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Spoiler Alert

August 23, 2019

Really, it’s J.K. Rowling’s fault.

Theresa, lost in the first Harry Potter. She’s well into The Order of the Phoenix with her siblings now.

My kids LOVE the Harry Potter series.  When we introduced the first book as a bedtime read-aloud this past May, it quickly became the coveted book that all three wanted to read.  One kid curled up on the couch for hours with that book…or the next…or the next…until they were done.  The other two were equally emotionally invested but invested less of their time into the books, and were therefore behind their sibling in the plotline of the series.

And so the spoilers started.

The kid who had finished didn’t mean to spoil.  They were just so, so excited about different things happening, and would exclaim about them, or let slip certain details.

It drove Alan and me nuts–we are firmly anti-spoiler.  Our pleasure in books or movies comes from the surprise, the suspense, the big reveal.  We have never been able to grok “those people” who read the last page of the book first (you know you’re out there) or don’t mind if, when about to see a movie, someone gives away the plot twist nobody sees coming.  One of my college professors would assign a book on Monday to be read by Friday, and in Wednesday’s class would be talking about the ending. I hated it.

I am so anti-spoiler that I actually hid books 5-7 of the series in an unreachable cabinet until all three kids were finished with book 4.  I was tired not only of the fighting but also of the constant spoilers, even inadvertent.

Then there are the other kids–at school, or at summer camp, who seem to love ruining the story for others (see how judgy I am about the spoiler thing?).  Kids who found out that my kids were in the middle of the Harry Potter series and were compelled to tell them who died and when, or which character is really not who they seem.  In short, many of the secrets of the series were already unveiled for our kids.

So last night:  one of our kids let slip something about “the sad chapter” at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  The other kid in the room asked what it was, and the answer:  “Someone dies.”  The other kid guessed who, and was correct.  And then when I came in and discovered that more spoilers had been happening, I may have sternly reminded the first kid about my annoyance with said behavior.

Backstory:  all three of my kids have been struggling with Big Feelings this summer, with emotional fragility, with not liking being different, with understanding that they have challenges that other kids (or their siblings) don’t have.  The full story is for another post.  But it’s important to understand this to understand what happened next.

What happened next:  second kid tried to say it was their fault.  First kid slid immediately into a shame spiral and shouted it was their fault and left the room to feel bad about themselves in my bedroom. Second kid was feeling bad about themselves in their own room.

An hour later, both kids felt better enough to go to bed.

This hour was me sitting with each kid, trying to combat their internal narratives of “I’m so stupid” and “I don’t deserve kindness or forgiveness” and “Dad and Mom are upset with me for giving / asking for spoilers.”  An hour trying to gauge where each kid was in their Meltdown before switching rooms to try to help the other kid.

After that hour, I reevaluated:  Was “not giving away spoilers” sufficiently important to me to warrant an hour of two kids descending into shame and self-loathing?


I was forced to do this all the time when the kids were babies and toddlers:  What is important to me? Why is it important? What is important to this kid?  If I’m going to set and hold boundaries, they need to matter to me and to the kid.

I used to think it was really, really important to keep your body still–at the dinner table, or for read-alouds.  But my kiddo with autism needs to move, and forcing them to sit still creates unnecessary conflict.

I used to think it was really, really important that my kids shut lights off after they leave a room.  But for my kiddo with ADHD, it is so hard to remember All the Things they need to, and to have me constantly nagging at them, reminding them that they forgot again, creates unnecessary conflict.  So I remind occasionally.  And other times just shut the light off for them.  Same goes for dirty clothes on the floor.  Or shoes in the shoe bin.

It’s important that they learn how to swim–that’s a mandatory life skill, in my opinion.  For a while, it looked like one kid was going to have a very hard time learning due to not putting their face in the water.  But after a week of swim camp, all three kids have made great progress.  Not dying if you fall into water:  that’s important.

It’s important to be kind and polite.  It’s important to stand up for themselves.  It’s important to develop their strengths and to improve or cope with their weaknesses.  It’s important to be self-aware and self-reflective.

Ultimately, I told those two last night that I had changed my mind:  that spoilers were not the Horrible Evil Thing Equivalent to Kicking Baby Bunnies that I had once made them out to be.  And that it certainly wasn’t worth both of them feeling so bad about themselves.

Such a critical parenting lesson:  What is important, and why is it important?  In the same vein as purging my filing cabinets and closets, I’m paring down my priorities to not only reduce conflict but also help my kids focus on what really matters.

And someday we’ll finish Harry Potter and move on to the next series.  By then I’ll be prepared.  With multiple copies of the same books.

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