When we gather together, the five of us cuddled onto two couches, on Wednesday nights, I know that we’re making memories. The fact that we all choose to wait until the following night to watch it, so that we can ALL watch it together. The fact that it’s never a question that we will not watch it unless we are all present. The fact that all chatter stops, any bickering, all distractions fade away. We are one family, watching another family. And while that other family may be fictional, in so many ways they are just like us.
It’s become our family show, and I love that every one of the five of us will always remember this show and the way it made us feel.
I know our family is not the only one sitting in front of the TV on “This Is Us” night (although most families are watching on Tuesdays, not Wednesdays). Millions of us love this show. There’s something about a show that can have you laughing AND crying at the same time. And yes, that happens often- almost every week!
But there is something so special about this show for me. It’s a show about an imperfect family, trying desperately to love each other, through tragedy and joy, from one generation to the next to the next. And I am so drawn to the mother/daughter relationship that is central to the show’s story. I relate to both characters so much, as both mother and daughter.
While I love Jack, Kevin, and Randall, the male leads on This Is Us, I am touched to the core by the show’s mother, Rebecca, and her beautiful daughter, Kate. Their story spans generations, first as Kate is a young girl, then a teen, and then as she is a woman in her thirties. Their relationship is so complex, as it centers around real issues like Kate’s weight gain, the women’s shared passion for singing, and the tragic death of Jack, Rebecca’s husband and Kate’s dad, and the love of both their lives.
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a show like this, that I’ve ever watched a relationship play out on TV that touches my heart both as a mother and as a daughter.
In one moment, I connect so deeply with Kate, the insecure daughter who struggles to live up to the exceptional family she has been born into. I watch the character struggle between two gorgeous, talented brothers, and I see myself. I watch her look at her mother, and wish she could be more like her, thinking she’ll never measure up, and I’m her. I watch her as a young girl, as an insecure teen, and then as a woman working to understand how such a great man could love her. And I see myself. Kate is vulnerable, and real, and raw. I love her. I am her.
But then, I’m Rebecca. I’m the mother who is drowning in a sea of chaos, raising three children (granted, mine are not triplets, but humor me). I see Rebecca wondering constantly if she is failing her sons or her daughter, wondering why her daughter is so angry with her, wondering why some days one kid is so easy to parent, and why another day that same kid is crushing her, and I see myself in her. I see the mother who wants desperately to connect with her daughter, while that daughter keeps pushing her away, and I fear- will I become that mother, too?
There are moments when I watch this show, and I look at my daughter, and my heart catches in my throat. I see these characters on TV, a mother trying so hard to love her daughter, a daughter seeing nothing but those things she thinks she’ll never become, and I want to weep.
And so this is why I love this show. Rebecca is an imperfect mother. Just like my mother is. Just like the mother I am.
Kate is an insecure, overwhelmed, vulnerable, and beautiful daughter. Just like my daughter. Just like the daughter I was, and am. Just like the daughter my mother surely was.
I’m lucky enough to have just one daughter. She and I get to do this crazy dance together, just the two of us. Just like my mother and I have been doing.
You may be lucky enough to have more than one, so you get to all do mother daughter life together. No matter what it looks like, it’s beautiful, and it’s so very hard.
So to my mother, I say, thank you. I see how hard you tried to love me. How hard you still try. You made mistakes, but you have always loved me so hard. You are the beautiful Rebecca to my precious Kate.
And to my daughter, I say, thank you. I say please, be patient with me. I’m trying so hard to love you. I’m making so many mistakes, but I love you so hard. You are the precious Kate to my vulnerable Rebecca.