Mothers and Daughters, the Teenage Years

Teenage girls travel in packs and, over time, mothers and daughters in this extended friend circle know one another well. I love the weekends when it is our turn for a Friday night sleepover because, come late Saturday morning, I will flip pancakes for these girls who will soon scatter to college. I stand and cook and listen to the talk and the laughter. I am tangentially and fleetingly welcomed into my daughter’s group, yet heed the cue to disappear. How to stay close to a teenage daughter, which acknowledging her friends, are lessons I learned from my mother when she was the one wielding the spatula.

I recently asked my oldest girlfriends about their memories of those long ago school days. Here are some of the things they remember:

There is no more critical time for mothers and daughters than during the teen years.

From H: One of my most vivid memories of your mom was the first time I saw the amazing Christmas decorations she had created in your home. Her explanation of all the things she had chosen and her pride in the final result were inspiring.

I also remember your mom being careful to give us space. She would set up a beautiful spread of food, sit down for a moment to catch up with all of us, then gracefully disappear.

From ML: The first day of 7th grade carpool, she insisted that she take pictures of us opening the car door. We thought it was awful at the time, but I love the pictures now.

She had paintings of ladybugs made for each of us with our names on them as graduation gifts. I still have mine today.

From C: Your mom was always happy to lend her creativity and wisdom to a class election or other school project.  I remember her as our “go-to” mom and we all enjoyed her love and attention!

I remember the very first time I spent the night with you, she gave me a little stained glass sun-catcher as a favor and I think I still have it somewhere! She always sent us home with some little gift or favor.

Your mom didn’t seem competitive but delighted in the achievements of all of her little flock of your friends.

As they remember my mother from 40 years ago, my friends are describing a woman who was creative, generous, non-judgemental, caring – qualities she still possesses in abundance today, at 86!

Every mom is the most important role model her daughter will ever have, for better or for worse.  She will likely step into that role for her daughter’s friends, deliberately or quite by accident.

While I will never be creative and crafty like my mom, nor do I decorate our house with the festive flourishes that thrill her, I am inspired by her lovely qualities.

When I hover near the kitchen table on post-sleepover Saturday mornings, nibbling on my own pancake, the cue to depart is very often a well-practiced eye roll. I rise and take my plate to the sink knowing that while rolling her eyes, my daughter is seeing so much more about me as a mom. In fact, every pair of eyes at the table sees much that may carry with them for life.



  1. happyoutlook says

    What a lovely tribute to your wonderful mom!

  2. says

    What a lovely post and tribute to your Mom.
    Last night K was talking about her interview to join the army. She said that he had asked her what the hardest thing would be for her during basics training. She replied – not talking to my Mom for 80 days. I have to be honest – that was not the answer I was expecting but I was really touched that that was what it was – and not ‘I’ll miss facebook !!!’
    Have a great day !

    • says

      Oh, my, best wishes for your daughter and her army interview. It is touching that she mentioned talking to you as what she would miss the most. Would be hard for me to go 8 days, not to mention 80, without speaking with my mom. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. says

    It’s so nice that your friends have such warm memories of your mother. My mother insisted on taking a photo of my friends and me after going school-supply shopping the first day of 9th grade. We were all so annoyed, but love that picture now!

    Your mom is beautiful, by the way!

    • says

      There is hope that our kids will – one day – love some of the annoying photos we have taken of them through the years. Thanks, Sharon, for all kind words. Mom is still beautiful at 86!

    • says

      Thank you, I feel lucky to be close with my childhood Texas friends who were willing to help me with this story – hard to see our moms from perspectives other than our own.

  4. Kristen Daukas says

    Love this. When I was leading up to my 400th post, I did a tribute to my middle/high school best friends mom called “Being Mrs. Grant”.. She had such an influence on all of us.. the one who camped out with us in the big station wagon for Duran Duran and Def Leppard tickets and didn’t murder us for watching MTV late into the night every single weekend. I’m pretty sure my oldest secretly likes the fact that her friends think I’m “cool and funny”.. it might be the only thing that gets us thru the next 4 years 😉

    • says

      Cool and funny are high compliments – yes, use them over the next four years but don’t be surprised if that feeling goes away, especially as you have to make the hard parenting choices that are not always so well regarded by our teens. Thanks!

  5. says

    I see a glimpse into where you get your graciousness and kindness – from your lovely mother. It’s so nice that your friends enjoyed her and still appreciate her today. What a loving tribute. Happy Mothers Day!

