. Let me tell you, I got quite an education after Victoria, not only read the series, but read it SEVERAL TIMES in a few short weeks.

    I let Victoria get a facebook page at age 11, which goes against most of what I have taught her. I did this only because we moved from the only town she can remember living in (Blackshear, GA) to Savannah in July of this year. I felt a lot of guilt for moving her to a place where she didn’t know a soul, so I allowed her to get a facebook page since her closest friends in Blackshear already had one…as a means of keeping in touch with them on a regular basis. Another thing I have allowed Victoria for probably the last 2 years is unsupervised internet access. By unsupervised, I mean that I didn’t restrict much of what she could do BECAUSE all she was interested in was the disney sites and the little kid game sites like Webkins. And if she learned of a new kid site, she always asked permission before going to it. Everything was “all good” in that department…up until she read Twilight. Suddenly, she was posting about it on facebook ALL OF THE TIME! She was blogging through some facebook links about it, and she was going to YouTube (something that until a few months ago I had forbidden my 18 year old son to do) watching all sorts of things about it. Suddenly, all she would talk about was the characters in these Twilight books and all other things in life were no longer important to her. With MUCH saddness in my heart, I realized that my ELEVEN year old had reached an age where some serious supervision needed to kick in…she has lost that childlike innocense that I miss dearly. She was becoming “teen-like” well before her time.

    Naturally, I had access her to facebook page. I went into her account (as she watched) and “cleaned up” her page. I was horribly embarrassed as many adults from your church in Blackshear are on her friends list, to include our pastor. I, like you, was thinking “why did she have to advertise that I even let her read this stuff!!” My flesh was afraid of what others would be thinking. But my heart was dealing with a much more significant matter. I had to get my little girl back on track. I can’t even tell you how many prayers a day were going up, begging God to give me direction on how to properly handle this situation. I forbid her to even mention Twilight or anything about it again, and certainly explained to her my reasons backed by Christians beliefs. I honestly felt like SUCH a failure. I couldn’t believe I had allowed it to get this far.

    That being said, let me tell you this…a lady I work with had given me a set of HP books (all but the last one of the series) to give to Victoria the very same day she brought home the first Twilight book. While she was very excited about those books, they sat undisturbed as she went through the Twilight series. And I bet you can guess what happened next! Once we “cleansed our home” of Twilight, she goes to the school library and checks out the last book of the HP series! I walked into the bedroom one evening last week to find her all comfy on her bed engrossed in yet another thick book. I asked her what she was reading and she told me…sigh!!!! So, here we go again. Not that she’s even mentioned even a character in HP since she started reading it…I explained to her that vampires and witches are along the same lines, and I simply won’t allow her to read those books. She was NOT happy with me, but I did tell her she had to take that book back to the library. She sat there and cried for about 30 minutes…and the mommy in me wanted to tell her, “Ok, just finish this book, but that’s it…no more!”, but, thankfully, my mighty God told me NO!!! I let her cry, and explained again why this just couldn’t be allowed for her. I believe this was Tuesday. Wednesday, I asked her if she returned the book to the library and she said no, that she had forgotten and left it at home. Same thing Thursday. So, I had to, once again, get harsh about it! In addition, I had her lay beside me as I read to her from the Bible…something that, not long ago, we did together on a nightly basis. As I read, the Lord guided me in what scriptures to read to her. When I was done, she got very defensive, telling me “I’m not like that mom!!” I was LOVING EVERY MINUTE of listening to her defend herself as I had not intentionally picked any particular scripture to read to her, but went to where the Lord led me. Nor had I in ANY WAY implied that I was comparing her to what was being read (much of it was out of Proverbs). But I knew, without a doubt, by her words and tone that God alone had convicted her heart. And Friday, she “remembered” to take that HP book back to the library.

    So, I agree with you completely. I believe that once our kids reach a certain maturity, particularly in their walk with the Lord, it’s ok…they should be grounded enough in their faith by then to view such things as nothing more than silly entertainment. However, I just learned the hard way how crucial it is to ensure they are there prior to allowing such things. And I’ve also learned that my 11 year old is losing her “little girlness”, and it breaks my heart. I certainly didn’t expect it so soon.

    Thank you again for sharing this timely story from your own life. God has, once again, used you to bless me!!

  4. Angela W Says:

    Neither of my daughters have read HP or Twillight. Fortunately for me, Scott handles all of the reading ahead that I just don’t have time to do. Most of what passes for young adult literature he says is really “adult,” as in pornographic in places. The expectation is that teens have to deal with sex and relationships, when that isn’t always true. What we have found is that no matter what age a person is, some things will stick with you forever! And Satan uses those things against you. Scott would not even recommend me reading most young adult fiction. In my own life, my teen years were some of the most influential – from what I read and watched and who my friends were. Of course homeschooling our children means who they are around are totally different than who I was around. There’s a HUGE difference.

    For many years we didn’t do the dances. This was a really big deal this year for the girls to be able to attend the fall dance. They had a blast and are practicing so they are better dancers next time! I think each family is different as each person is different. The Lord knows us better than we know ourselves, and He’s the one to consult on all these things!

    One last thing we have also considered- and this is really the first and most important thing: the Holy Scripture is written to adults for the most part. If God has to warn us adults against things so often, how much more should we do the same for the children? That is the guiding factor in all these. We consider books like friends- we spend so much time with them and they do influence us. Same with movies. On that note, Voyage of the Dawn Treader is coming out very soon! Jasmine is very excited about it as am I!

