Nancy writes regularly over at her website Chef’s Last Diet. This post was initially featured there.
For most of the last year my daughter and I have been watching the Gilmore Girls, and last week we started the final season. Of course we’re excited about the new episodes slated to air later this year on Netflix, but we’re sad about reaching the end of something that has become an important part of our mother-daughter conversation. We have already started planning how and when we’ll watch the last episode, and if you’re a fan of the show you’ll understand why we’re also planning our menu. It is sure to be a bittersweet event.
We watch one or two episodes each week, often over dinner. I was never a fan of watching TV during meals, but the Gilmore Girls have changed my opinion. Add to that where my daughter and I both are in our lives, and by the time we arrive home from our respective long days we’re tired. We also usually have work waiting for us after we eat. Watching during dinner is a nice way for us to decompress.
Another benefit to watching together has been how the show has opened the door to many subjects of great value. As individuals we’re not like Rory and Lorelei, but as a mother and daughter trying to navigate life when it sometimes feels like the two of us against the world, we have a lot in common. We’ve watched Rory grow up from a bookish and serious 15-year-old to a strong and confident senior at Yale. We’ve seen them both through relationships and situations, and each time we get another opportunity to talk about what went wrong, and how we might make that same mistake, or what other (better) choices we’d make.
Years (and years) of therapy have taught me the value of verbalizing problems as the most effective way to unravel them and reach some clarity. My daughter doesn’t share my perspective, and though she’ll endure the occasional emotional conversation (and reluctantly concede that it helped) she would mostly “rather not talk about it,” but when we can start the conversation with one or both of the Gilmore Girls as the subject it’s often a shortcut to what she may really need to discuss.
One of my strongest beliefs about parenthood is that my primary role is to help my child become the best and truest version of herself. To accomplish this, or even to attempt it, means I must pay attention and truly listen. And I must fight my impulse to impose my notions about what I want her to do or be. As we watch Rory and Lorelei experience Rory’s adolescence and early adulthood it gives us a context to broach new territory. Lorelei isn’t my role model as a parent, but I am doing everything I know how to do, and guessing at the rest in my desire to build and nurture the kind of bond Rory and Lorelei share.
What I love about Lorelei is how deeply flawed she is as a friend, daughter, mother, and girlfriend. Like me, she can’t seem to quite get it right. Daughters need flawed and bumbling mothers; who else can show them what it means to keep on trying? My daughter needs to see me screw up and fall down so she can see me apologize, make amends, and stand back up. She needs to hear me talk about my failures as much as my successes; she needs to see my humanity to learn to embrace her own. She needs to know strength isn’t in perfection, but in perseverance, and if anyone perseveres it’s Lorelei Gilmore (and me).
We’re currently shopping around for a new show to replace Gilmore Girls, though nothing truly will. We’d like to find something with many seasons. I had considered Castle ( recommended by my sister, as she and her daughter loved it) but I haven’t been able to find the older episodes. I have a feeling that when we finally choose something it won’t have the same meaning for us as watching the Gilmore Girls has. I think we’ll have to content ourselves with the four upcoming Netflix episodes. But I am absolutely open to suggestions.