By: Jen Shoop

I was ushering my daughter through her bedtime routine one night last week — nipping at her heels, really —

“Did you brush yet? Can you put your clothes in the laundry bin? Did you pick a book to read?”

After moaning and stomping against my expediting, she interjected: “Why are you rushing me?”

I felt a prickle run down my spine. I stood empty-pocketed. I was reminded of the words I have shared here so many times: “It’s their day, too.” I had been sprinting through her bedtime routine in pursuit of my own quiet. I had forgotten, for a moment, that my job as a parent is not to simply cart my children from Point A to Point B. It is that, but it is much more, too, and I’d neglected “the much more.”

“OK,” I nodded, not so much answering her question as apologizing. I sat in her armchair as she walked through the remaining pre-sleep rituals, saying nothing about the speed or order in which they unfurled, and then I laid in her bed next to her and listened to her read two chapters of her book aloud. When I had rubbed her back and sung her song and closed her door behind me, I stood just outside for a minute to collect myself. It was quiet in the house for the first time all day, and yet her voice crowded my mind: “Why are you rushing me?”

Two days later, I took her on a mommy-and-me date, part apologia. She’d requested ice cream and a manicure. The entire trip, I fastidiously avoided any accelerations. I let her read every single ice cream placard, sample two flavors, sit on the bench and eat every last drip of her cone. At the salon, she agonized over polish colors. I said nothing. I was relieved when the manicurist popped by a second time to ask whether she’d picked something, expediting her in her own way. I watched the varnish dry on her nails for eight minutes. She wiggled and asked “How many minutes are left?” every thirty seconds. “What, you wanna get out of here? You tired of hanging with old mom?” I asked her in a joking voice after the sixth or seventh time check request. She craned her neck, smiling, her eyes shaped liked crescents: “I would never say that!”

On the way home, there was laughter, and there were lulls. We listened to the Trolls soundtrack for the umpteenth time, and she lowered and raised her window herself, and I caught her admiring her iridescent blue nails in the rear view mirror. Finally, I said: “I love spending time with you,” and she said: “Me. Too. Ma-moo.” Staccato, half-silly.

I have no rich insights today: just the threadbare, up-close experience of motherhood, the way I make mistakes and try to change; the admission that even when I am doing what I trust is right, things can still feel hard (and sometimes, almost unbearably slow); the practice of listening to my daughter and having to decide, minute-to-minute, how much or how little to honor her requests.

There is something in our mother-daughter dance these last few days that feels shapeless and at the same time statuesque. I have so much to learn: I was re-made that night she chastised me, and re-made again on our date. I am fluid, I am change. So is she. And yet we are as old and unanswerable as time: Demeter chasing Persephone, or Ruth remaining with Naomi.* I see us reduced to forms: arcs reaching for one another, two complementary colors cleaving.


+Over the weekend, my friends at Half Past Seven published an essay I wrote on entertaining with young children at home that touches on similar themes.

+Motherhood is a surfeit.

+Motherhood sometimes feels like long division.

+On sending my son off to school. Wow. I still feel these emotions when I think back on his first day. We are rapidly approaching the end of the year, and he will be “graduating” to join his sister at her school. I am overwhelmed with emotions about this transition, too.

Shopping Break.

+A chic black ribbed dress for everyday. Love the idea of pairing this with some trendy dad sandals, like these (jute!!!) Diors. (Get the look for less with these.)

+Just ordered this sport dress for summer — currently 30% off! More colors available with less of a discount (20% off) here. One of my resolutions this summer is to get outside more often. I want to get to the driving range, go for runs, and go for long walks and hikes. I figure this sport dress will be a practical thing to wear on mornings I want to go for a long walk / hit some balls / etc. I also love these ones from Alala and have been hearing good things about these new ones from Lulu, but I prefer the neckline/thin straps of the Madewell one.

+Speaking of fitness, I just ordered these running shorts to try.

