Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Cursed by Bad Words

My son has always been obsessed with words, learning to spell states and football players’ names when he became bored with his spelling words. He currently keeps a list of city names from our state and names of characters from books he reads. And I believe he also has a running list of all the cuss words he knows.

“The H one, the D one, the S, the A,” he says. “I just can’t figure out what the I one is.”

“The I one?” I think as I rack my brain. “What in the world is the I word?”

Years ago, the fact that my kid knew any cuss words in third grade would have bothered me a great deal. I would have felt irresponsible, guilty. But I realize it’s a natural, curious part of growing up. So it’s a little earlier than I would have liked, but I don’t think it’s any earlier than the boys I grew up with.

Though to him learning a new word is like cracking a code into some secret adult society, just knowing satisfies him. He doesn’t use them except, I’m sure, between giggles and whispers with his closest friends as they try to figure out life as third graders. He tells me his new words, but he protects his little sister.

Now that he’s nine, he’s at an age where it’s getting harder to decide where the boundaries are. This doesn’t mean we’re encouraging our son to swear. It means we’re deciding whether our son can possibly be mature enough to handle knowing bad things and not using them, using his own good judgment.

When he was invited to see The Avengers recently, at first I firmly put my foot down. No PG-13 movies. But it’s the summer blockbuster hit everyone and their five-year-old is raving about. After researching the movie and learning the swear words in it, I really didn’t want him to go. I polled a few people whose opinions I trust. One planned to take her seven-year-old. Hmm. Was I being too tough on my son?

I’ve always tried to shelter him from lewd language but when he’s out on his own, it’s out of my control.

When I read to him, I skip over anything I deem unfit. Several months ago, when I mentioned J.K. Rowling has an adult book coming out this year, he wanted to know why he couldn’t read it.

“Does it have cuss words in it? I bet it does if it’s for adults.”

“There are cuss words in Harry Potter,” I told him, surprised he hadn’t noticed during his reading. I even slipped and read damn one night in the throes of a heated dialogue.

“Is it the J one? Because I don’t know what that one means,” he said.

children's source for bad words, muddledmom

The children’s dictionary. A wonderful reference for naughty words, including the J one.

My husband so rarely gets to witness these conversations. “The J one?” he said. “I don’t even want to know what that one is.”

My son whispered into my husband’s ear, and I was thrilled to not have to explain what a word means. “That’s a donkey.”

“A donkey?” my son said. Bubble burst. The meanings really take the fun out of knowing a bad word.

“Well, I know it doesn’t have the B one,” my son continued. “That’s written on the back of the stall in the fifth-grade boys’ bathroom.”

I remember this struggle when I was a kid. I had learned a few choice words, possibly from my dad. In fourth grade he was nagging me about leaving my bike in the rain and in my retort, I couldn’t remember which word to use. “Well how the hell was I supposed to know?” Innocent mistake, though I’m not sure heck would have really been any better.

We’ve had our own incidents but not as bad as I’d expect, especially for a boy who collects bad words like pirate treasure. I found something in his backpack with bad words written on it. His friend gave him a quarter to write them. I was disappointed that he was stupid enough to do what his friend said. We had a long talk about those words, the principal, and the phrase, “If your friend told you to jump off a cliff…”

I want my kids to understand words, to understand that they can have more than one meaning, that they can hurt, that they can be nasty, and that they can be effective.

The word I do worry about? It’s an I word: ignorance. I won’t tolerate any words that deal with that.

And the movie? We let him see it. He was so enthralled by the action, he didn’t notice any bad words. I worried for nothing.

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Filed under Boy Stories

Somewhat Strange and Tasty Collections I Didn’t Know We Had

My son collects things. He accumulates armies of knobby creatures that he makes scream and knock each other down. He’s obsessed with Legos. If he gets one set, he wants the entire line to complete his collection. He collects erasers. Just the plain ones that sit on top of a pencil. He lines them up, makes patterns with them, battles them, who knows. During his Cars the movie era, I can’t tell you how many times we patrolled the toy aisle searching for the elusive Tex Dinoco.

Now he collects names. Names of Harry Potter characters he reads that he scrawls in third-grade penmanship on lined paper, two columns, three pages front and back, and still going strong. Names of multihued tropical fish he reads about, likes, and dreams of one day owning as pets. Names of planets and their moons. Names of baseball teams and football players.

I have long wondered whether his quirky obsessions are normal, what it means for his future, and where on earth it came from. I can be a bit of a pack rat. My husband is a borderline box hoarder. But for years I’ve had no clues as to where his collecting insanity came from.

Then, as I tried to tame my overgrown pile of torn-out recipes the other day, it hit me like a swarm of cookbooks.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I like food. And I particularly like the challenge of finding a recipe to match whatever food I’ve recently inhaled and become infatuated with. Consequently, I’m a bit of a recipe hog. One could say I collect recipes.

Want to see my collection?

This vintage box holds my prized recipes that I use almost every day.

