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.

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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