Musings + Essays

Small Triumphs.

By: Jen Shoop

My daughter trotted out of our car onto the asphalt in front of her school last week. From a few car-lengths away, my windows drawn, I watched a smile stretch across her face as a teacher — administrator? — with whom I was not familiar greeted her and drew her into a hug. I could not make out their conversation, but it seemed equal parts joyful and routine. After, her tiny figure, dwarfed by her tiger-print backpack, skittered out of sight as she chatted with a classmate. I could not hear what she was saying, but I could tell by her gait, the crane of her neck, the way her eyes squinted into mischievous crescents, that it was arch.

My daughter is wildly silly, but only when comfortable. Otherwise, she is a pair of watchful eyes.

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have done something as a parent and thought, afterward, “Ah, yes. I was absolutely right. I did the correct thing.” I’m not saying that I usually make the wrong choices, but that there are often too many inputs in the thousands of daily decisions I make as a mother to be able to isolate and celebrate specific instances of clear and effective thinking. For example, sleep habits. In general, our children are easy to put down to bed at night. We’ve been in a solid groove for awhile. And in general, they sleep through the night — til around 6:30 in the morning. But have I ever looked back and said, “Ah, I did that! Success!”? No. Because getting here has been a long and arduous chain of trial and error, with recursions and missteps and false positives and all the rest of it. And even now, we’re tinkering. We’ve recently found an end to a temporary stretch during which micro was wetting the bed (I was not surprised – its onset synchronized perfectly with the start of staying at school without his sister for a full day, and bed-wetting is a common symptom of adjustment), but now mini has reverted to the habit of descending multiple times a night asking for water, “one last hug,” etc. Whack-a-mole. Still, net-net, my children are good sleepers and bedtime is straight-forward, and so I feel we’ve accomplished something? But, as in so many other areas of motherhood, I do not find myself polishing any trophies.

And so it has been a delicious indulgence to know, viscerally, that we have found the right school, the right fit for mini. I have watched her not only bloom socially, but take a sudden, hungry interest in reading and mathematics. I remain a devout believer in the Montessori method, and believe that her grounding there has enabled her current blossom, but I also observe that mini is thriving anew in this more structured environment. She is strong-willed, and art-inspired; I know she gravitated — actively steered — towards the sensorial and practical life modules in her Montessori. Her guides redirected her to the language and math elements of the program, but I find that the more regimented approach to subject matter at her Catholic school has focused her in an interesting way. Perhaps it is just the age, of course. At five and a half, something has turned on — an appetite for reading, for counting, for seeking out numbers and letters in her every day life. The other day, we were listening to AC/DC in the car and “Highway to Hell” came on. She asked what the name of the song was, and I replied, half-truthfully, “Highway.” I was thinking I was three steps ahead, dodging a conversation about why somebody would willfully “drive to hell,” as she is in possession of a newly-minted appreciation for the tenets and imagery of the Catholic church. There was a pause in the back. “No, it’s highway…to…” Another pause. “I can see there’s a word after. Hhhh—ehhh—”

So we have now reached the phase where I must audit the songs that are playing in our car, as she will sound out the titles. A new frontier.

But taking a minute to sit with myself in quiet triumph, even as this new perch introduces new dimensions to parenthood. As I said earlier, it is rare that I know I’ve made a good decision or a set of good decisions on things like school, doctors, extracurricular activities, sleep habits, diet, reinforcing manners, etc. for my children. More often than not, these are “rolling processes,” meaning I am constantly trying, tinkering, evaluating based on the most threadbare of insights, and/or points of comparison are close to impossible to come by. (E.g., I have no idea whether or not we’d be happier if we used a different doctor; I simply have to go on gut.)

In this moment, though, I feel confident we found her a rich soil in which to bloom. And it feels good.

Inviting you today to reflect on a parenting triumph. They’re there. Sometimes they’re difficult to suss out.


+Motherhood is a surfeit.

+Tender petals.

+Another reflection on my daughter.

Shopping Break.

+OK WOW Gap. These metallic straight leg pants are genius and so chic for holiday! Pair with the feather top from J. Crew for a seriously high-end, fabulous look!

+This is such a gorgeous William Morris print tray for a great price — chic to layer beneath candles and other objects on a shelf/coffee table/stack of coffee table books.

+This hot pink coat is fabulous.

+This cardigan jacket keeps selling out – grab one while you can.

+You know I love a polo sweater. This one is under $25! (You can pair with matching knit pants for an elevated athleisure look.)

+Speaking of Target, a bunch of La Ligne x Target was restocked!

+Isabel Marant vibes.

+I loved The Great’s latest holiday launch — such an easy to wear plaid day dress (would work wonderfully with bump) and I really am obsessed with this pom-trim fair isle cardigan. Beyond adorable.

+Alice Walk just restocked her gorgeous cashmere wraps in tons of colors. These are great gifts for moms. Just sayin!

+Pretty sure everyone has a solostove already, but our neighbors were just raving about theirs and I noticed they are on sale!

+This faux pine garland looks very realistic — of course, hard to tell from online pics, but…? This would be so handy, as our pine garlands always dry out and become major fire hazards. (Plus, reusable!)

+Extra 50% off all sale items at Mille! I own and love one of their Thalia tops and this is the kind of dress to buy now and stock away for family photos next summer.

+Another fab holiday look for a great price: sequins from H&M!

+A very cute car coat. Love the piping!

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2 thoughts on “Small Triumphs.

  1. This is wonderful to hear! So happy for you and Mini! I feel similarly about our children’s school, and it’s such a gift.

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