Look, there's room to grow!

These are recipes I want to try.

This doesn't begin to show my stack of recipes. Man, there's some good stuff in there.

And these.

Hmm. Forgot about these.

And I still need to go through these magazines to tear out the recipes I want to try because I know I will…or won’t…but just in case.

Some light reading.

I’ve been clipping recipes since around ninth grade. While my friends flipped through Seventeen and YM taking quizzes about kissing and fashion, I pored over Good Housekeeping and Martha Stewart, learning about cake frosting and chicken potpies. It certainly explains a lot about my awkward teen dating years.

Before kids, I used to try three or four new recipes a week. My husband and I like variety, tiring of the same old casseroles and quinoa salad week after week. Then came two kids who like my cooking but not adventure. They prefer comfort foods, the same old thing every week. But it’s OK. It seems there’s plenty in my collection for everyone. Just don’t ask me where anything is.

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Filed under About Mom, Boy Stories

Paybacks

When I tell stories of parental woe to my mom, she sympathizes. She commiserates. And she often laughs. Though she rarely says it, I know she’s thinking it: paybacks. Paybacks for the many nights I woke her from her dear slumber because I feared some crazy in my closet would drop screws in my ears or because the giant teddy bear on my shelf cast Jurassic-size shadows on my walls. Paybacks for stomping down the hall protesting a dinner of pork chops, scalloped potatoes, and green beans instead of the good ol’ mac and cheese standby. Paybacks for never letting her have a conversation on the telephone without “Momma, Momma, Momma, Momma.” And yes, even paybacks for informing callers to our house that she couldn’t come to the phone because she was on the toilet and it would be awhile.

I see now what I put her through. I know when I relay my children’s escapades from the week that she must hang up, throw her head back, and give one good mighty howl at the pleasure that I am finally paying my dues. Yes, indeedy, paybacks are often what they say they are. Though she has no part in the matter, my mom gets to watch me suffer the annoyances of motherhood that I put her through. For her and many mothers, that is quietly payback enough.

But this mom has an urge to fight back. I try to quietly and calmly deal with whatever my kids throw at me, but at night I de-stress by plotting my revenge. I’m keeping a list of the things they do. I’m sure I won’t follow through, but if my kids don’t shape up as teenagers, I’m getting even.

1. Wherever they are in the house, I’ll come find them and announce that I need to go to the bathroom, number one or number two. If their friends are visiting, I’ll loudly whisper it in their ear.

2. I will happily clean, read, or do whatever keeps me happy, but the second they talk on the phone, I will scream at the top of my lungs and then chase them around the house and pound on their door when they close and lock it.

3. I’ll hand them my tiny bits of trash, bypassing four trashcans in the process. When they refuse, I’ll sneak it in their pocket or later they’ll find it stuck to their shirt.

4. Every time they kiss their boyfriend or girlfriend, I’ll cover my eyes, fall to the floor, and scream, “Is it over?”

5. In the middle of the night, I’ll stand two inches from their face and wait until they wake up. I won’t need anything except to be put back to bed.

6. I’ll come in their room early on Saturday morning and tell them such important details as “My butt itches.”

7. My wardrobe will consist of plaid shirts, striped leggings, and pink tutus, and I will insist that it matches and that I venture out in public with them dressed that way.

8. When they refuse to let me drive them to the movies, I’ll stomp away in a huff and shout, “You never let me do ANYTHING!”

9. As soon as they fluff their pillows, snuggle deep into the couch, get everything just right, I’ll tell them that’s my pillow. When they get comfy again, I’ll tell them that’s my blanket too.

10. When they wake at noon, before they’ve chewed that first bite of cereal I’ll roll off twenty questions in ten seconds about Harry Potter and then tell them about the new pillows I want to get next and what color and where I want to put them and explain that the old ones just aren’t squishy enough and do you think J.K. Rowling will ever write another Harry Potter book? What do you mean you don’t like Harry Potter anymore? I thought you loved Harry Potter. Don’t you remember in book four when he grabbed the Goblet of Fire and it was a portkey? That was awesome!

I love my kids with every fiber of my being, but I don’t always love what they do. And they don’t always love what I do. I guess that makes us even. So there.

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Filed under About Mom, Can't Get a Break

Forgotten Purses and Memories

On our way home from dinner and a bookstore Saturday evening, from the back of the car came a shaky voice. “Mommy, did you get my purse?”

“No, why would I get your purse? You don’t have it?”

My husband swung the car around and we headed back to the bookstore where we’d just spent nearly an hour going back and forth from one part of the children’s section to the other. I knew where my daughter set it down, but I didn’t know how long it had been missing.

I began making mental notes of the purse, sure that someone had seen it lying on the floor and taken off with it. It doesn’t look like a child’s purse and I was afraid a dishonest person would think it was chockfull of valuables. And it is, to a six-year-old. I worried too because I knew she brought money to buy something, but I didn’t know how much. It could have been a quarter; it could have been all of the loot from her piggy bank.

