Tender Green Blades.

By: Jen Shoop

*I took the amateur photo above of our garden beds. If you squint you can see the green carrot tops in the foreground.

She insists we pause at the carrots she planted with her father at each descent to the garage, her eyes scanning for the tender green blades that disclose their just-realizing incipience.

“They growed-ed overnight,” she confesses knowingly, testing a turn of phrase not-her-own in babyish language all hers, a past participle dangling with ungainliness at the end. I know I should correct the grammar, but I savor it instead: a curio of her quickly-evaporating early youth.

Something elastic happens to time once you become a mother. An hour can feel like a lifetime, and a year can zip by so quickly it nearly erases itself, and the malapropisms and baby grammar and peek-a-boo along with it. And running straight through (or perhaps an asymptote of or other-geometric-function-whose-name-I-can’t-recall to) those distortions: the wilderness of time as witnessed by a child. Time has virtually no meaning to my daughter. A doctor’s appointment could be in four months or four minutes and will still engender the same furious trepidation.

“I will not open my mouth for the doctor,” she insists, sternly, despite the fact that the appointment is in two months.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” I tell her, but to a four-year-old, we are already halfway across that bridge and the troll is nigh beneath us.

Conversely, next week might as well be next decade. She’s been asking about Christmas since January 1st with varying degrees of frustration. Mr. Magpie and I engage in semi-regular strategy sessions about when to break certain things to her. We don’t want to delude her, but why tell her about something today that she will then fret about for weeks, with no firm grasp on when it will become a reality? Why have her wake every morning and ask “is today the dentist?” or “is tomorrow Christmas?” A wall calendar helps, but only so much. She will occasionally, painstakingly, count the number of squares between today and some date with a sticker on it next month, interrupting herself at each error to start over. And when we’ve recited all twenty-two days between now and then, she seems to arrive at no useful conclusion. “Is twenty-two days long or short?” she asks. (How do I answer that? Both? Neither?) Most nights, we retreat from the exchange, and I deposit her in her bed with no greater clarity on the matter, and then my heart stops when she asks: “Can I play with toys when I’m a grown up?”

And so I know that something is processing, that she is beginning to calculate. I can spot the tender green blades.

Still: “I’ll ride when I’m older,” she sniffed recently, turning her tender baby cheek away from the extravagance of a bicycle gifted by her grandparents mid-year, and not to mark any particular milestone or occasion.

“When?” I ask.

“When I’m six.”

Then: Halloween is “too long away.”

And: “How old am I?” I have on occasion asked her.

“Nineteen hundred,” she shrugged once. Another time: “Seven.”

So time is elastic to her, too, but in a different way. For her, time is an inkblot, a void. It is simultaneously cause for grave concern about what she can and cannot do upon reaching certain milestones and simply a convenience: a way of putting-off or getting-to things she wants or does not. “I’ll bike when I’m six,” she says, meaning instead: “I am scared and don’t want to think about that for a long, long time.”

But for me, time is both a plundering thief and a sentry. It steals from me, on feline feet, and at the same time leaves me looking with bewilderment at the long arm of the clock. (How will I ever make it to bed time?)

Anyhow, there is something about the carrots now-sprouting in our garden beds and my daughter’s ministrations to them that catches in my throat. The garden is drawing our time graphs closer to one another, near-syncing them. Something about the immaterial-turned-very-material experience of time as a mother seems to conflate with her attentiveness to those invisible-today-and-two-inches-long-tomorrow seedlings. She is beginning to see that I am not the keeper of time, the mercurial figure who can tell her that one day she is going to the dentist and the next day she is seeing her cousins, who is both seven and nineteen hundred. She is beginning to witness rhythms bigger than us all. I love watching this awareness coagulate, but is it yet another demerit to time that I vaguely begrudge it for superseding me in her eyes?

These resentments gain me nothing. They are reflexive and futile and yet —

They remind me to keep my eyes on those blades while still-tender.


+More lessons borne of nurturing the earth.

+For my husband, gardening is like prayer.

+This post reminds me that attention is a form of love.

+On keeping time as a parent.

+Not explicitly related, but how long did it take you to heal from childbirth?

Shopping Break.

+Today at 12 EST, Hill House launches their “university collection.” I’m mainly excited about their new “Cher” dress in tartan plaid, but they also have some lovely emerald green and burgundy print nap dresses perfect for easing into fall.

+This bag looks like Celine. Gorgeous color.

+These ceramic painted pumpkins would look really cute mixed in with your ginger jar collection. A subtle nod to the holiday?

