Soft Landings.

By: Jen Shoop

Last week, I volunteered to help throw a 100th-day-of-school ice cream party in my daughter’s Kindergarten class. I had my day planned down to the minute, and had been organizing it entirely around the 2:15 P.M. time slot for the celebration so that I would arrive with ice cream that wasn’t overly melted. En route at 2:03 p.m., one of the moms in my daughter’s class called to see if I was still coming. “2:15, right?” I asked. “No, we were supposed to be here at 1:45.” Damned if I didn’t speed all the way to school in a mild sweat!

I underwent the usual internal browbeating — how could I have mixed up the time? I should have read the thread more carefully! I’d made 35 little children wait for their ice cream! I apologized and attempted to put on a happy face, but I felt terribly! I was momentarily haunted by a story a friend shared with me years ago. She is self-admittedly clumsy and has broken many glasses and plates while dining with us. One night, she knocked over a champagne flute, and while apologizing profusely, shared that when she’d broken something of her mother’s a few years prior, she’d cried out: “I didn’t mean to!” and her mom had replied: “Sometimes, you have to mean not to.”

I think a lot about that exchange when I make mistakes. “I didn’t mean to!” rarely feels like a proportionate or winning defense, and I have internalized the message that sometimes, you need to be ahead of the curve, working to mean to do things the right way. Pre-empting slip-ups. Elbowing out the possibility of a misstep.

On the drive home from my daughter’s school, I was still digesting my oversight when a quiet voice inside interrupted:

Did the children still eat ice cream?

Was anyone angry or adversely impacted by the delay?

Did everyone still have a good time?

A round of yeses. And I gently let myself off the hook.

Now, I am the first person to celebrate follow-through and commitment. I am very rarely late and I try my best not to cancel on plans unless absolutely necessary. I’ll admit that it ruffles my ego a bit to think that some of the other parents or teachers in my daughter’s class might think of me as the type of person who arrives tardy, or who does not attend to details, or who prioritized other things that afternoon. But, you know what? Maturity is making mistakes and owning them. (There was a petty part of me that wanted to skim through all the emails to figure out how/why I’d had the wrong time down.) Apologizing and moving on. Letting people be wrong about you. Having perspective. (It was ice cream!) Giving yourself and others grace.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve outgrown the defensive urge to cry out: “I didn’t mean to!” (Or to find the part of the email thread that may have caused my error.) But maybe I’m also outgrowing the mentality that “I need to mean not to.” Because what does that message imply? That we are one foresight away from an accident, if we only exert enough care? No. I trust myself. I am organized; I have my heart in the right place; I try my best. That’s enough.

The ice cream party is a frivolous example, but the mentality applies to every domain of my life. I am hard on myself, especially in matters pertaining to parenting. It’s time to learn how to give myself a soft landing when I need it.


+On feeling alone as a new mom.

+Confidence is quiet.

+In this post, I talk about a podcast on apologizing that changed my life.

+A poem on parenting that I love.

Shopping Break.

+This statement necklace is so fun! Imagine against a white dress.

+Jennifer Sumko just launched the prettiest collection with Dillards! I love this animal-print skirt, this seashell blouse, and this elegant capelet midi. Very Agua Bendita-meets-Emilia-Wickstead-meets-Alemais?

+Gap nailed it with this striped shirtdress.

+Attractive scrub brushes.

+Prettiest bath mat.

+Does your little one need this adorable blouse?! Would absolutely wear this myself.

+This coat reminds me a lot of the ones from Marfa Stance — but under $200.

+Wanting to treat myself to these trays for my study.

+Cheerful $8 everyday dresses for little ones. Great over leggings with happy shoes.

+Loud, but on my warm weather wish list.

+One of my favorite body lotions (the best scent!) is on sale for 25% off.

+Tempted to order this pretty nightgown for myself.

+A great (quiet) Church activity for a little one.

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10 thoughts on “Soft Landings.

