Dropping out of Hogwarts

When a child is born, the first thought you have as a new father, besides, “Should there be this much slime?” is, “When you’re old enough, little slimy person, I am going to read you all the Harry Potter books.”

When our oldest son Evan turned six last week, I decided he was old enough to begin attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Sure, he was a little young for it, but he’s a very mature six. He eats his Mickey-Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets with a shrimp fork. Not really, but he does put together more cogent arguments than most attorneys, most recently regarding the merits of Kipper the Dog vs. Clifford the Big Red Dog (he prefers Kipper, which proves that Evan is smart, because Kipper has a British accent).

Our local library (which is like a bookstore, except everything’s free and it doesn’t go out of business) had the first Harry Potter book on the shelf, so I grabbed it like it was the Golden Snitch in a Quidditch match. (For the uninitiated, Quidditch is a game played by fictional wizards and real-life nerds.)

I’m not exactly sure where this Harry Potter impulse comes from, since I’ve only read the first book of the series. If you dropped all the Harry Potter books that I haven’t read onto my head from a third-story window, it’s possible that my body wouldn’t be found for quite some time, especially if we’re talking hardcovers. But there’s just something appealing about the idea of getting immersed in that world with Evan every day, and giving him an opportunity to flex his advanced reading comprehension muscles, which have impressed us ever since he figured out that Sam I Am isn’t the guy who won’t eat green eggs and ham, but rather the guy who is way too invested in what other people eat.

“Who’s Dumbledore again?” Evan asked, about ten pages in.

“He’s a wizard,” I said.

“When did they tell us that?” he asked.

“Well, they didn’t yet, but — you’re right. I shouldn’t tell you that kind of stuff until the book says it,” I said.

“Can you just call him ‘the wizard’ instead of saying his name? There are too many names. Just say ‘the wizard’ said this or ‘the bad guy’ did that,” he replied.

I tried to comply, but on the next page, the one wizard and the other wizard started referring to the bad guy, Voldemort, as You-Know-Who. Who was You-Know-Who? Evan didn’t know who.

“Can you just show me the page when there’s a picture?” he asked, flopping from side-to-side, trying to work some magic on his boredom.

“There aren’t any pictures, except these little ones at the beginning of each chapter,” I said, showing him the meager pencil sketch he’d already seen.

“Oh, that’s okay,” he said, in the same way his mother tells me things are okay when they’re absolutely not okay.

I closed the book before the end of the chapter. Normally, this is reserved as the most severe form of discipline, the seldom-used nuclear option if Evan should misbehave while we’re reading. To receive this punishment, he basically has to knock off a liquor store while I’m trying to read to him. Evan’s subsequent screams of protest send nearby survivalists into their air raid bunkers.

“Maybe we’ll give this book a rest for now?” I asked.

“Sure,” Evan said, hopping up and skipping off to say goodnight to Mommy. I didn’t mention Harry Potter the next night, and he didn’t, either.

So Evan wasn’t quite ready to enroll in Hogwarts. We can try again in a few years. Until then, that Sam I Am. That Sam I Am.  That dude should mind his own business.

You can kick Mike Todd off your Quidditch team at mikectodd@gmail.com.

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