  6. says

    She sounds like a wonderful person! And I feel like a lot of her generosity and creativity rubbed off on her daughter. Thanks for this lovely post.

    • says

      Thanks, most of the good qualities rubbed off on my sister – I am not nearly as nice and kind as she is! Loved your Chairman Mum post, btw.

  7. says

    This made me teary because my friends always talk about memories they have of how my mother always made them feel welcome — and still do. We are so lucky to have moms like ours. I love the picture, too!

    • says

      Having a wonderful mom who is welcoming to your friends is a gift. Talking to my friends while writing this post made me think about my daughter’s friends and how much I love it when they are around, and gave me a few ideas, too! Thanks, Lois.

  8. says

    I like that you have inserted comments about yourself as a mother from your daughter’s friends point of view. My daughter’s friends still come around frequently when she is home on break and we all love to sit around and chat. But at the same time, I know when to make myself scarce!

    • says

      Part of a mom’s skill set has to be the instinct to know when to bow out. I am afraid that I like talking to my daughter and her friends so much that I wear out my welcome – I resolve to do a better job!

  9. Chris says

    Awesome post! I have/had a blog and now much to busy. I do follow yours. Love it! Especially loved this post! Thank you!
    I will be at Blogher, are you guys going to be there? Would love to meet you in person. Always “dead on” with what you write. Always at a great time for me as well. :)

  10. Chris says

    Whoops, meant “too” not to. Sorry!

    • says

      Thanks and so glad you enjoy Grown and Flown. Hope that you can get back to your blog later in life.

  11. says

    It’s always fascinating to find out what people remember. All those little gestures and moments with your mom were all probably things she didn’t expect to leave an impression, and yet they obviously did. What a lovely set of memories in time for Mother’s Day! I hope I leave as nice a legacy for my daughters.

    • says

      Thanks, Korinthia, I feel exactly like you do – that I hope I leave a happy, warm legacy for my daughter. It was interesting to see what my friends remembered – I often use them for crowd-sourcing my memories!

  12. says

    When I read the title, I must admit I did get nervous. Mother’s & teenage daughters in the same sentence could go either way. I’m glad you shared such peasant memories of these sometimes turbulent years. Your heart must be filled today knowing that your friends thought so fondly on your mother, despite the eye rolling.

    • says

      The stereotypical image of mothers and daughters during the teenage years was on my mind as I wrote this. Not that I didn’t have my “moments” with my mother, and my daughter with me, but the role modeling goes on with each generation, for better or for worse.

  13. says

    What a great idea to interview friends! I like your picture too. My best to you surviving the eye-roll years.

    • says

      Karen, it was a fun project that gave me a real insight into how my mother connected with my friends so long ago. It also gave me ideas for how I can still enjoy the eye-rolling years with my daughter and her friends!

  14. says

    I love that your friends still have these lovely memories of your mother. What a gift.

  15. says

    Your mother sounds like a beautiful woman, inspirational not only to you, but to your friends, too. If only we all had mothers like that. Fortunately, we can all strive to be mothers like that. Lovely tribute, Mary Dell.

    • says

      Lisa, thank you and I agree that we can all try to be the best parents we can be. I was so fortunate with both my parents providing solid roll models but I know that it not really the case for so many people.
      Have a wonderful Mother’s (and Grandmother’s) Day!

  16. says

    What a beautiful impression your mom made on your friends. She sounds like such a gracious woman and role model for many of them.

    • says

      She really was and continues to be as my friends from my hometown in Texas keep up with her ( I live in NY.)

  17. says

    You are so right on this: “A mom who has a daughter is the most important role model her daughter will ever have, for better or for worse. She might also be a role model for her daughter’s friends, again, for better or worse.” Some girls need another woman to look up to in their lives. But it’s also so great that you make time to sit down with them (until you get the eye-roll cue, that is!) – what a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of your daughter’s life (as much as she’ll let you, anyway!!).

    • says

      So fun sitting with the girls to see what’s new with their lives…at least, what they will share with me. I treasure the time!

  18. says

    That pancake story – so true. And moms are so smart. It’s all the little things they do, like the car door pic. Love that!

  19. says

    How creative your mother was — and your creativity comes through your writing. So many gifts are passed on through family. Great blog.

  20. says

    That was a beautiful post. I am fascinated by the mother-daughter relationships, between myself and my mom, and between my daughters and me, and what parallels and differences there will be over the years. Our perception of our mothers when we were children, and our comparison of our own mothering to theirs, is such a rich topic. Great job.

