Updated: Oct 12, 2021
This weekend Sophia, my eldest, and I are going to L.A. to tour two colleges that are on her application list. We have agreed to coordinate our outfits so we can dress like the Gilmore Girls.
Sophia and I watched the whole series together on Netflix when she was a freshman in high school, and the act of doing so strengthened our bond and gave an edge to what was already our daily, witty banter. In this, one of my greatest desires was fulfilled! I had a daughter who liked to spend time with me, who felt I could relate to her, and with whom I had a special and intimate language. When I published my book two years ago, in the acknowledgements I wrote, “Sophia, you are the Rory to my Lorelai, but with better boundaries and a happy ending.” From my pen to God’s ear. Because as fans of the show who watched the Year in the Life Netflix special know, Rory didn’t exactly live up to her potential, and ended up still secretly dating her college boyfriend Logan ten years later, while he was engaged to someone else. Sigh. Why would you do such a thing, Rory? I was obsessed with "Gilmore Girls" when it was originally on television from 2000-2007. My friend Josie and I loved the show so much that the night before her wedding, we watched two episodes and drank a bottle of champagne. We loved the non-stop banter and pop-culture references, the quirky Stars Hollow characters, the will-they-or-won’t they romance between Luke and Lorelai. The New England seasons. The bootcut jeans and shrunken blazers. The constant coffee drinking. Megan McCarthy as best friend Suki before she came to glory in her own right as a leading-lady comedian. I could go on. Newly graduated from college, I related more to Rory than Lorelai. She was an avid reader, a perfectionist student, a journalist, a writer. Someone who became overly attached to fictional characters. All the things I was (and still am as this blog suggests). And most enviable of all to my eyes, she had a deep sense of belonging within her community, and an incredible bond with her mother. Their lifestyle was something I craved from a place deep in my soul. I became a mother to Sophia in 2004, when the show was still on air. I began to shift my gaze to Lorelai. She was so young, and fun, and hip. She was the mom that other kids came to confide in when their moms didn’t relate. As a not-yet-recovered codependent, I was all about that. I imagined being that mama, fixing all the teenage girls’ problems, giving boy advice, making pots of coffee, taking everyone shopping, and ordering Chinese food for a crowd. But when I re-watched the show as the mother of a 14-year-old, and a woman who had done a lot of personal boundaries work, therapy, and twelve step, this is what I saw: Lorelai has terrible boundaries. She crosses into other people’s lives inappropriately and regularly. She has a very toxic relationship with her mother, and maintains it so that her parents will continue to give money to her daughter’s education. She complains and is deeply sarcastic both about and to her mother, but she never makes mature decisions to change her life. She also makes bad decisions about men. It takes her a decade to end up with the one man who actually loves her and is a responsible adult. And, perhaps worst of all, she makes her teenage daughter bear the weight of her emotional well-being. So when Rory ends up in a toxic relationship with (he’s a fictional character so I’m not being judgey) a playboy alcoholic in the follow-up series, it’s a real downer for Rory fans, but the most realistic storyline that the screenwriters have come up with yet. Thankfully, my Sophia sees all this in the show. One day, I said something about wanting to be her Lorelai, and she said, “Ack. Lorelai is my nightmare mother. She never has stable enough relationships for her daughter to have a father-figure and she’s totally emotionally immature.” I felt like I’d just earned a gold star as a parent. Because my kid could articulate this! And also, because she told me, so the likelihood that I am her nightmare mother is very, very low.
My favorite scriptures on parenting are written to fathers, but I think they are just as important to mothers. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” And Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” There are so many ways we can exasperate and embitter our kids. We can nag them, pressure them, criticize them, fail to really see them, overtax them with cares, and ask them to bear too much before they are adults. Working in Christian recovery, I see the pain caused to people by their parents.
But the worst thing a parent can do, in my opinion, the most exasperating and embittering thing, is when a parent persists in acting like a child, never growing up into emotional maturity. Parents who never become functioning adults exasperate their kids with their needs, and try to teach their children to do things that they themselves are not doing. The “do as I say, not as I do” approach will rob our kids of hope, health and power. As Rory shows us. I’m grateful for all the personal work God has muscled me into to doing so I could grow the freak up! It was not his will that I should be Lorelai. And I’m grateful that His vision for me was higher than my vision for myself.
So why do we still adore the show and want to dress like them as we walk through college campuses? Well, another great thing I’ve learned in Christian recovery is the phrase, “Take what you like and leave the rest.” Just like real people, we can still see the loveliness of the Gilmore Girls while we are fully aware of their flaws. It is a beautiful thing to don one’s bootcut jeans, get a hot cup of coffee, and stroll through a college campus arm in arm, dreaming of life’s great potential and quoting movie dialogue. It’s a great thing when a youthful, silly mom and her brilliant, old-soul daughter find common ground and true companionship.
I’m a grateful mama today. And pray, as I continue to help my daughter grow up, that I’ll continue to grow up, too.