Updated: Nov 16
I am a huge fan of Gilmore Girls. Often, when I talk to my friends who have a shared interest in Gilmore Girls, I have discovered that anyone who was watching the show in their teens identified with Rory. And considering this was marketed as a teen show, most of my friends who watched the show were teens at the time and were inspired by Rory, her studiousness, and her love life.
I came to the show as much older than a teen, after my first son was born. Hubs brought it home from the library on DVD and said the thing he always does when he brings home a show for us to watch is, “Just give it one episode and if you don't like it, then we can watch something else.” A week later we’re putting W. to bed at 8 pm and staying up until midnight plowing through all the episodes we could get through the library and the mail-delivery Netflix. W. was a toddler and developed a Pavlovian reaction – the theme song snapped him to attention.
In pop culture at the time, children were often off-screen, overly precocious, or the thing that parents were trying to escape from. And while I agree that Rory definitely fell into the overly precocious category, I was intrigued by a portrayal of a mother and daughter who genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. Especially when you learn how Lorelai had been planning her escape from her family’s home from the second she learned to walk.
My favorite episode of the series is “Dear Emily and Richard” because it flashes back to when Lorelai was a teen mom. I also love the episode where Sookie is freaking out about having her first baby. She’s wearing a gorgeous knit butterfly sweater coat and Lorelai shows her the memento box from Rory’s birth full of relics from the 1980s. When I watched the show, I spent a considerable amount of time relating to Lorelai and trying to assess what kind of mom I wanted to be.
One of the main takeaways from Gilmore’s is that I didn’t have to be the mother that raised me. I could decide what kind of relationship I wanted to have with my kids. And what I wanted more than anything was for my kid to know all the way down to his feet that I loved him, that we could disagree and still love each other, that we could enjoy each other’s company, and that I always had their back.
And then came the first challenge with that. W. didn’t return affection the same way other kids did. I had no good way to assess whether he comprehended how much I loved him.
When I was home in the evenings watching Gilmores and waiting for Hubs to clock out from the night shift, W. and I would hang out watching TV. He didn’t like sitting in my lap. He didn’t ask to be held – in fact, he hated it. He didn’t like playing peekaboo games. He didn’t want me to read him a story. He didn’t like PlayDoh or bubbles. Like a little old man, he only wanted to be left alone with his chair and his stories. As a result, I would place the chair near me and we could at least hold hands. That’s as affectionate as he would get.
After we received his diagnosis of being on the spectrum, things made sense. He didn’t like to be held or hugged because all touch feels too intense to him. He didn’t like to draw because even holding a crayon was awkward and at times painful. He couldn’t follow instructions in class because he could never grasp that when the teacher was talking to the class, they were speaking to him as well. He didn’t talk much because he didn’t know what to say.
But we still had our moments of togetherness. He was a big fan of parallel play, which meant he was content with me being around as long as I let him do his own thing. When we lived in the dorms in Lexington, he and I would sit on the floor together. I would write on my laptop or read for my classes, and he would play with his Lego pirate ships. On the TV, we’d have one of the Pirates of the Caribbean playing in the background. He tells me now that the time we lived in the dorms in Lexington was one of his favorite places. He owned two Lego pirate ships, one from Playmobile, and the ship from The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, so perhaps in his mind he was a commodore.
This was W. and we navigated that. Even now as a teen, he keeps a hoodie with him everywhere he goes because I learned that even a warm breeze across his skin registers as cold. He gets unsettled when there is a sudden change of plans, so Hubs and I keep him updated on any and all changes – who will be home, whether we will go out to dinner or eat at home, or changes in the itinerary when we travel. I’ve watched him laugh so hard with friends that after he needed to retreat to a calm quiet place because the joy was too much. We allow for time and space for processing.
When Behr came along, I had to learn to parent in a different way. W. loved to be alone and retreat into his room with his things. Behr needed human touch. He hugged us and climbed into our laps. He wanted us to read to him. He loved Play-Doh and rough-housing. He followed me from room to room, playing at my feet at my desk or while I cooked in the kitchen. I told Hubs we didn’t have another son; we had a puppy.
And then the second he learned to talk, he wouldn’t shut up. W. and I used to drive to long glorious silences. Sam chatted at me, read stories to his stuffed monkey Guy, or sang along loudly with the radio. Not only did he talk, but he also spoke loudly. We had his hearing checked, but that wasn’t the problem. He just wanted to make sure he was heard. And the person whose attention he wanted was mine. HEY! HEY, MOM! Last week he asked me why everything he said on my blog and on Twitter was in all caps, and I explained it was because he always spoke in all caps.
Now we have these two different personalities and I wonder whether I lean in further to one more than the other. I’ve read how siblings of special needs kids strive for more attention because the ones with special needs usually get all the parents’ attention. And then I wonder if compensating for that tips the scales in the other direction. And it’s tricky because W. retreats to his room whenever possible, while Behr seeks out me and Hubs for a little human interaction. W. needs to moderate his stimuli while Behr wants stimuli all the time. And Behr reflects the love he feels in his expressive face. Parenting siblings is definitely not one size fits all.
W. no longer turns his head to the Gilmore Girls theme song when it plays anymore. In fact, while out at Music Bingo, they played the theme song to the Golden Girls and told me it was the Gilmore theme song. When I corrected him, he told me I watch too many shows with “girls” in the name. Behr doesn’t even acknowledge that he has ever seen Gilmore Girls, despite the fact that it was my background writing TV for the first several years of his life, and is currently mandatory Fall viewing, particularly the “Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving” episode.
And while Lorelai was in no way a perfect mother, I do remember the resourcefulness of the character who sewed clothes for her kid when they were too broke – something I did. Her determination to go continue her education as an adult – something else I did. And how she always rode hard for her kid – which I have done during every IEP meeting or student conference.
And while when he was young I could never assess where I stood with this kid, I’ve learned to accept W.’s subtle exchanges as massive expressions. When he needs me, he hovers near where I am working until I invite him in and ask him what’s wrong. If he’s got something on his mind, he waits until we’re alone driving somewhere to bring it up. We will sit together and drink coffee in the mornings. And before he heads off to bed, I hold my hand up for a high five as he passes, but he always clasps my hand instead. I asked him why once and he said, “Because you’re special.”
Read Books. Wear Boots
We will not be going to brunch this Mother’s Day because trying to score a table in Atlanta is practically impossible. Instead of making your mom wait far too long for a flat mimosa and some Eggs-Benny, buy her a book instead. Check out Mothers of the Missing Mermaid, available both print and digital, before the big day!