“Mom, are you mad?” She handed me another stack of dirty plates.
“I just don’t agree, hon. I don’t think it’s true.” I took the plates and glanced up quickly to her earnest eyes.
“Mom, it’s who I am. Don’t you see it? It totally makes sense.” She picked up a handful of dirty silverware.
Of course I saw it. In the clothes she wore, the books she read, the memes she laughed at. Her identity had been uncoiling in front of us for months. It scared me.
“Honey, you’re in 6th grade! I think it’s, like, a phase, you know? I don’t think you have to make a declaration for your whole life right now.” I scrubbed a platter with anxious vigor.
“Mom. Don’t tell me I’m going to outgrow it. This is who I am.” She stopped clearing the table and looked at me.
“Honey, please. It can’t be true. Why would anyone choose that for themselves?” I looked down at the sink.
“Mom, I didn’t choose it. It’s how I’m made.”
I turned off the water and looked up at my beautiful 12 year old’s face. She was standing straight, strong, and sure looking at me with defiance and hope.
“Mom, I’m a Slytherin.”
* * * * *
Slytherin? The wizards at J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore website had sorted my daughter and declared her a member of the House of Slytherin. She was now in the same clan as the notorious, vengeful, selfish, evil, bullying villains of my kids’ beloved Harry Potter books. They want world domination at any cost. Their symbol is a snake. They delight in killing the good guys. I was appalled.
It was like finding out your daughter was in Stormtrooper training and wanted to be Darth Vader. Or that she liked Tolkein’s Orcs and didn’t think Sauron was that bad. Or that she was happily dating Johnny, the guy who “sweeps the leg” to cripple Ralph Macchio in Karate Kid.
I wanted a cheery Hufflepuff girl to find the good in the world and help multiply it. Or a courageous Gryffindor girl to go after what’s wrong in the world and fix it. Or an intelligent Ravenclaw girl to revel in the witty intricacies of life and teach us all. Any of those would be fine. I wanted daughter that’s easy to like and easy to understand.
But we don’t always get what we want.
I don’t think my mom did.
I was dearly and deeply loved in my home growing up. But I was definitely in the wrong House. In all the different ways we could be sorted, I didn’t match anyone else in my family.
- “We’re all Second-Born’s, Aimee. You’re a Firstborn.”
- “You’re such a Choleric Melancholy. We’re all more Phlegmatic.”
- “Well, you are the only Red Head.”
- “I think you’re in the only Extrovert in our whole family.”
- “So you want to study Literature? Why not Medicine or Business like everyone else?”
- “Why do you like the Liturgical church? We are Non-Denominational.”
In a family that prized peace, quiet, and going with the flow, I was a boat rocker, questioner, and instigator. I liked to dig deep, pick fights, and tell the truth. (I was also a melodramatic exaggerator.) The times I felt most myself were also when I felt most misunderstood. The things that came naturally to them were almost impossible for me. Sometimes I cheated on assessments make my answers come out to match my family. But I always cringed at the summary pages – I couldn’t be like them no matter how hard I tried.
I assumed all my differences were probably sins. I begged God to fix me.
When I left my loving home to grow up, I found my House. I found friends, teachers, mentors, counselors and a husband who got me. They called me more into my true self. I belonged.
I learned the things that made me different were actually God’s gifts, for my own soul and the whole world. What I assumed were my weakness and faults were strengths and callings. I re-took and re-read all the assessments with different eyes. This is how God made me. And it is good.
But was that true for my daughter? Did God make her a Slytherin?
I wish I could tell you the night my girl came out I dried my soapy hands, opened my arms up to her with a smile, held her tight, and said, “I love you.” But I didn’t.
I refused to believe it. I actually cried about it with my husband behind closed doors. I prayed, “God, please don’t let my daughter be a Slytherin. Please change her.” I didn’t want her to tell anyone else about her House. I talked about it with her counselor. I wrote former babysitters and asked them to tell me if it was possible for a good Christian girl to also be a Slytherin. They were not encouraging.
I know it doesn’t matter. I know this arbitrary label from a website about a young adult fiction series doesn’t matter. What matters is my daughter.
My job as a mom is to make an unconditionally loving home for my kids, regardless of their House. That means creating a refuge so vibrant that all the Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws and Slytherins who enter are sure I’m in the same House as them. How did I forget that?
I needed to fix that right away.
I ran upstairs and opened her door quietly. She lay in the dark with her hair in a messy topknot and Twenty One Pilots blasting on her nightstand. I silently crawled on the bed and lay next to her. I reached for her hand and held it tight. I whispered, “Thank you, God, for my Slytherin daughter.”
I’m not sure if she heard me and pretended to stay asleep, or if the conversation was just between me and my daughter’s creator. Either way, it was a turning point. A first step. I stayed silent next to my daughter a long time, smiling in the dark.
Aimee Fritz is a Firstborn, INFJ, Ennegram 4, Melancholic, in the House of Gryffindor. She delights in telling long, true tales about everyday absurdities in her suburban life. Read more of her stories about world changers, souls, and big mistakes at familycompassionfocus.com
© Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2016.