Musings + Essays

“You Almost Did It.”

By: Jen Shoop

A few weeks ago, I backed my car straight into the garage door. I have no explanation or excuse. I was distracted by my children’s demands (“Encanto music!” “Water, mama!”) and should have waited until we were all situated, but instead, I threw the car in reverse. A cacophony ensued.

“Mama, what was that?”

My stomach lurched. I had the wherewithal to slam on the brake, turn off the engine, and sprint up to Mr. Magpie, whose even keel is God’s greatest gift to my flutteringly anxious posture at times like this. Fortunately, no one was injured, we were able to fix the garage door the same day, and the car was still totally drivable/functional (cosmetic issues — though sickeningly expensive ones, of course), but —

I consider myself a careful person and the entire thing startled me.

I’m not sure if I’d accidentally hit the garage “close” button and the door was on its way down and I didn’t notice amidst the complaints of my children, or if I’d stopped the garage door from opening all the way when I first entered that morning by tapping it twice so it was never fully lifted, and the car couldn’t clear fully? Why had I not waited until everyone was quiet and waters were circulated and music set? Why hadn’t I checked in my rearview mirror more thoroughly? We weren’t running late — why was I in such a hurry? I am sometimes progress-minded to a fault.

I am reminded at moments like this of the incident where I ran into a plaster wall while pregnant with micro and split my head open. I searched for meaning for months. What was the takeaway? Why had it happened? Was God teaching me a lesson? I am saddled with the blessing and curse of a writerly mind: I cannot help but chart the narrative pathways that make life “hang together.” I am also a devout Catholic and believe in providence. And so it can be tough to let these things go.

But I will never forget a Magpie reader writing in to say, gently, “Sometimes things just happen.”

I mean: let me be clear. I was driving the car and take full responsibility for what happened. And it did read like a cautionary tale: “Jen, slow down. Jen, take in your surroundings. Jen, check more carefully before pulling out.” Check, check, and check. But maybe the buck stops there. Maybe there is nothing nefarious or sweeping beyond. It was an accident, and I will forever take greater care pulling out of the garage. So much so that as I backed out slowly the other morning, I made several corrections as I rounded a particularly curved portion of the drive, and I muttered to myself: “Take your time.”

Mini, in the backseat, without skipping a beat: “Mama, you’re almost there. You almost did it.”

Something clicked into place for me, as though a square of film in a viewmaster: my children, present when I’d backed through the door, curious but nonjudgmental about the entire thing, and my children, present as I modeled my own cautious adjustments, urging me along. I felt at once the heavy and beautiful responsibility of raising these two tiny humans. I hadn’t given a thought to what they’d made of the entire ordeal, but they’d been sitting there, eyes wide as saucers, taking it all in. My wordless braking and then immediate reassurance: “Everything is OK, I’m going to run and get Daddy.” Mr. Magpie’s quiet, efficient, forgiving tone as he silently, pragmatically jammed the dented door up so I could still get the children to school on time. His compassion despite the fact that I’m sure he was not thrilled about the damage: “It’s OK. These things happen.” Our mindful retreat up the drive and then immediate resumption of all the normal parts of the school drop off routine. It was not orchestrated, but I think now I did a passable job of not letting the children worry too much despite the fact that my mind was spiraling: who would I call to fix the door? (If you’re local and God forbid run into a similar SNAFU, Paul Benson at Benson Garage Doors is the absolute best.) How much would the car cost to repair? And what did it all mean?!

I was startled and empowered by mini’s encouragement that morning. I can only assume that somewhere between Mr. Magpie’s calm reassurance right after the fact and my subsequent attentiveness in backing out that she picked up on the fact that I was trying, hard, and that it is a good thing to nurture those efforts in the ones you love.

So maybe this was the through-line all along: an opportunity to demonstrate how we move on from missteps. Not with browbeating, but with a quiet determination to learn from the mistake and to love each other through it. I hope my children carry that gentleness with them, in their dealings with others but also, importantly, with themselves.

“You’re almost there. You almost did it.”


+Writing this post reminded me of when my daughter comforted me as a two year old.

+More words of encouragement.

+Some words to fall back on.

+I absolutely love these words of wisdom.

+On a much lighter note: a great party dish.

+On living life to its fullest.

Shopping Break.

+One of my favorite dresses (have already worn it this season, and it’s been above 50 degrees all of a handful of days) is on sale in a different stripe! This brand runs big. If in doubt, size down. Honestly, I think most people could size down (even if not in doubt).

+Just the prettiest quilt to throw out for a picnic/outdoor park session, or in a nursery.

+I love these pens so much I’ve given them as gifts to two friends.

+LOVE this button-front shirt — so timeless. Feels very Meryl Streep in Out of Africa.

+This puff-sleeved eyelet shirt is another Target win.

+I’ve been eyeing this fish print Alemais dress for a summer beach vacation and just found it on sale…! Would go perfectly with the fish earrings from Hunter and Blake or Rebecca de Ravenel.

+Another nautical print snag: this shirt dress, on sale! Reminds me of some of the nautical prints from Emilia Wickstead a few seasons ago. While you’re there, consider adding this simple black shirtdress to your cart — I swear it will be a total workhorse for you.

+Courtney Grow told me to buy this lip pencil…and I do what she says.

+Cute cute cute cute.

+Affordable scalloped placemats!

