As a longtime Gilmore Girls fan, there have been so many times that I've wished that my mom was more like Lorelai Gilmore, or at least that my mom would learn to have more chill in some parenting situations. Of course, now that I'm a parent, I understand that boundaries have to be established between parents and kids. Almost every day I vacillate between wanting to be the fun, chill mom and the mom who sets boundaries and rules. I'm quickly starting to realize that it's pretty damn hard to parent like Lorelai Gilmore, if you want your kids to actually pay attention to you and listen.
Since the Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls premiered last month, however, I have found myself wondering: is there any way to strike a balance between my parenting style and that of Lorelai Gilmore? I decided to find out firsthand. So I parented like Lorelai Gilmore for one week and here’s what happened.
For a whole week, I channeled my inner Lorelai to parent my girls the way she parented Rory. I planned to approach each parenting situation by asking “What Would Lorelai Do?," or WWLD for short. I wanted to focus on being supportive, honest, authentic, and treating my daughters like adults.
We celebrated my youngest daughter’s birthday with a giant cupcake after a pizza dinner. Of course, my older daughter noticed that her little sister was getting a lot more attention, so she decided to act out. First, she threw a fit because she didn’t get the same amount of carrots as her sister (an error that was rectified by us adding one more carrot to her plate). Then she started talking like a baby after we sang happy birthday to her little sister.
In true Lorelai Gilmore fashion, I opted to get honest. I told my daughter that I thought the only reason she was acting out was because she was upset that her sister was getting a lot of attention.
Normally, I would have tried to talk to my daughter about her feelings and let her express herself so we could come to a resolution together. But in true Lorelai Gilmore fashion, I opted to get honest. I told my daughter that I thought the only reason she was acting out was because she was upset that her sister was getting a lot of attention. I told her I thought she was acting out because she was jealous, and while I understood that because we all get a little jealous sometimes, she needed to allow her sister to enjoy her birthday.
“I need attention,” she said.
"You’ll get some one-on-one time with me or your dad, like you do both do every night," I told her. "But we have to finish celebrating your sister’s birthday. She still pouted for a bit, but she started to rein in her bad behavior after that.
My daughter is a jokester. But because my girls are still young, her sense of humor isn't exactly the most erudite. Her idea of a joke is something like, "What does a poop in a toilet say? Ca ca ca." That said, in the spirit of this experiment I decided to do what Lorelai would do and engage in some witty repartée with my daughter. Just as Lorelai and Rory make up ridiculous scenarios, I jumped onboard when my daughter said she wanted us to be "party cats," even though I had no idea what that meant.
"What do I do since I’m Charli the Cool Cat?," I asked her. "Do I help or am I in charge?”
“Oh, I’m in charge and this is what we do," she said. "We decorate the walls with peppermints and put jelly beans on the ceiling and Dum-Dums on the floor and use balloons and glitter."
“OK, but I want to throw confetti and steamers all over the room and play Gwen Stefani and have special dress-up outfits for the guests," I said.
"OK, sure," she responded. "They will love it. We will throw the best parties and everyone will dance and it will be the best party ever.”
Then we meowed at each other for about 5 minutes. How's that for Lorelai/Rory-inspired witty banter?
Lorelai was all about creating untraditional traditions, like throwing kooky birthday parties that result in the cops being called, or heading to Atlantic City to do 21 crazy things for Rory's 21st birthday. We have an annual tradition of walking around the neighborhood to check out Christmas lights, but this year, we decided to take it up a notch by starting a family ugly sweater collection. The girls got to pick their own sweaters, and we walked around the neighborhood wearing them while sipping on hot chocolate. It wasn’t as wacky a tradition as, say, making the world’s largest pizza, but it was perfect for us.
