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Lorraine in Normal People is the mother we all want to be. Fierce, frank, funny – she tells it like it is, even when that makes for some hard truths.
My awe and admiration for Lorraine, mum of the teenage male lead Connell Waldron, reached epic proportions in episode three, when – on a car journey home from her cleaning shift – she tells her son he is being a bad person.
Sarah Greene, who plays Lorraine in the BBC Three’s pitch perfect adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel, conveys her horror perfectly when she heard that Connell – who has been having a secret sexual relationship with female lead, Marianne – is taking a different girl to the high school ball. Or ‘Debs’ as it’s known in Sligo.
“Pull over,” she says grimly, looking straight ahead, as her son drives them home from the Sheridans where she works as a cleaner and Connell turns up periodically to sleep with Marianne. “You’re fucking her and you wouldn’t say hello to her in public? I think you’re a disgrace and I’m ashamed of you.”
She then gets out, adding: “If I stay in the car I’m going to say things I regret.”
Bravo, Lorraine. Her speech is important and exquisite and boils things down to the inescapable fact that when your child is being a shitty person, you need to tell them – because you love them. If we can’t tell our kids when they’re doing something wrong or hurtful, who can?
I’d go further and say it’s our duty to act like Lorraine. I’m storing up what she said to use with my own son, should the situation ever arise in the future (at the moment, he’s only three). Woe betide him if it does.
In a later scene, back in their own house, Lorraine spells out to a moping Connell, no holds barred, what he did.
“You hurt her feelings,” she says – and when he retorts that that’s “an over-reaction”, she sets him straight. “You hurt her,” she says. “You did something really unkind, and you hurt her. I don’t want to be on your side on this one. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that you’re feeling bad about this.”
In that moment, Lorraine might not be on her son’s side – but in long the run she is, and I’m definitely on hers. I’ve fallen as much in love with Normal People as so many others, but for me, in a show that’s all about relationships, their mother-son dynamic really is one of the most important. It never veers away from being loving. But it’s also angry, precisely when needed.
Lorraine, a single parent, is the perfect role model of what it means to develop honest, open communication and trust with your child. She shows the importance of holding people to account when they’re doing something wrong.
She’s also aware her son has sex and just wants him to do it safely – not just physically but emotionally safely – a conversation we should all be having with our children as early as possible.
It’s never too early to start teaching these vital life lessons to our kids – whether it’s age-appropriate conversations about consent, empowering them to use the right language for their body parts, or trickier issues such as porn and introducing a child to your new partner.
Lorraine is bringing Connell up to do the right thing, and to treat women well and with respect. In a time where home-schooling is back on the agenda, that’s just as important as teaching your kids their times tables.