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A Mother’s Love: Lessons from Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Another Hollywood tragedy hit us last week when Carrie Fisher, who played the beloved Princess Leia in the iconic Star Wars franchise, passed away on December 27. The next day tragedy struck again when Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, the classic Hollywood starlet from Singin’ in the Rain, also passed away.

And today, they were laid to rest together.

In the wake of this sad news, I’ve seen many reporting on the well-documented complicated mother-daughter relationship that Debbie and Carrie had. Growing up in the shadow of her parents’ spotlight drove Carrie to drinking and drugs at an early age, and she would go on to survive much-publicized bouts with addiction and mental illness in the years to come. She spent many years of her life trying to recover, and even became estranged from her mother, refusing to speak to her for almost a decade.

I’m sure Debbie spent many nights up late worrying about her daughter. We mothers know the old adage is true: “We are only as happy as our least happy child.” But no matter how turbulent their relationships may have gotten, I believe there is a lesson for parents woven into all those difficult years.

There’s a lesson for parents woven into Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds’ complicated relationship.

No matter how wayward our children are, this video clip of Debbie and Carrie later on in life reminded me that a mother’s persistent love is absolutely crucial to a child’s happiness.

Mothers, if you are having difficulty with a child right now, take Carrie’s words about her mother to heart: “I take her advice. I follow her example. I respect who she is and… if I’m like her in any way, I’m very, very happy that I am.”

This interview is from 2011, when Carrie was about 55 years old and her mother was 79. Sometimes it takes decades for a mother’s love to finally register with a child, but it always does. Even when she isn’t aware of it, your love is affecting her. It is moving her toward a better path for herself, and someday she will turn around and see the impact you’ve had on her for the better.

In the meantime, take heart and be patient. I often tell mothers to focus on the “big things” in motherhood. Don’t worry so much about all the little details social media and other moms tell you to worry about, like obsessing over feeding your child only organic food or ensuring she is involved in the proper extracurricular activities.

Moms: take heart, be patient and focus on the “big things”.

When it comes to being a good mother, it’s really more simple than that.

Focus on being kind.

It’s always good to discipline with courage and kindness. Sometimes being kind in the heat of the moment is difficult. Take a few breaths, go for a run, do whatever you need to do to be kind in difficult moments with your child.

Focus on speaking well.

Our kids hear everything we say, whether we are talking to them or someone else. Words are powerful. They can heal relationships or crush them, shape the identity of your children or deeply injure it. Jesus always chose his words wisely, and he used them to build people up not cut them down. Pay attention to your words and the tone that you use.

Focus on being tough, in the right way.

Forgoing discipline, failing to stick to rules and blurring boundaries makes kids crazy. Kids need to look at their moms and see stoicism. They won’t listen to a mother who is a pushover, who can’t make up her mind or who has no convictions. But they will listen to a mother who knows who she is and makes no apologies.

Focus on loving unconditionally.

This is what I see most in Debbie Reynolds’ love for her daughter. She never gave up on Carrie and continued to love her no matter what, and eventually, Carrie came around

Loving a child who is not obedient, who is making poor choices and who is disrespectful is tough, but this is exactly when a mother’s love can make all the difference. Loving your child when no one else will is what being a good mom is all about. That’s where we shine. Ask God to give you grace to love better.

The mother-daughter story of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher is truly tragic, but it is also hopeful. It brings hope to every mother out there who loves a child as much as she worries about that child. It shows us that redemption and reconciliation is made possible through a mother’s fierce, determined and unconditional love.


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