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?


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry about how the trivia contest went - you gave us an idea though- for the presidential trivia contest on monday we are doing it by age groups. Hope all is well - Anna, Scribble PRess

Jennifer said...

Oh, let's be clear. I think - despite the tears - is was a great lesson learned. And now she knows to tell the story of what she achieved - that it got down to between her and the 11 year old. That she did the best she could do. That I'm insanely happy about.
PS - though I don't think splitting the age groups is a bad idea at all.