Sunday, April 17, 2016


We live in a magical neighborhood.  Literally.  We live within walking distance of Universal Studios,  Hollywood and the new "Wizarding World of Harry Potter."  As subscribers to the "Globe Partner" program offered by Universal to residents within a few blocks of the park, we are invited to previews of new attractions.  So, I was excited when we finally got the invitation for a preview of the new Harry Potter wing.

Liam isn't much into watching movies at home, but he had never seen any of the Harry Potter movies, so I decided to rent the first one from Pay-Per-View before we went.  We managed half of the movie before our preview, but that was enough for him to see the world we'd be entering, and become familiar with things like chocolate frogs, wands and spells.

Our first trip was with a friend.  We rode the rides and went into the wand shop to see the show and purchase wands.  I learned, to my delight, that the wands were fitted with a sensor in the tip, which activated "magic" in twelve of the shop windows, when you moved them in a certain pattern with the "magic words."  The kids were smitten with spell casting and I got great shots of them being helped by friendly wizards, who are stationed near the windows (the sensors are very picky and don't accept any old wand waving!)
This is the wizard that stayed with us when Liam strayed.  I was able to thank him personally on our next visit.

As I was taking a video of Liam's friend, he dashed off to a previous window, without telling us.  This triggered my worst fear.  By the time he dashed off, the area had been opened to the general park attendees and there was a sea of people around me.  I am 4'11" tall.  I hate crowds with a passion BECAUSE I can't see past them.  I swallowed down the panic in my chest while my 6'2" husband scanned over the crowd.

It only took about a minute and a half for my husband to spot Liam in his bright yellow hat (he will forever wear that hat at the park).  As I heard him say, "there he is" and dash through the crowd, I heard the voice of one of the friendly wizards at my left elbow.  "Did you find him?"  He must have followed us.  I knew then that a whole series of "lost child" protocols were about to go into play if the answer had been "no."  Fortunately, the answer was "yes, thank you!"

A week later, Liam said, "I want to go back to Harry Potter to do spells."  In the intervening week, he'd been practicing his spells on us as we tried our best to repeat the animation in the windows.  I had just renewed our season passes and was thrilled to take him back.  We got up and got ready to head to the park just after opening.

"Should we get the ride pass? (the disability access pass that allows us to come back later for rides with a really long line).  "No," he said, "just spells today."  I was thrilled that 1) he was able to be so super-specific about what he wanted and 2) that we live so close that we could go to the park for just an hour or so and it wouldn't feel like a park-day wasted.  He made the spell-casting circuit several times. By the end he had become an expert wizard, and he'd also learned a few more important lessons:

How to handle waiting your turn, when there is no CLEAR line - the markers for the spells are in random places and people don't really form a "line" so much as just gather around.  He needs to learn to be aware of signals that others want to play (Are their wands out? Were they there before you got there?).

Listening to instructions - The wizards that assist with spells give very specific physical instructions.  Because there are lots of people waiting, you need to listen and do your best to follow, so the spell works and someone else can have a turn.
He loved mastering the spells!

Learning to TELL YOUR PARENTS when you want to go to a different place and to TAKE THEM WITH YOU.  The older Liam gets, the more independence he wants.  Being outside of a controlled school situation means that the boundaries are far broader and the need to communicate before heading off is even greater.

On that last point, I realize that I have lessons to learn as well. We need to learn to trust each other.  He's more likely to tell me what he wants to do, if he knows I won't stop him.  So when he wants to climb a tree, ride a bike or run around the track on his own, like any 10 yr. old, I need to let him.  Watch him - yes, but riddle him with cautionary advice or look worried - no.  In addition to living near a theme park, we also live near two parks with great climbing trees.

Time to let the wind blow through the trees - or as they say in Hogsmeade, "Ventus!"

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