  5. Laurie Hare Says:

    Tina, That was a good post. I appreciate your honesty. I agree that as moms we want to look good in front of other parents, like we have it all together. I would be a lot more strict if my husband were not so lenient. 🙂 While we allow our kids to see the movies, I tell them that in real life, there are no good and bad wizards and witches. They are all bad and contrary to God. And we have read some scriptures about them. Once you are engrossed in the fantasy world of HP, it’s easy to be on the good guy’s side and learn from positive themes of bravery, self-sacrifice, loyalty, honor etc, things like that. So my prayer is always that the kids don’t mix those worlds up. So far, it’s just been like any other book/movie. Nothing they have fixated on or become obsessed with.

    As far as the Twilight books/movies, I have not let my kids read those. Dave and I both read them and saw the movies and really enjoyed them. But they are more on a high school level. The themes of romantic love are very strong, you just have to make sure your teen does not get their values of what love IS from the books. What I did very much like about the books is the strong theme of abstinence. It’s not a typical thing becuase the girls is modern and doesn’t have the values and the vampire boy is young looking but is really 100 years old. LOL. so he keeps his old-fashioned values and tells her he won’t sleep with her until he marries her. So when she pressures him (lightly) he gets down on one knee and proposes and that’s the end of that scene. It’s very sweet. But girls cannot be thinking normal boys will hold up the standard if they do not.

  6. Rebecca Says:

    I LOVED your post! So thoughtful and exactly “on point”. Thank you!

  7. Jody Conaway Says:

    God’s timing is always perfect! I still just cannot believe you blogged about this today!! Just after I finished posting my reply above, my 19 year old son told me he was taking his girlfriend to see the Harry Potter movie today (having no idea about any of what was written on here this morning). My 11 year old then starts crying, telling me “it’s not fair!!” Our battle in this department is not yet over.

  8. Tina Says:

    Wow! Good thoughts all of you! I have so much more I could write! Jody, your post particular. Wow! That is why I said “for another child our answer might be different.” Anna has a very good grasp of good/evil and is a gifted reader. She easily identifies darkness/protagonist/antagonist/character elements, etc. She actually is a better reader than I. To her, HP is just a story. For another child, I’d be much more concerned. And… we have not “approved” Twilight. One good story to pass on to your daughter is of Corrie Ten Boom. When she aked her father about a heavy topic he asked her to pick up his suitcase and carry it. She answered that she couldn’t possibly do that. It was too heavy. He then proceeded to tell her that the answer to her question was too heavy. I am all for protecting our children! A 19 year old is grown! An 11 year old is not and needs much more direction.

    Laurie, I agree. HP deals with magic; Twilight – romance. Those are different issues to consider.

    Christine, Boo and Rebecca, Thanks for your comments and for stopping by. Rebecca, you figured out how to comment. Yeah!

    Angie, Love your thoughts. And we can’t wait for the Dawn Treader too!

  9. Cindy Says:

    Oh, gosh. Should I be embarrassed that I like all things Harry Potter? I think it’s just good clean fun, personally. I don’t feel the same way about Twilight, since it seems to be all about inflaming desires teenagers ought to be learning to control. They two series really don’t even belong in the same discussion, since they are very, very different things.

    The HP series has been talked up as a witchcrafty, anti-Christian (muggle) thing, but it really is harmless. It’s a little dark, but it doesn’t glorify darkness, IMHO. Just my opinion, and probably worth every dime you paid for it. 🙂

  10. Tina Says:

    I agree, Cindy about the Twilight and HP being very different. Daniel and I had heard/read about the witchcraft. We’ve also heard your opinion, and that’s why we’re watching it ourselves now. Daniel has read several reviews from respected Christians that say just what you are saying. But oh my! There definitely is another side. We’re watching the third movie tonight. We’ll see!

  11. Jody Conaway Says:

    I certainly agree that there is a difference between the two. The point I was making is that my 11 year old was obviously very easily influenced by one, therefore, I was not willing to take that risk with another. Lesson learned for sure!

  12. Tina Says:

    Jody, I totally understood what you were saying 🙂 I think you are very wise. I’m going to send you a personal message.

    Well, we just finished the 3rd movie. I must say I’m done… and so are my younger two girls (Esther hasn’t watched them at all.) LOTS of good discussion. We discussed some dark elements and we discussed some redeeming themes. I just don’t like. Daniel is fine with these. Honestly, I just don’t like them and I can tell some of the children don’t want to see more. On movie 4, I’ll put Esther to bed and have a knitting party with two kiddos.

  13. Cindy Says:

    You know, I totally forgot to mention that I haven’t exposed my littles to HP. It is a little scary, even in the first movie, which is the mildest one. They’ll need to be a bit older before I approve of it for them. I’m not *totally* libertine here. LOL

  14. Tina Says:

    Cindy, I saw you at church today and tried so hard to get back to say hello… but I just couldn’t move fast enough.

    I didn’t think for a second your little ones had seen it! Most of my HP first time viewers are 11-15. Sarah (8) did sit with us, but I’m feeling guilty about that. It’s too much for her. Like I said, it’s too much for Bethany (11) too.

    I’m all for putting off/sheltering/ whatever you want to call it during the early years. Little ones are very impressionable. Christina is bothered to this day that she Tom Sawyer when she was about 7. Angela’s comment is so true!

    Loving this discussion. I may have a Harry Potter follow up post. Now that I’ve actually seen some of the movies, I could say more!

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