+Mansur Gavriel’s new woven bucket bags are SO beyond chic. Bottega-esque, but its own vibe. I love it in the classic brown leather but also would be fun in the strawberry, and chic in the neutral latte…

+Another great Zara sandal.

+This tunic shirtdress is SO my at-home style.

+These Vespa-esque ride-on toys for littles are so cute.

+Just bought a few rolls of this classic striped gift wrap. Love that it can work for almost any occasion, gender, age, etc. In the same Target order, picked up a few of these scalloped melamine serving bowls.

+LOVE the pockets and length and lilac color of this VB jacket!

+Adirondack chairs! Tis the season. White is a classic but kind of like the gray and black options too!

+These custom embroidered birth announcements are so sweet. A lovely gift.

+Adore this white eyelet top.

+Love this boho maxi.

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12 thoughts on “Demeter.

  1. I’ve so been there — especially at bedtime, when there is a deadline but it’s not always discernible, I think, or at least it wasn’t always for my stepkids. My stepdaughter in particular has always been gifted at bedtime dilly-dallying (haha!) and it was definitely tricky to thread the needle between adhering to her bedtime while allowing room for the sweet, unspooled conversations that always seemed to come at night. Ahh! It’s tricky, and I feel you.

    LOVING the look of those Beyond Yoga running shorts (I’m devoted to their leggings + bike shorts!) and am also curious to try the Lulu Align dress in white! I also love the look of the Bottega-esque Mansur bucket … love that it’s upcycled! I have a weakness for their bags (I have 5, eek, and I barely collect handbags otherwise … a testament to how much I love what they do!)


    1. Oo I’ve never owned a Mansur Gavriel but after your rave reviews (and impressive collection) I really need one of these woven beauties!


  2. I recognize myself in this essay, in this messy tug of war between languishing in a child’s sense of time and an actual need to adhere to schedule in my adult world. It harkens back to the famous line from Peter Pan that little boys should never be sent to bed for they always wake up a day older until one day they’re grown. SOB, and yet, they must go to bed. For what it’s worth, “I want my kids to know I loved this” is the current printout I have taped up to the wall of my office. Convicting words for me, and another phrase that has thankfully wormed its way into my brain and calms me when my urge to get places on time and without stains come into direct conflict with the inefficiencies of a five year old.

  3. This is a nightly struggle for me and I feel both the longing to spend time with my girls and the pull of everything that needs to be accomplished after bedtime. Thanks for putting this feeling into words.

    1. Hi Darcy – Complete solidarity with you. It is really hard. Not only are there things to accomplish after bedtime, but I am also usually exhausted by bedtime — !! It can be a perfect storm.


  4. Aww, I have definitely felt that prickle. We do feel that urge to rush at dinner and bedtime, especially now that we have 2 to hustle through the routines. We were recently joking (and then exclaiming more earnestly), as we patted ourselves on the back for a more relaxed bedtime, that “Love is patient…” (It’s the FIRST thing!)

    1. Yes! You get it! Mr. Magpie have been talking a lot about this theme, and sort of clinging to an informal motto — “if there’s a deadline, you have to expedite; if not, just go with the flow.” It can be so hard!


  5. I was feeling antsy just reading about letting kids be pokey! Why is it almost physically painful to watch them go at their own pace? Is it because we already feel overworked and there isn’t enough time to even do what we need to do, let alone what we want to do, including rest?? Phew. Sounds like I need some practice being patient. Especially as summer is looming and they will be home, going at their own pace, all day. Every day.

  6. Thank you for this post. It was a gentle reminder to slow down and our children decompress from their day. I must confess I find myself doing what you just described too often. I just have to remember to slow down and take it in before he’s gone in a couple of years to college.

    1. Right there with you, Courtney!!! Hard for me to do this. I’ve been so mindful ever since my daughter asked me to stop rushing her, but it’s still a daily challenge.


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