+These tortoise serving bowls are chic enough to keep out permanently — maybe fill with matchboxes from special restaurants?

+Slouchy sweater for under $30 in great colors — love the neckline.

+These Halloween cocktail napkins are so cheeky — ha! I need them.

+I’ve seen a few beauty bloggers go wild for this color corrector from Charlotte Tilbury…it’s sitting in my cart.

+Super fun statement necklace for fall! (Reminds me of Marni.)

+Love a printed shirtdress.

+Sophisticated dress for Thanksgiving dinner. (Get the vibe for less with this.). I would pair with a padded velvet or suede headband.

+OMG this sherpa ballcap for a tiny one.

+And a $13 corduroy ballcap for us!

+Have been getting some use out of my Shabbies this season already! I like to pair them with a really polished flat (i.e., Chanel captoe or pointed toe flat) and crisp white tee to balance out the edginess. Would look great topped with a tweed blazer.

+Statement blouse for under $30 — another great Target find.

+A shawl-collar puffer in fantastic colors!

+I own this skirt in a different print and je l’adore.

+This floaty white dress is spectacular — very LSF but only $118!

+Treat your husband: Vilbrequin suits are on sale at Gilt. These are the “It” suit of the well-heeled European crowd. Mr. Magpie has their Moorea trunks — I love them in solids paired with a Lacoste polo for poolside lounge, and I also got him a new pair of printed ones.

+Adding this to my fall wardrobe wishlist for micro.

+Love this chunky blue sweater — such a great color!

+These melamine plates are always very popular — didn’t realize you could JUST buy the plates. I’d only ever seen them in the huge set!

+Another seriously cute Halloween costume. Etsy is a treasure trove!

+Cute fall hair clips for a little love. (More darling finds here.)

+This sleepover tote for a little lady is so darling, as is the matching garment bag! Love this print!

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13 thoughts on “Tender Green Blades.

  1. I loved reading this post and the comments ๐Ÿ™‚ You are capturing the nuances of motherhood (and childhood) so beautifully.

    I recently read a tip to try to make time concrete for children (my boys are too young, both under 2, so I havenโ€™t tried it myself), but it sounds promising: make a paper chain. So, if there are 30 days till a birthday, make a 30-ring paper chain and everyday the child can remove a link. Might be fun ๐Ÿ™‚ xo.

    1. Thank you, Joyce! I just sat down at my desk this morning and read your comment and then thought back on the post and I still feel like the entire nest of observations is lodged somewhere in my throat. Oh, motherhood is a tough business!

      I’d seen this too — what a clever idea. I meant to try it for the school year but somehow the last week before school started disappeared before my eyes. May give this a try for Halloween, which is the current subject of much anticipation. Thank you for the reminder!


  2. Such beautiful sentiments. Mothers are the keeper of time, the finder of lost things, the oracle for the millions of questions that forge an intimacy known only to those within the privileged walls of the relationship. I loved this essay for its quiet admission that we do this most holy work of mothering best by recognizing the limits to our control as we join our children in growth.

    1. Oo, Elizabeth, your note sent shivers (the good kind) down my spine. “Mothers are the keeper of time, the finder of lost things, the oracle for the millions of questions…” I really needed to hear this today. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of my role in this family, and to my children. xx

  3. Totally agree with the other comments regarding your writing!
    I was thinking as I read your blog this morning, how neat it would be to create a Shutterfly type book (specific to each one) of all your past writings and present them to each child on their 21st birthday! (The day they reach true adulthood!)I
    What a great keepsake to cherish!

    1. What a beautiful idea! I have thought in the past of writing out/printing out/binding some of my posts to or on my children so that they have them for posterity’s sake in hard copy. Your note is a nudge to get this done. Thank you, and thank you for the encouragement!!


  4. Oh! As always, you just nail all these complex emotions of motherhood so eloquently, Jen! I just love the way you weave everyday observations with such profound, heart-expanding thoughts.

    Would you ever consider writing a book that is a collection of short stories/reflections like this? I would totally buy it for myself, my mother, and all my mom-friends.

    1. Hi Mia – Oh gosh, thank you! I’m humbled. A book would be interesting — will have to put some thought into how to do this. Thank you for the suggestion!!


    2. Hmmm I also don’t know how publishing works outside of academia, but I suppose Hitha Palepu would? I know she has published a book and has another one coming out later this year I think…

    1. Oh gosh – thank you so much for the compliment. I love the image of you sitting there in the morning with your boy — thanks for inviting me into your morning.

      Enjoy that baby!


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