Judgement Call

Judgement Call

When we got back Sunday night we forgot to plug the baby monitor back in. And then Monday night we forgot again. And so it has gone every day since.

I’ve been sleeping in a little later. Isabella still wakes up and screams at around six and again around seven; but falls back asleep until after 8. Yesterday morning I actually went in and woke her up at 8:45 or so. She was so cute, lying flat on her stomach with both arms stretched along her sides. When I called her name she drew up her arms and pulled in her legs so her little bottom stuck up in the air. Then she started talking quietly and kept up a continuous stream of chatter as she sat up,
then stood up, then let me pick her up and change her diaper and dress her. She was in such a good mood and still took her usual nap, almost two hours long, that afternoon.

But this morning I woke up fully when she started crying around seven. It seemed like she’d been crying for a while so I went in to get her. She screamed and screamed while I changed her diaper and continued to howl for the next twenty minutes. Food wouldn’t console her nor water nor anything I could do. She cried when I tried to put her down and when I picked her up again. Finally, I
was so frustrated, I decided to put her back to bed to see if she’d cry herself back to sleep. She screamed angrily for five to ten minutes and then fell back asleep. And slept another hour and a half.

When she woke up after that she was in the sweetest mood. She chattered and smiled. She let me put her right in the high chair and ate a large breakfast while smiling and laughing and playing games. I guess I was right, she needed more sleep. But it was so hard to just put her back into the crib and close the door on her screams. Until she fell asleep I sat there wondering if I’d made the right decision.

And that’s how motherhood is. Day in and day out you’ve got to make the tough calls. Do I go in when she first starts crying or do I wait to see if she goes back to sleep? I’d been doubting my policy of letting her cry for a while before going in. Now I know that it was a good idea. She wasn’t really ready to get up. But it’s so hard to know and you don’t always get a clear confirmation like I got today. Most days you’ve just got to go with your gut and hope that everything works out ok.

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  • Hey melanie,

    James and I had the same problems with the Snape-Dumbledore situation. It is sticky and unpleasant but we did figure out one way it could have worked out being morally acceptable – if Dumbledore faked his death and went into hiding until he died. Any other result means Snape’s cover of 17 years is blown, Malfoy commits murder, or Dumbledore commits suicide but faking his death would have avoided all those.

    There was one element about the 7th book that really elevated my opinion of the series. Over the course of 6 books people have made valid points about how Harry breaks rules, messes up, and sometimes even gets rewarded for such things. But don’t we all. In no book is he perfect. In no book is he a perfect hero. And yet in the 7th book we see what saints and heroes are made of – through great suffering and self-sacrifice Harry becomes a true hero and lays down his life for others. I love LOTR and the Narnia books, but no where else have I seen such an elaborate development of the hero … maybe the kind of hero we all can be. Not many of us start off so noble as Frodo or half as wise as Gandolf or so innocent and trusting as Lucy Pensive. I’m not sure what other heroes compare to Harry in that regard, of course Harry having the advantage of a 7 book series to become the hero. 

  • Thanks for supplying me with an alternative. I knew there had to be one; but hadn’t come up with it yet. I could see the fake death having worked and preserving the integrity of the plot. Alternately, Rowling could have developed a completely different means of building suspense and then reversing all our expectations, taken the book in a different direction altogether. Or even if she’d acknowledged that what Snape did was wrong, had him gasp out a deathbed confession, or seeking some sort of absolution. They could both still be flawed, even fatally flawed characters. What I have a problem with is the fact that there is no clear understanding of the problems with the choice that was made. Though to give Rowling credit, Snape does point us in that direction when he asks about the consequences to his soul. But she undermines that with the way Dumbledore phrases his response: “You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation… I confess I should prefer a quick, painless exit to the protracted and messy affair….” This is a typical justification for a mercy killing, implying that no sin is involved for either the man who strikes the killing blow or the man who wishes to determine the manner of his own death. And it’s bad morality and children deserve better.

    I agree that Harry’s sacrifice in Book 7 redeems him. And that we are all flawed and in some ways that makes Harry a more developed character. But my real problem is not so much that Harry is flawed as that the adults in his life fail to correct him.

    It is natural for children to test boundaries, to act in selfish ways, to lie, to break rules, to be undisciplined. Especially children who have been raised in the kind of circumstances as Harry comes from. But Harry so often gets away with it, goes unpunished, unreprimanded, even rewarded for his behavior… except when it suits the plot that he be punished. Children need a sense of boundaries, of rules and those in authority. In the Harry Potter universe the boundaries are fluid, evil is tolerated and the lines between good and evil, between acceptable and unacceptable behavior seem to be arbitrary. Everyone knows that Slytherins are no good and yet there they are, one of the four houses. Why?

