On reading to my daughter, and the onset of post-Harry Potter depression

I know there are other books… We certainly enjoyed reading all of L. Frank Baum’s original Wizard of Oz books together, before we entered the world of Harry Potter, and we love the books of Daniel Pinkwater… But this was different.

No matter how things had gone for either of us during the day, no matter how sucky things might have been on the playground, or in the office, we were able to end the night by reading about the exploits of Harry, Ron and Hermione as they fought against the forces of evil. It was something special that we shared, and both looked forward to equally. And I’m having a hard time accepting that it’s over.

I know that we’ll still talk, and that I’ll still read to her on occasion, but – and this isn’t just me being fatalistic – it won’t be the same. She’s reading more to herself these days, and I don’t see anything else coming along that’s likely to capture both of our imaginations in the same way. Maybe, I tell myself, we’ll be able to read the seven Harry Potter books together to this new member of our family, when he or she reaches an appropriate age. In the meantime, though, I’m not sure I know what to do… I mean, I know that, tomorrow night, I’ll start reading The Odyssey to her, and that she’ll like it, but it won’t be the same. We won’t be whispering to one another during meals about what we think might happen next, or imitating the characters as we make our way to school in the mornings.

For the most part, I try not to confront my depression on this blog, but this is what I’m thinking about tonight. I’m thinking about my daughter growing up, and our interests diverging. I know it might be a bit premature, as I’ve still got tons of great stuff to share with her, from monster movies to the Velvet Underground, but I know the time is coming, and it sucks. I mean, I think it’s great that she’s growing up… but I just wish that I’d read more slowly.

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25 Comments

  1. Kevin
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    My wife and I read the Harry Potter books to each other, and like you, we reached the final word of book 7 knowing that it was over. We cried. We perked up when we realized that someday we would be able to read the books to our daughter knowing that the final word would come eventually. There really is something special about those books, but the good news is that most kids read them over and over and over again. My little brother could read book 4 in one day, and he often did. Why not read them again….in French (we have them if you want to borrow ;-)

  2. grandma
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Great Dads are awsome. Awsome daughters are great!

  3. dragon
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    “She seemed glad to see me when I appeared in the kitchen, and by watching her I began to think there was some skill involved in being a girl.”

  4. donna
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    best. dad. ever.
    How about ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ next?
    and what if ~she~ reads it to ~you~?

  5. Stella M
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    Susan Cooper’s “The Dark Is Rising” series is excellent but not as much special effects. More subtle and Arthurian. Elizabeth Enright’s “Gone Away Lake”, Alexander Key’s “The Forgotten Door”, & Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s “The Velvet Room” were some of my childhood favourites. Didn’t discover Daniel Pinkwater till I was grown but I worship and adore him.

  6. Mr. X
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Part of it, I suspect, is not having another series of good, imaginative books lined up. A bigger part, though, is probably the realization that kids have to grow up and do their own things. Being a parent is tough.

  7. Sandy D.
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Forget the Odyssey, do the Lord of the Rings (starting with the Hobbit!)!

  8. Eel
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Hopefully she’ll repay the favor by reading them back to you, as you lay on your death bed.

  9. Lisa Bashert
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I just want you to know that I still read aloud to my partner — it’s fantastic. And our daughter reads to her husband. And they read aloud to us. Obviously, our daughter started reading a great deal to herself as she got older, but somehow, there were still always great read-alouds that we wanted to do as a family — such as the Lord of the Rings series. We first read The Hobbit aloud to our daughter when she was about 8. We read King Arthur tales, Sherlock Holmes, Pooh, Mists of Avalon, and also even some suspense series. And, to tell you the truth, we’ve RE-read the Harry Potter stories aloud. Some stuff just never gets old.

  10. Posted November 9, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    I was going to suggest the Odyssey and Iliad, which my dad and I read when I was about Clementine’s age, but I see you got there already.

  11. Portland Dave
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    We just finished the Narnia series. Just tonight I was surfing around for another series to start. I was thinking about Little House On The Prarie, but maybe we’ll try Harry Potter.

  12. Thom Elliott
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Start with Plato’s Apology and the early dialogs, they’re the most fun. I don’t know what to tell you Mark, the fleeting nature of existance is part of its bittersweet savor, being flings us out and the undertow pulls us back the whole of our brief horizon. Love will always be associated with temporality, you yourself have given your beautiful child to Yama the lord of death out of love, as your parents did. What is it we do about it? Confront the inevitable by stareing at it as it plummets at us in misery? Or realize death is the other side of being and truely nothing to fear? The world is a truely awesome place, filled with astounding mystery.

  13. Mr. X
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    “you yourself have given your beautiful child to Yama the lord of death”

    Wow.

  14. Amy WillackerMorgan
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    We are approaching this milestone – me, with similar dark thoughts.
    I know it’s like showing puppy pictures to someone who’s had to put their dog down or your happily married friend with her other-fish-in-the-sea crap (“that is SO not the point!”) but I thought I share this link anyway?

    http://www.dinneralovestory.com/extremely-graphic-content/

    Cheers.

  15. People of America
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Try Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying next.

  16. Posted November 12, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    How about E. Nesbit? Her books are smart, funny, and magical, and she was an influence on Rowling. And how about Tove Jansson’s Moomin books? They’re delightful. Plus, Nesbit was a socialist, and Jansson was a lesbian, which will upset your trolls.

  17. Din Viesel
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    Yeah, trolls are way upset over lesbian socialists.
    Try Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood next.
    Or Moby Dick.
    Or Benito Cereno.

  18. People of America
    Posted November 16, 2011 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    What about Fannie Hill?
    Parents tend to overlook that classic.

  19. Posted November 16, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    James and I were talking about this today, and he reminded me about the first two books in the “His Dark Materials” trilogy: Golden Compass and the Subtle Knife. It’s no Harry Potter, but it is good.

  20. Posted November 16, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    There was a car parked in front of my house this morning with the license plate “CRUCIO.”

  21. Andy C
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    Subtle Knife wayyyyyyyy better than any harry Potter.

  22. Mark
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Mark,

    I did the very same thing with my daughter. Read every book aloud to her before she went to bed. She’s 15 now and we just returned from the Harry Potter Home Entertainment Celebration in Orlando. She was able to meet so many of the actors that played the parts she knows so well. What to read next….Thanks for your your observation.

  23. Eel
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    If you ever tire of reading to her, you could ask Sasha Grey.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/16/sasha-grey-on-the-view-su_n_1098101.html

  24. Eel
    Posted November 18, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I’ll never forget the day that Ron Jeremy stopped by my son’s kindergarten class to read Dick and Jane.

  25. Anonymous Mike
    Posted November 28, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Be careful. You wouldn’t want her to become death obsessed or anything.

    http://markmaynard.com/?p=16569

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