  1. I came back to the post today for some soothing words, because I accidentally no-showed a physical therapy appointment and I feel horrible! They called me 15 mins after the appointment time to ask where I was…I had put it in my calendar as 1:00 instead of 11:00. The fact that this is a practice I’ve been going to for years and all the receptionists know me made it feel even worse… I let down people with whom I have personal relationships, not just some anonymous admin. So thank you for the reminder that it isn’t the end of the world. They aren’t even charging me because they let everyone have one “whoops.” (After that, though…it’ll cost you.)

    1. Oh gosh! Anna, so glad you came back here for a reminder that it happens to us all, and to go easy on yourself. It honestly says a lot about you that you care so deeply, but also — for sure, you deserve a soft landing.


  2. This is a good reminder that mistakes just happen. It sounds like you did everything to “mean not to” by structuring your day around the event and having all the needed supplies. It’s so easy for those offhand admonitions to stick in our minds and become part of the way we talk to ourselves – thank you for the urge to counteract with a little more kindness and compassion!

    1. Thank you, Sarah – yes, that’s it! “Offhand admonitions stick in our minds and become a part of the way we talk to ourselves.” Yes! This is so, so true.

      Thanks for reframing this way.


  3. This reminds me of the guidance to “treat yourself the way you would treat your sister/best friend.” If your sister called you beating herself up about getting the time wrong, of course you be her soft landing and encourage her to not be so hard on herself. I am so prone to the same reaction you had, and I try to keep this tidbit in mind.


  4. I’m right there with you! I volunteered to bake 2-1/2 dozen sugar cookies for the preschool valentine party. I baked them several days ahead and packed them up downstairs so little hands wouldn’t get into them…and then forgot to take them to school! My mind started racing with different scenarios in which I could run home for the cookies and still get my workout and shower. In the end, my husband dropped them on his way to work and all was well. I still felt a bit bad but no one else batted an eye.

    Also – my kindergartener was supposed to make a tshirt with 100 things glued to it for the 100th day of school (where did this 100th day thing come from btw??). We ordered some iron on hearts and flowers and it seemed to work fine when we applied them a few days before. But when she put on the shirt the morning of, things started falling off immediately! I panicked and started trying to reattach with double sided tape which of course did not work. I just wanted to cry! She was not upset about it. I also had a bad cold and was at the end of my parenting rope. It seems like February suddenly became a high-stress month! Two classrooms worth of valentines to write, parties, 100th day projects…plus our youngest has a birthday. It doesn’t help that everyone in the house has either had a cold and/or pink eye this week! It is indeed a time for soft landings!

    1. Oh Stephanie! So there with you. Thank you for your sisterhood in sharing these moments — so similar to my own. Your story about the 100th day project reminded me of a time I mailed a Valentine to my very (very!) crafty mother-in-law — this was before I was married, so I was clearly trying to curry her favor. She is truly a talent; she makes a new Christmas ornament every year using totally wild, impressive, and obscure crafting techniques, like arranging tiny pieces of paper curls to make delicate shapes that look like carvings; beading; etc. I mean, this woman is Martha Plus. Anyway, I made some sort of cute Valentine, but used the wrong glue, and the Valentine dissolved into a bunch of paper pieces when she removed it from the envelope. I was…embarrassed. But she was still touched by the effort, and thought!

      Anyway, yes — a time for soft landings! Wishing you one this week!


  5. I completely understand your initial reverting to beating yourself up about the ice cream party…so much growth to then be able to give yourself grace on a simple mistake…I experienced something similar this week and was not as kind to myself. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Nancy – I’m hoping this post prompts you to give yourself a little more grace next time. It is really hard in the moment! It really felt like I was exercising a new muscle. The thing that really helped me was zooming out to the bigger picture, e.g., “did the kids still eat ice cream? did anyone get hurt in this?” Maybe there are similar “big picture” questions you can ask yourself related to the incident this week. Hang in there!!! xx

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