This morning's newspaper, like probably half the newspapers in the world, had a front page story about Harry Potter and the coming of the last book in the series. Now I haven't read any of the books but I've seen all but the latest of the films and I like them quite a bit. I'd like to read them, but I'd also like to read Proust and I just never seem to have the time for either. I put an order into Amazon so that Mancub will get the lastest book delivered on Saturday (or supposedly it will be free). I hope he is surprised, or at least says thanks. The word is that he has read all of the other books - in fact the word is he likes to read but I've never seen that happen. I'm having Amazon include a gift card that states that with this book we begin Family Reading Nights.
I'm not going to suggest that we all sit and read from the same book. Maybe if he was five years younger, but not now. I am going to propose (with the option to either do what I say or do what I say) that we all sit in the living room (and I wish it were a parlor, but I won't press my luck here) with light snacks and tea and soft music and each read a book while we recline and enter the worlds of the printed word.
It seems such a simple yet civilized dream. Yet somehow distant and likely impossible in spite of the limited options that will be presented. Then I read in the paper:
Harry Potter has cast many spells over the past 10 years, but none more enchanting than the one that brings families together in a world fragmented by MySpace, BlackBerrys, text messaging, bedroom TVs and video games.
Someone, I think, understands my pain. Leaving Mr. Potter aside, that fragmented world of which the reporter speaks is my parental angst which leads me down the road of hopeless thinking about the state of the world.
The article goes on to say:
It's difficult to determine how many parents have read "Harry Potter" books to their kids, or sat in their living rooms talking about the young wizard, but librarians offer ample anecdotal evidence. Kastner even suggests that the series can be a tool for families to manage addictive and isolating technologies that invade nearly every activity and every room in a house.
Again, we won't be reading it out loud to one another, but what struck me in this is that my on going battle is apparently common. It is summed up in that last sentence, the part about isolating technologies that invade nearly every activity and every room in a house.
I AM NOT ALONE!
Before drum class last night we had another talk about several issues, but most of them focused on what I called "checking out" but what I guess other people call family life in 2007. We stated, for about the 300th time, that we really need the headsets out of the ears when we are doing family things, like talking with one another or saying "Good Morning". Or going to Street Fairs and "listening" to Soul Singers on a stage. I couldn't shake that one. It was a level of rudeness that set me off on a three day rant. And how "doing things as a family" which he constantly says he wants until we do things as a family, doesn't mean watching "Family Guy" and only watching "Family Guy" and "doing things as a family" doesn't mean to put in the headset and pull out the PSP and hide behind shades. We seek a slightly deeper level of involvement, for instance an actual sharing of the same experience.
It didn't immediately sink in. After all, he had only heard it 299 times before and it sometimes takes a few repetitions to click. The drum class is a distant three miles away, so he turned down my radio show and stuck the right ear piece in both coming and going. This morning was rough again too, but tonight I got home and he was sans wires and plug-ins and was baking cookies and announced he had folded the clothes (that had been downstairs for four days and six reminders) and put them away and he asked me how my day was and told me he gave his phone number to the cute girl who started doing the same training program he is doing, so I kissed him on the head and we had a conversation while I washed dishes and he licked the cookie dough sticky spoon.