Tag Archives: Harry Potter

What Hogwarts taught us about saying sorry

16 Jan

Letter of apology

Last week I posted about the impact that a rainbow coloured notebook has had in our house. This week the notebook is making its presence known again by helping teach my 5-year-old some life lessons about saying ‘sorry’. To understand when a simple ‘sorry’ is required is relatively straightforward, even to a child. When it comes to those moments in life when we beat ourselves up unnecessarily, that’s a harder thing to understand.  Knowing when you’ve no need to apologise is just as important as knowing when you do need to.

I had found my daughter busily writing in her notebook. When I asked what she was doing, she looked up with a serious face and said: “I’m writing letters to my friends to say I’m sorry.” Her earnestness tugged at my heart. She explained what had happened. She had told her three closest friends that they were going to Hogwarts together. More than that – they were going on the Hogwarts Express and it would be picking them up in the playground. She had later told them that they weren’t really going at all. Apparently there was some (I suspect momentary and mild) disappointment and as a consequence she felt she had let her friends down. Severely.

It was the words she was using in her letter that upset me most: “sorry I told lies”. ‘Lie’ is a strong word, too strong for what she had done – playing out her love of Harry Potter with some good old-fashioned imagination. She was putting herself through the wringer by writing formal apologies to her friends when in reality they were highly unlikely to be giving it a second thought. I tried to explain that giving her friends the letters risked making an issue out of something that wasn’t even there.  (Hard when in her mind something was very much there.) She’d not done anything wrong, I told her, and it was best to let it go for the bit of fun that it was. I was so proud of her but at the same time so saddened by the responsibility she was heaping on herself.

Teaching children to say sorry is part of basic manners. I hope that mine can learn to use the word ‘sorry’ in its strongest sense – when it can fix a situation and restore equilibrium – and never to punish themselves unnecessarily. The British are an annoyingly apologetic lot. We apologise for so many things simply because we believe we are inconveniencing other people. You really shouldn’t say sorry unless you’ve done something wrong. “Why did you apologise to them? They bumped into you!” I say to my good-mannered husband who will apologise at the drop of a hat.

In the end my husband confiscated my daughter’s letters and hid them away. It was painful to see her rail against this but it would have been even more painful to watch her solemnly handing out the letters in the playground. I love her for giving a damn and for caring about her friends. I hope she carries these positive qualities into her adult life. But I also hope that every time she feels the need to say ‘sorry’ it will be the right time and it will serve to empower her rather than sap her self-esteem.

PS. Safe to say, all is as happy in the playground as it ever was even though, to this day, the Hogwarts Express is yet to arrive.

Censorship and big knickers

1 Oct

Big knickers

Bridget Jones fans have been getting their big knickers in a twist over Helen Fielding’s latest book, Mad About the Boy. The author has had the audacity to kill off Mark Darcy, Bridget’s chief love interest and the character lusted after by fans of the novels. Imagine One Direction splitting up and you’ll get an idea of the hormonal outrage. Should the author have considered the Darcy entourage over the story she wanted to tell? Should authors be pressured into not touching what fans cherish or is that a form of censorship?

A couple of months ago I tweeted a slightly disparaging remark about One Direction. I didn’t think twice about it. It wasn’t offensive and it made me warm inside. Now, bear in mind this was around the time of the TV programme about how demented and obsessive, sorry, how truly supportive 1D fans can be. After I sent my tweet a friendly fellow tweep (*waves to Fi at @Childcareisfun*) suggested I ought to be careful as anything mildly derogatory about that group of supremely handsome and talented young men could unleash the wrath of their fans. Gulp.

There’s been a lot about trolling on the internet in the news recently. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced such vicious, offensive or unlawful harassment or anything approximating to it. But now the prospect of being hounded by angry teenage girls hiding behind their parents’ laptops loomed like a black Topshop-clad cloud. (I didn’t delete the tweet of course. Let them come at me with their sharpened Shellacs, I thought.) It left me feeling unsettled that what I write in public domains, whether it be on my blog or on Twitter, could potentially be shoved venomously back in my face. I decided, with a shiver, that I should be more careful about what I write. Yet in acknowledging this I had a horrible feeling of being unfairly stifled or, dare I say, censored.

For a blogger, self-imposed censorship can be a good thing. I write about my children but constantly bear in mind that, as long as prolonged iPad use doesn’t cause permanent damage, they will one day be able to read what I’ve written. For that reason I try not to write anything that may make them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed in years to come. A waste of so much material but worth it to be the Best Mummy in the World. The sacrifices I’ve made …

Back to Bridget Jones. Hats off to Helen Fielding for being brave and bold in the face of her readers. The decision to kill off a much-lusted after character can’t be an easy one to make but, boy, it gets you publicity. Some of her readers may be fuming but ultimately they’ve got a great storyline. Let the poor woman be. JK Rowling will have met with much howling from kids, adults and her publisher alike when she brought the Harry Potter series to a close. Yet everyone survived post-Harry to see millions made from spin-offs (also known as milking the cash cow until it runs dry).  So don’t despair Darcy fans: you may yet see Mark resurrected in the shower Bobby Ewing style. And maybe he’ll keep his shirt and breeches on for you.

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