The holidays make everything seem 110 times more stressful, so it's always a good idea to take a day off and rest up a little. For us, Friday was that day. We took the girls out to a Winterfest event, where the kids could play in snow, admire the Christmas lights, and run around. Just like Lorelai and Rory, who spent their Friday nights enjoying movies and junk food, I let my kids eat kettle popcorn, lemonade, and cookies for dinner. (Later, we had a dinner of Flamebroiler, because let's face it, they're growing girls — they needed something more substantial than sweets.) Later that night, we all watched Megamind for the billionth time and enjoyed popcorn and juice.
My husband and I try to be supportive of our daughters' passions, even if that entails dressing up in tutus and putting on performances in the living room. But sometimes, I have to rein it in. After all, if I let my daughters dress up like superheroes or ballerinas every single day, then they'd leave the house looking pretty strange.
In the spirit of this experiment, however, I decided to let my daughters dress however they wanted. Just like Lorelai, who supported Rory in almost everything she did, I told my daughters it was totally OK for them to wear their favorite colorful hair clips in public, or their favorite mismatched outfits. If I can support their crazy hairstyles, rain boots with every outfit and penchant for brightly colored hair, then I'll be able to more easily support their inevitable emo and goth phases later in life.
Sometimes, it seems like my daughters only have two settings: extremely cuddly and happy, or pissed off and mean. Some days, we can get by with few tantrums, fighting or crying sessions; other days, however, it’s as if every little thing I do makes them angry, and the only thing I can do is let them cry it out and work through their emotions.
Before Rory finally, finally, figured out she needed to get her butt back in gear and enroll in Yale, Lorelai gave her the space she needed to come to that decision. That’s why, when everything seemed to be upsetting my youngest daughter today, I gave her some space. figuring she would seek me out when she needed me. It was tough, because I just wanted to talk her down and cuddle her, but I could tell that wasn't what she needed. So I told her I was going to leave her alone in the playroom to cry or yell or do whatever she needed to do to feel better, and that I’d be in the living room if she needed me.
It took her a few minutes to settle down, but eventually she did. When she came to find me, I asked her if she wanted a hug, and she nodded and asked to be picked up. As we cuddled, I thought about how I had given her the space to deal with her own emotional issues, and she had come to me of her own accord to find comfort. To be honest, it made me feel like I was totally rocking parenting.
My daughters are always going through some sort of new phase. One week, they love hot dogs; the next week, they gag at the mention of them. Channeling my inner Lorelai, I wanted to push my daughter out of her comfort zone, the way she did with Rory when she convinced her to go to winter formal with Dean or join the Puffs. I talked my daughter into doing two things that scared her: eating noodles with sauce and driving her Minion car around the garage.
The whole eating spaghetti thing didn’t have the best start, as she gagged twice before calming down enough to put the noodle in her mouth. The minion car was also a tough sell, because my daughter doesn’t like how “fast” it goes: all it took was one time pushing the gas too hard to scare the s**t out of her.
So I put her in the car, strapped on her helmet and tried talking to her like an adult. “Sometimes it’s important to try things more than once to figure out how we really feel about it,” I explained. “Like spaghetti and ravioli, you didn’t like it before, but once you tried it a few times you realized you do like it. Maybe that’s how it will be with this toy.”
At first, she didn’t really buy it. But after promising that I would be right there to make sure she didn't go too fast, she grabbed hold of the wheel and tentatively pushed on the gas. Then she did it again, and again, but never hard enough to go too far.
Parenting like Lorelai was really fun, especially when I forced myself to focus on fun rather than discipline and just let my kids be the little jokesters that they are. I also realized that giving my kids space when they needed it and pushing them out of their comfort zones could be really beneficial, albeit in the right circumstances. I’m not going to let them eat a bunch of junk food every Friday night, nor am I planning on sleeping with them in their dorm rooms when they're in college. But this week taught me that weaving some fun and silliness into my parenting style could be beneficial for me and my girls.
I already talk to my girls like adults, and I try to let them work out their spats with friends and each other on their own. But this experiment taught me that I can also let them have enough space to work through their emotions. In general, the experiment helped me find a happy balance between Lorelai's parenting style and my own. Now, if we could just nail down that whole Lorelai/Rory banter thing...