Good, Old-Fashioned Fathers

By Bob Hiller

Let me just preface this blog by saying this is hands down going to be the geekiest post I’ve ever written. I’ll try to get back to sports next week. It’s just, well… Harry Potter is so freaking fun! OK, to the post.

This past Christmas, we purchased the Harry Potter series for my daughter. After reading them together for the past few months, this past week, we finished the seventh and final book. Now, let me warn you. If you have a 9-ish year old daughter and you decide to read the series with her, be prepared to have your life taken over by all things Potter. My boys are on board now too, and our house has become a virtual Hogwarts. The kids are turning their chopsticks into wands, pointing and yelling “wingardium leviosa” at anything in sight. (For all you muggles out there, “wingardium leviosa” is a spell that causes objects to levitate, and no, I didn’t even have to look that up.) My four-year-old is drawing lightening scars on his forehead, and I’m pretty sure he’s cast every unforgiveable curse on me at least three times in the last week. We have Potter fever, and I’m loving every minute of it!

One of my favorite characters in the books is Arthur Weasley. He is the wizard father to the rather large Weasley family, the wizarding family which takes Harry Potter under their wing. Arthur is great. One of my favorite parts of the whole book is when his sons Fred, George, and Ron steal a car which Arthur has enchanted to make fly in an effort to pick up Harry from his house. They get caught by their mother, who gives them the good old wait-till-your-father-gets-home speech. When Arthur does arrive home from work, the sheepish boys sit at the table, staring at their plates as their mother hurls the accusations against them. When Arthur, who had yet to test the car, finds out that they got it to fly, he responds with excitement, curiosity, and a glimmer of pride in his boys: “Did you really? How did it go?” “It is perfect,” Molly Weasley scowls. The boys grin at their dad. It is perfect. (If you’ve read Dr. Keith’s book Being Dad, this makes total sense.)

Now, as I mentioned, we are recently obsessed with this stuff in my house, so when we finished watching one of the movies the other day, my kids and I decided to dive into the special features. We watched several interviews where the cast discussed the various characters. In interviewing Julie Walters, the woman who plays Weasley mom Molly pointed out that Arthur Weasley is the only really good father in the whole series. Walters comments something to the effect of, “Arthur’s character is sort old-fashioned.” It’s as though strong fathers are a thing of the past, a sort of old romantic ideal that we’ve finally moved past in our enlightened, post-chivalrous age. Isn’t that Arthur Weasley/head of the household thing cute? But can you believe people used to think of dads like that?

It struck me that this is precisely why I love the Arthur Weasley character. J. K. Rowling has given us a picture of what a good dad actually looks like (regardless of the condescending comments from a “woke” actress). Arthur Weasley takes a playful pride in his sons’ mischief, but he is also a father who works hard to provide for his family. Though they are poor, he gives them a good home. He fights for his family and will not allow anyone to talk down to his children (he literally gets in a fist fight in a bookstore to defend his family against his rival, Lucius Malfoy). There is even a profound scene of fatherly grace when the Weasley’s prodigal son, Percy, comes back to join his family in the war against evil. Percy had aspired to great things and felt his family held him back. Though he worked near his father at the Ministry of Magic, he treated his father and family as though he was their superior. But (spoiler alert here), towards the end, Percy comes home, recanting of his pride and seeking to join his family in the war against Voldemort (the story’s main villain). Percy’s is the story of the older brother in Jesus’ prodigal son parable if he were to join the party! Arthur embraces his son, weeping and rejoicing at his return.

All of this geeking out on Harry Potter is to say that I am happy that Rowling has given us a marvelous picture a good, old fashioned father. We need more of those. We need fathers who delight in the curiosity of their children, fight for their families and teach their families to fight for what is right, and forgive their children no matter what shame they have brought upon the family. It may be old-fashioned to think of fathers this way, but it is also objectively good for fathers to be this way. It is remarkable (and delightful) to me that in a day and age where traditional families are considered a thing of the past, something as culturally significant as Harry Potter gives us a picture of what a family with a strong father can look like. Arthur Weasley reminds us of what a gift a good, old-fashioned father is.