Monday, December 22, 2008

...and the runner up is....Harry Potter and the art of losing

Been meaning to post this since my birthday, which coincided, serendipitously, with the book release of Beedle the Bard (which, yes, I bought, but for the low discounted Amazon price, not the millions of dollars hand bound version). We thought, before swinging on to another bash for a friend in town, we'd take Julia to a Beedle the Bard book release party at Scribble Press in West LA (a place we have great affection for, where Julia could spend days creating books they will bind for you.). She's missed all the other major book release parties - this really would be the last one she could go to.

She donned her Hogwarts robes and we set off. Of course the place is mad with Harry Potter fans - and she is definitely the youngest there. The owner's daughter seems to have read each HP book a dozen times (and I overheard her mother saying she had to make a rule she had to read several other books between re-reads now). She seemed about 10. There was drawing and several contests.

The first HP trivia quiz was 20 questions. 20 questions!!! Of trivia that I even don't know all the answers to! You have to get that Julia goes to a developmental elementary school which believes in an incredibly non-competitive childhood (that I think is cool but I'm not even sure I believe in). So this HP test was her FIRST TEST EVER. And it's 20 questions. And I have to help her spell and it's big effort, believe you me, for a 6 1/2 year old (because she turned that the day before ) to be spelling out things like LEVIOSA and AVADA KEDAVRA and CRUCIATIUS, even with help. It's slow and she's playing catch-up and wonderful owner's daughter nails the contest with a perfect score. Julia's really disappointed.

Then round two - the live quiz showdown - structured much like a spelling bee. Once again, not done at all at fantastic developmental school where nobody wins and nobody loses. All the kids line up - and Julia's first, the peanut of the group, for trivia questions thrown at her. Granted, they made sure that they gave her book questions since she hadn't seen any of the movies yet, but she was doing great. She answered a couple with very thoughtful almost essay-like answers. Then came the round where they asked her a question, she got it right, then they eliminated almost all of the rest of the line with the next question "What is a Bezoar?". Now, technically, since they all got it wrong, she should have won the game, but she couldn't get it right either when it came back around to her (look it up in the lexicon)and I wasn't going to do interfering-my-child-should-win mom thing.

And there's part of me that's enjoying this. Look, she really wants to win and part of that is being 6 and part of that is life and I'm pretty sure she's going to get dinged out because these kids are older and I think it's good for her to compete and it's good for her lose, and that's the way of the world. Maybe I'm a little bitter because in this playwriting/screenwriting business I am rejected at least once a day but it is always a question I have at developmental school - how will this teach my child to be in the real world if there's never any winning or losing in a competitive sense (this from the woman who as a kid never came close to winning anything sport-wise until my 9th birthday bowling party when I did win fair and square and my mother took my bowling trophy away and gave it to my cousin who came in second because it was unseemly for the birthday girl to win - which was just unfair and horrifying and probably says something about me now - after cake they caved and bought another trophy)??? What horror story will she be telling when she's older and blogging about how all this non-competitive stuff affected her in a competitive world?

And then it's down to her and a boy. An 11 year old boy who really really didn't want to lose to a 6 year old girl. Let's just put it this way - Julia will never forget the goblin Griphook again. And the prize goes to 11 year old boy.

She burst into tears. Genuine sad sad sad disappointed tears. Which - I must say - broke my heart because she did so well - she beat out all the other kids except one and now, now I'm thinking gee, I like developmental school because I don't have to deal with this kind of heartbreak in my kid on a daily basis.

And my eyes met the eyes of the woman running the contest as I'm telling Julia how great she was, really, and then she scrambles for a prize for the runner up (she's a goddess) and the irony is is that Julia gets the cherry flavored floo powder (which has disappeared into the black hole of her room, probably never to be eaten) and the BOY WHO WON got phoenix eggs so spicy that all the kids had to try them and then were gulping down water like they swallowed actual fire.

So it was somehow fitting that my daughter's first test was a Harry Potter one, and first "bee" a Harry Potter bee, but it left me really thinking about how I can and will handle her heartbreak for the rest of her life. Because as much as I would like to hope that candy will ameliorate all sadness, there are definitely going to be wounds I cannot fix - how will I teach her to roll with what happens when life hands her questions she can't answer?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Very Harry Thanksgiving

My lovely (talented beautiful intelligent) 14 year niece arrived for Turkey day and the hero worshipping began. Julia may be obsessed with Harry Potter but worship JL from head to toe. And thankfully the two have something big to bond over - because how much do a 6 and 1/2 year and a 14 year old really have in common - but they do - Harry Potter.

The two of them chatter at each other in English accents and JL dives right into Julia's collection of wands and Harry Potter figurines, bookends, action figures (hell, the girl never really went Barbie wild so she's got a lot of HP stuff) but the most precious moment of HP loyalty displayed came towards the end of the trip when Julia showed her the Gryffindor sweatshirt and Slytherin sweatshirt that came via owl in the magical box of swag that our friend Prof. S, who works directly for Harry, it appears, sent earlier this summer. The sweatshirts are a little big for Julia but fit JL perfectly. Julia offered her the Slytherin sweatshirt (I'm sure because she never intends on wearing something from that evil house). But JL tried it on and couldn't bear the sight of herself in it. She felt like a traitor to her precious Ron, Hermione and Harry. Julia came up with a plan- - JL could put one of those red circles with a line through it over the Slytherin logo. Still no go. She couldn't bring herself to do it.

I have the feeling that sweatshirt may go unworn by both of my HP fanatics, unless they get a little bad boy Draco in their lives. And I love that they have values - and are fiercely loyal. School spirit, as it were....