    • says

      Stephanie, I agree with you that the topic is a rich one. It is interesting to me, as well, to compare my perception of my mom with how my daughter sees me. This post has given us lots to discuss (my daughter and me, so far) and I look forward to sharing it with my mother soon! Thanks for the kind words.

  21. says

    What a lovely post! It brought back so many memories of my own mom with my friends or sitting with their moms and chatting. Thanks for a great post!

    • says

      I was touched by my friends’ recollection of growing up and spending time with my mom (I remember theirs, too, of course.) It is a community of mothers and daughters and friends that gives us such a rich life. Thank you so much.

      • says

        And sons and husbands, fathers and brothers – all the men in our lives, of course, too, who enrich our lives. Did not want to leave them out.

  22. says

    I absolutely loved this story and it brought back wonderful memories of my own mother, doing similar things. What a great compliment to both our mothers, that our friends remember them as fondly as they do.

    Your mom sounds like a treasure. Give her a hug for me!

    • says

      Bonnie, I will give her a hug! I agree that it is a compliment to have our friends remember our moms with such endearment. Thanks!

  23. Helene Cohen Bludman says

    Knowing when to leave … That’s a skill every parent needs to learn, and yes, eye rolling is a sure signal. Loved the post, MD!

  24. says

    I love those memories of your mom from your friends. As our mothers age and have begun to pass on, my girlfriends and I are sharing a lot of these gems with each other. As the mother of a daughter, I know exactly what you mean, too. I hope I was a good role model for her!

  25. Pat says

    What a great way to give tribute to your creative mom. So often when my sisters and I get together with old high school friends, we hear comments like these about our mom.

  26. says

    What a beautiful, warm post. And I loved reading about your mother from the different points of view. You are incredibly fortunate to have such wonderful memories!

    • says

      Marci, I am so fortunate to have such warm memories of childhood and friends to share them with. Thanks!

  27. says

    How cool that your mom treated your friends like that and made such a big impression on them! I was recently talking with an old friend and my mother came up….let’s just say my friend didn’t remember my mom in a favorable light.

    • says

      It is endlessly fascinating – the mother-daughter relationship, regardless of the positives or negatives.

  28. says

    I love that you asked your friends about their memories. It is so amazing how quickly we are in our mom’s role isn’t it? Love the photo!

    • says

      Raquel, it seems like a trick of time that it is me with my daughters’ friends now and so long ago when we were girls at my house in TX. Thanks for visiting!

  29. Anne @GenFab says

    Is your mom available to loan? Or to teach a seminar on how to be awesome? I want to take that class.

    • says

      Awww, she is kind of awesome in my eyes and would be honored to hear you describe her that way!

  30. Carpool Goddess says

    That was so lovely Mary Dell. I love how your friends shared their memories with you. So precious. Your mom sounds like a very special woman.

    • says

      My friends are still close with my mom – as my son reminds me, she set the bar very high! thanks, LInda

  31. says

    i bet your daughter will be able to write the same things about you. it is nice, the morning after those sleepovers, to visit in the kitchen with the girls. a minute or two in the inner sanctum of teenage girls.

    • says

      so well put “the inner sanctum of the teenage girls.” Thanks, Sandy, I hope my daughter will have fond memories of her teenage years with her girlfriends at our home. What parent doesn’t wish the same?

  32. says

    Loved this! What a beautiful tribute to your mom. I hope you passed those messages on to her.

  33. says

    I love that you have such fond memories of your mother. As my daughter gets older I hope that she will see me as a friend and a mother. I want to share moments like the ones you wrote about with her and her friends. I don’t know if I’m creative enough to give favors every time her friends are over but it is a great memory and I may attempt it.

    • says

      My daughter is a junior in high school and, while reading these thoughts from my friends, I realize I better get on the stick myself with the small remembrances!

  34. says

    Found you over at Joy of Motherhood for great compliation of Mother’s Day posts. Glad I did! Love these memories – good to know my girls will appreciate the crazy photos I make them take! :)

    • says

      Thanks, Barb, I will check out the Joy of Motherhood. Thanks for visiting and the kind words. Keep taking those silly shots!

  35. Angela says

    Awesome post, thanks for sharing it on the Ladies Only Blog Share: The Joys of Motherhood blog hop!

  36. says

    What a great tribute to your mom! I hope that my daughter looks back at me the same way when she is older. That was just lovely!


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