15 Father's Day Lessons From Harry Potter

by Hannah Nelson-Teutsch

For a story centered around the adventures of an orphan, the Harry Potter books have quite a lot to say about what it means to be a parent. From hazy dreams of a green flash and a loud cry among the cobwebs of a broom cupboard, to desperate rendezvous in dangerous graveyards, Harry Potter never stops searching for his parents within the wreckage of the past. And, along the way, he builds a strong new family to stand by him in the harsh light of the present day.

Although we may not all come from the same background as Harry — and it's unlikely that many of us were carried off on a levitating motorbike to pursue our destiny at a wizarding academy — it's not hard to identify with Harry's search for love, acceptance, and above all belonging. After all, families are built and not born. The unconditional love, understanding, and support so integral to the making of a modern relationship certainly doesn't descend fully formed with the dashing off of a signature on a birth certificate, which means that there's no day like Father's Day to celebrate all the hard work, dedication, and devotion that goes into raising a morally upstanding, smart, honest, talented, and brave young man woman, or wizard.

Because parenting is hard and growing up independent is no walk in the park, because no matter how torturous the search Harry never stops looking for love, and because sometimes the greatest gift of all is simply a hand to hold when the going gets tough, Father's Day is the perfect day to celebrate 15 times Harry Potter taught lessons that a dad would.

Friends Are Forever

Although Wormtail isn't much to speak of by way of an ally, he certainly comes through when it counts (whether he wants to or not), and Moody, Padfoot, and Prongs form the core structure upon which both the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter's basic support structure are built. As legacies go, James Potter's friends may have been far more valuable to Harry than an invisibiltiy cloak ever was, an everlasting gift and an omnipresent reminder about the power of friendship.

Becoming a Man (or Woman) Is Rarely Easy and Never Fun

James Potter had to work to shake off the sniveling Quidditch diva he once was and earn the love of Lily and Harry in turn. Growing into true power and responsibility takes time and effort, but if the love and legacy of James Potter have taught us anything at all they have surely conveyed that all that effort is worth it in the end.

Play to Your Strengths

It was the traitor Barty Crouch who snuck Harry past the Horntail at the Triwizard Tournament with the winning advice, "play to your strengths," but it was Harry who made the final flight and secured the points necessary to move on in competition. You may not like what you've inherited from your family, but there's no day like Father's Day to explore how you can play to your strengths rather than running away from them.

Be True To Yourself

Lily and James Potter never gave in to You Know Who because at the very core of their beings they knew just exactly who they were. From his devotion to Dobby to his early and lasting love of GInny, Harry Potter carries on the tradition of his father's strong sense of self, and offers a welcome reminder to the rest of us that honesty is always the best policy.

Legacy Is Overrated

As Harry tells his own son at the tail end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, even the sorting hat takes into account your own explicit preference. Although family and legacy surely matter a great deal, at the end of the day it is what you decide to do with all that you've been given that truly counts.

Courage Comes to Those Who Earn It

Although bravery sometimes seems innate, the true measure of courage is far more complicated. Whether it's standing up for your friends or fighting for what you know you believe in, don't expect bravery to simply settle upon your shoulders like an invisibility cloak. Whether making the transformation to an animangus to be with his best friend or struggling to save Lily in the face of certain death, James Potter is the perfect reminder that courage is something we earn by action, not by right.

Make Your Own Destiny

Prophecies and curses not withstanding, nothing is never certain in this lifetime. A walk through Godric's Hollow and a stop at the gravesite of Lily and James is enough to remind every Potter fan that life is short, and our destinies are entirely of our own choosing. So before you give in to your own dire circumstances, think back to James Potter and grab your life by the horns — you're the one driving this train.

Live Life to the Fullest

Stand by your friend at all costs, marry the girl of your dreams, place your faith in the people you love, and for gods sake don't bother learning potions if you don't have any interest in the subject. You only have one life to live, and if James Potter has gotten through to you at all, surely he has conveyed the importance of living that one life to the fullest.

Families are Built, Not Born

As the adopted son of Petunia and Vernon Dursley, Harry Potter knows better than anyone that your family is more a matter of choice than blood. Of course, just because you can look outside your genetic code for the soulmates you deserve, that doesn't mean you have to.

All the Fun Happens Out of Bounds

Sometimes parenting is about learning to let go, and sometimes true love means soldiering on when all the ordinary boundaries lie back in the distance. For all the times James Potter encouraged Harry to break the rules and think outside the box, salute him as a father who knew that true greatness doesn't always follow a formula.

Haters Gonna Hate

As a casualty of the war against Voldemort, James Potter's life taught Harry that sometimes living with animosity or even outright hatred is just proof of a righteous existence. Although it can be hard to stay the course when animus is pouring in from all sides, Father's Day is the perfect day to learn from James Potter's example and let the haters go right on hating without changing your tune by even one single note.

You Are the Company You Keep

The difference between a death eater and a member of the Order of the Phoenix is measured most closely by friendship and the bonds of love and trust. After all, it's all fun and games among the rough crowd until muggles are being levitated and the dark mark burns in the sky. So, consider living by the Potter family example and choosing your friends wisely.

Stay Vigilant

The Dali Lama might call it being in the moment, but Professor Moody (the real Alastor Moody, that is) would certainly term it constant vigilance. Whether the wisdom is handed down through his dear friends or beloved colleagues, James Potter never fails to impart to his son the value of complete situational awareness.

Learn From Your Mistakes, and Then Move On

We all make mistakes — James Potter trusted Wormtail to be his secret keeper, and in so doing lost his family and his life. And yet, even in death, James Potter makes his way towards his son, and young Harry never stops seeking his family. Let's face it — in this lifetime, mistakes will be made; the best we can hope for is a quick bounce back after a long fall.

Love Lasts Forever

When the end is near, Harry Potter's parents are by his side, standing with him against the forces of darkness until the fates have their way with good and evil. If there's one thing at all the Potterverse has taught us about family, surely it has conveyed that love lasts forever, no matter what.

Image:Warner Bros.