You never know when a pig flashlight will come in handy.

Fully ready to fill out a missing purse report, I had a visual in mind. Description: ruffled, white, with silver chain. Contents: an old black flip phone that she pulled out at dinner, red wallet with a pink poodle on the front. What else does a busy six-year-old need? Oh yes, a comb, a nail file, a tub of lip gloss, a pig flashlight, a Dracula Pez dispenser, and Harry Potter glasses. One never knows when one needs to appear studious.

I prepared myself to run into the store, ready to deal with tears when the purse turned up missing, snatch the purse from the hands of a stranger compelled to play finders keepers, or go on with my report. But my husband jerked the car in park and jumped out before I could unbuckle my seatbelt. Minutes later, he and my daughter emerged with the purse and a smile. Crisis and tears averted. The money, the pig flashlight, the Harry Potter glasses, all of it still stuffed safely within.

In the car, my daughter’s forgotten purse brought back a memory that replayed like a favorite Brady Bunch rerun in my mind. Countless times as a kid when my family had eaten in a restaurant, often while on a trip, my sister would announce somewhere along the road that she’d forgotten her purse. My father would utter a few words under his breath and turn our old Granada back toward the greasy spoon where we’d just enjoyed a leg stretch and a family meal. We’d all trudge in and find, tucked in the corner of the booth or on the bathroom counter, her purse, sitting safely and untouched. It became so frequent, sometimes happening several times on the same trip, that I began to ask her before we left any restaurant if she had her purse. I suppose we’ll begin asking our daughter the same thing.

It’s funny when your kids’ childhoods spark a small memory from your own. Though not a grand incident, my daughter’s forgotten purse helped me remember a small piece of my past. On the way home Saturday night I thought of those memories, those purses, and I bent down to check for my own purse, just to make sure.

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Filed under Everyday Life

Bedtime Stories

Whether we’re tired, it’s late, or someone has stomped up the stairs and slammed the door in a very bad mood, every night I read to each of my kids. Even when my daughter melts down because she can’t get the toothpaste on or my son gets a second wind and bounces on his bed like a super ball on a linoleum floor, it’s just our ritual.

Often it is the part of our busy day I look forward to most, one on one. For ten to twenty minutes, it’s just the two of us, curled up and lost in a story. Sometimes I read longer, wanting to see what happens next just as much as my child does.

This has always been our bedtime routine, and I plan to do it as long as they will let me. Many years ago I read that it’s important to read to your children long after they know how to read themselves. High school I think. It sounds crazy, but even at that age, hearing someone read with passion benefits them.

If I read to them, they want me to go on and on. If they read to me, I fall right to sleep.

I’ve read to my kids since they were babies. My son read to his sister the day she came home from the hospital because I told him that was a big brother’s important role. Now he listens as she reads to him and helps her with words she can’t pronounce.

When my son was less than two years old, he made us read the same book to him like a CD stuck on repeat. I would beg him to pick another book. As soon as the last word was read, he’d say, “Again,” and I wanted to cry. But when he was able to speak well, he squeezed between the couch and end table and “read” those books to himself. He memorized every word of every book. I had no idea that’s what he was doing.

When my kids learned their letters and letter sounds, I taught them to read. Seeing my kids read their very first sentence was cooler than the first goal, the first pop fly, the first bike ride without training wheels. Reading is the foundation for their whole lifetime of learning, and there we sat, cheering at each word formed, shock that it had happened. No teacher could take that glory from us. It was our moment.

Many times the kids writhed in agony and yanked at their hair as words became harder, and I clenched my fists to keep myself from doing it. But we pulled through and they read to themselves often.

And now, every night, I am theirs and they are mine. We laughed till we cried when Greg’s dog licked itself, then slathered kisses on his dad’s face in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. We ponder the mystery of the intruder in Nathaniel Fludd. I itch to tell my son whether Snape is friend or foe in the Harry Potter books. And we learn about life through the decades thanks to the American Girl series. Afterward, my kids talk to me about their day, spill their problems, or give me an extra-long hug.

I have taken our reading away as punishment in times of desperation, knowing they still have their father’s turn to look forward to, but the kids are so fond of this time together and it breaks my heart too. I’ve learned to find other consequences.

I know there will come a day when my kids will end their nights with phone calls, studying, or more important things. But I hope it will still include me, even if our stories don’t come from a book.

I’ve been reading The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma about a daughter and father who promised to read every night for 100 nights, then 1,000, and then kept going until she left for college. They began in fourth grade. If I read to my son every night until he leaves for college, by my count, we’ll have read more than 3,000 nights. My daughter, more than 4,000. We do skip when someone is sick or if the grandparents are in town. To me, it’s not about the contest; it’s the bond that matters. No matter what kind of day we’ve had, I’m still there. That’s the moral I hope my kids take away from our story.

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Filed under Everyday Life, I Love Those Darn Kids