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Harry Potter, my daughter, and self-control


I’m currently reading “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” For the first time.

Group gasp! Everyone calm down now.

I understand I’m a bit behind, and most people I know have read the books – not once – but multiple times. My friends are simply aghast when they discover I’m just delving into the world of Hogwarts, Muggles, Quiddich and Professor Snape. But I just didn’t care when all the hoopla started back in 1997.

I hate waiting on the release of the next book in a series. I read Deborah Harkness’ “A Discovery of Witches” this past spring and eagerly awaited its sequel, “Shadow of Night” for two months. Only two months, but it felt like a lifetime. Now I’m stuck waiting on the final in the series until next summer. Sigh.

I waited only a few weeks before “The Hunger Games” debuted in theaters before reading the trilogy. I inhaled the three. I can’t imagine if I’d started “Catching Fire” in real time, and had to live with that cliffhanger until the release of “Mockingjay.” Shudder.

At any given moment I’m eagerly awaiting the newest in the “In Death” series. I finished the entire Percy Jackson series in a month. You get the idea. When it comes to books, I’m not a fan of delayed gratification. Willpower, discipline … I have none when it comes to literature.
As you might imagine, this affects other areas of life, as well. In the past, if I decided on a new haircut or color, I wanted it right then. Last fall I made a ‘sweeping declaration’ that I would let my hair grow, hippie-style, and there are days when it takes all I have not to hack it off.
Pregnancy was a nightmare. I just wanted my little girl to be here, to hold her, to dress her up in all these tiny clothes that lined the drawers. Yet I had no control. And for the past two years I’ve counted down the months until graduation. I fantasize about finally crossing the stage. Yet I can’t make April 26 arrive any faster. I have no control.

And that’s the real issue, right? Control. It’s a tricky concept, and now I find its hold on my 5-year-old daughter. The irony? Right now she’s learning to read, and I see the same frustration on her face when she’s sounding out words. “I just want to read! Why can’t I simply do it?” So now I’m learning a new side of it, and it’s interesting, to say the least.

But for now she’ll continue sounding out ‘school’ and ‘black,’ and I’ll help her through Level One readers each night. And who knows? I might start reading the next big thing when it begins, rather than waiting 15 years.

Perhaps by next summer, my daughter and I will both have mastered a small bit of self-control. We’ll settle down on a warm summer evening, me with Diana Bishop’s last adventure – and she with a book of her own.

Emily Hayes is a staff writer for the Times-Journal. Her column appears Thursdays, where this was first published. Her email address is

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