    Also, since the final book is clearly aimed at a more mature audience, and since there was such a long delay between the first and final books, the younger, more impressionable reader is precisely the one who is denied that payoff. We don’t see Harry’s redemption until the final act. That might be satisfying for adult readers, but I think it would be troubling for children.

    Additionally, is the whole concept of a flawed hero appropriate for children’s literature? I’m trying to think of other heroes or heroines who develop in such a way. Perhaps there’s a very good reason you don’t find such character development in children’s literature.

    Think of fairy tales and fables. They tend to have very flat characters with very little development. Do children need a more black and white depictions of the world to help them to develop a moral imagination? At what age does a more nuanced morality become appropriate? Look at the stages of moral development and where readers are along that path. Shouldn’t literature for less developed readers take their moral development into account?

  • Honestly, as far as how the adults behave, I’d have to go back and reread – between time and baby brain I just don’t remember well enough.

    Personally I simply do not consider HP children’s books. I think they are far too dark and complex to be considered children’s literature, esp. books 4-7. I know many do consider them children’s lit. but personally I simply cannot agree. I don’t see why any of a multitude of wonderful children’s books are not sufficient to “get children reading.” I mean, if you took Frodo out of LOTR and replaced him with a 5 year old, would that make LOTR children’s lit? Harry is in a most unusual, difficult and dangerous situation and I don’t think simply because he begins the series at 11 years old, the books should be considered appropriate for every 11 year old. But I realize many people would disagree with me.

  • One of the things that struck me about the Dumbledore/Snape set up is that Dumbledore’s weakness in this book is shown to be believing in “the greater good”.  He has fought against this since he realized it as a young man but this situation reeks, to me, of someone slipping up once again.  Further, the killing doesn’t accomplish all Dumbledore hoped for from it.  Draco, acting like Harry Potter and using Expelliarmus instead of Avada Kadavra, has instead become the master of the elder wand. 

    I consider it significant also that it was a truly bad action by Fred and George that sets up the failure of Hogwarts defenses.

    Also, it is interesting to me that the reason Snape could hold off Lord Voldemore turned out to be love.  I had wondered if he was really a very superior wizard and thought that would be cheating since there was no other evidence of it.

    Consider these just talking points.  I also don’t consider 4-7 to be children’s literature.  I think children are reading them but when I consider what else those children are reading I think Harry Potter may be an improvement. 
    Jane Meyerhofer

  • Jane,

    I did really like what Rowling added to our knowledge of Dumbledore’s back story in this book. She made him much more human, much more flawed. Actually, his flaws had been apparent to me throughout the series; but now they were shown for what they were and explained. It made him a much more believable character and to my mind plugged a gaping hole in the series. When Dumbledore was being held up as a sort of paragon of virtue it bugged me because so much of his interaction with Harry was problematic. When Rowling admits that there is a problem, that it has always been there, it’s a breath of fresh air.

    I must have read the end of the book too fast, you lost me on the Fred and George thing. (I have a tendency to do that. i’m so excited to get to the climax I start skimming and miss important details.)

    I do think that one of the most positive things about the Harry Potter series is the emphasis on love and self-sacrifice. Even though I argue that Rowling’s cosmology is secular and not rooted in a Christian worldview, still many of her themes are Christian and that does much to redeem the books. Snape turned out to be one of my favorite characters.

    “when I consider what else those children are reading I think Harry Potter may be an improvement. ”

    That is a very good point. And it makes me so sad. I walk down the children’s book aisle in the bookstore and I see overwhelmingly it is stocked with fluffy series. Bubblegum with almost no literary merit. I had to hunt for a good ten minutes to find Little House in the Big Woods for my niece. And then there’s the ‘young adult” aisle… I get a sick feeling in my stomach. What are we feeding our children?

  • Poison, for some, no doubt about it.  I’m positive that I used to go into bookstores and find lots of stuff that I wanted to read without a huge struggle.  Now I feel as if I Must have a list or I’ll only find trash.  I wouldn’t send my teenagers in alone thinking they’d find lots of good without help.

    You didn’t miss Fred and George, I didn’t explain it very well because I was in a hurry.  It’s just that I’ve noticed that some bad things take a long time to settle up throughout the series. 

    Fred and George stuff Montague in the Vanishing Caabinet in book five.  They are directly defying authority and doing it out of pride.  In book six the result is that Draco figures out how to get the Death Eaters into Hogwarts. 

    To me that’s a very useful “lesson” if you will.  They thought they got away with it but…..

    Rowling’s not Catholic but I think self-sacrifice is really a Christian virtue.  I’m not sure who else preaches it.