+This reversible quilted jacket for a little one is absolutely precious.

+Boho maternity heaven.

+These gauze Gap shorts are on sale and a perfect extension of the cover up finds I shared here.

+This woven sandal looks much more expensive than it is. (Could be Missoni?)

+This rainbow sweater is too cute for a tiny one.

+I must have these ice cream print shorts for micro. More great shorts for littles here.

+Love these Ray Bans.

+Another epic swimwear option.

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12 thoughts on ““You Almost Did It.”

  1. Jen,

    I had two minor fender benders this week: one into a concrete block while parking and another into my neighbor’s car which was unexpectedly parked on the side of the road (versus the driveway like usual). Both are minor, also with sickenly expensive cosmetic damage, but I’ve been spiraling for days about what this says about me–careless, unable to take care of nice things like my car, silly… I’m so glad I remembered you had a few posts about this experience.

    I took your advice and assessed things more objectively, realizing I’m under an unprecedented amount of stress and need to start slowing down/seeking help. Thank you for years of great posts like these. xx.

    1. Oh I am SO glad you thought to go back to this post! Definitely give yourself some grace. You will get to the other side and it will fade away, but in the immediate aftermath — woof! I was so hard on myself.

      Onward, friend!


  2. The mistakes that are wholly and completely mine–no one to blame, no damage that isn’t reparable, nothing terrible but the cost of time and money and my pride–the worst! I backed into my husband’s car once–parked where it usually wasn’t –despite the fact that I have a rear view camera and mirrors and literally SAW the car before getting in mine. (And I ask why is it that the children really do seem to wait until we are entirely preoccupied to hone in on our distraction and demand attention–or water–immediately?)… It was the sort of mistake that makes me both embarrassed & furious with myself. But like you–I shifted into Mom-made. Even though I felt like I was faking it. Fake reassuring smile. Fake careless shrug. Performing forgiveness of myself with the hope that when my children are in a similar position they follow suit with an easier shift to self-forgiveness. Mistakes will always happen! How fortunate we are when we can fix them and maybe even learn something in the process. (At least I can hope the children learn to forgive themselves–they certainly haven’t learned not to demand things when the car is reversing!)

    1. Oh man – you are my double! Every word you wrote was as familiar to me as my own thinking. Yes! So painful when there is literally no excuse, no contingency, no other possible factor. Thanks for chiming in. I am adopting your perspective: “Mistakes will always happen! How fortunate we are when we can fix them and maybe learn something in the process.”


  3. Oh Jennifer, you ARE a busy mother, trying to do everything a mother does AND on time! It does lead to accidents (or learning lessons)!
    I had my SUV trunk open and closed my garage door leaving my car with pricey repairs needed. And then, three months after I repaired my car (which they held for two weeks! Ugh!) my sweet husband did it too! Fixed the car a second time! $$$$
    Sooooo, when I did it a THIRD time, I refused to get my car fixed saying it was bound to happen again. But it didnt! Guess I finally learned my lesson.

    1. Oh my gosh! That makes me feel better – you are so right. Just living is bound to lead to accidents now and then. The only thing to do is TRY and forgive yourself when things happen.


  4. Far less meaningful than your takeaway, but perhaps an amusing anecdote…
    I (gently) ran our family truck into the corner of the stucco house one summer in college. No damage to the truck and just a little dent and scrape to the house so I just kept my mouth shut. Nobody said a thing for FOUR YEARS until one day my dad noticed and was convinced my brother had done it (fair, since I didn’t live at home anymore). I had to finally fess up, but I said nobody could be THAT mad if it took them four years to notice!

  5. Oh man, those are just the worst kinds of slipups. You just feel so silly. I am reminded of a similar situation in my own family, except my sister and I were adults. We were both in the car with my parents and my mom backed into the wood pile (which of course was in the same location it always was, she was just having a careless moment like you did.) Everyone exclaimed, there was some chastising, etc. I don’t know what possessed me, but my instinct said “HUMOR” so I leaned over, put my hand on hers, and said “don’t worry, everyone in this family has thoughtlessly backed into something before…except for me. I have a perfect driving record.” And everyone burst out laughing. Tension reduced. It was a silly moment, and no harm was done. We were able to laugh it off.

    1. I love that you practiced humor! Such a gift to sort of ease the tension and put things in perspective. I felt like such an idiot! It just seemed so unlike me to be that careless. Anyway, thanks for sharing this!

  6. I’m so sorry and understand how you feel. I did something similar a few years back. Darting out to the store. Garage door went up, car in reverse, and hit the pedal without checking the rear view mirror. Smashing into my niece’s car that was parked in the driveway. I was upset and disappointed in my carelessness, but later grateful. Almost like it was a message from God to say slow down and pay attention to your surroundings. How often would the children in our cul de sac stop over with their bikes and scooters in the driveway. It could’ve been an unthinkable tragedy and shook me. Everything does happen for a reason. Glad that your damage was minimal and no one injured. What a great example you set for your children from the experience..

    1. Hi Anne – Thanks for writing in on this! I appreciate the solidarity. You know what really struck me in your sharing this story? The fact that I almost reflexively wanted to tell you: “I’m so glad you learned from this, but so sorry you had to experience it — I hope you have forgiven yourself. It was an accident.” It feels so much more natural for me to practice compassion for others. Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience. Sounds like we will both be very cautious drivers from now on, especially when in reverse…


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