Lucky to Be Children.

By: Jen Shoop

I’m writing this from the attic bedroom of my parents’ home, on a pillow-top bed, my hair dripping wet from the shower, a towel with my maiden monogram embroidered on it around my shoulders.  It’s 9:38 p.m. and all I can think about is the sharp sing-song of the crickets outside the window, a sound so familiar yet foreign to me now as a Manhattanite, their chirp a hypnosis from childhood.  I note the click-click of my parents’ bedroom door closing, the shuffle of their feet on the wood floor as they retire for the evening.  There are occasional creaks in the roof that terrify me even now — at thirty four — on the rare occasion I spend the night alone here, but with my parents downstairs, I embrace them as part of the settled-in snug of this house.

My parents moved here when I was out of college.  I had a romantic attachment to my childhood home, a grand stone-faced one on the top of a hill that I always think of in black-and-white, as if it were permanently stuck in a film noir but this one is better in many ways: more livable, more modern, with a kind graciousness to its dimensions.  An elevator to accommodate aging parents, an oversized kitchen befitting of our sprawling family, large bedrooms for cousins to share.  And — though I did not grow up here, did not learn to ride a two-wheeler here, did not build pillow forts here, did not place my first lost tooth under my pillow here, did not careen down the steps on Christmas morning here, did not cry into my pillow over fourteen-year-old crushes here, did not whisper stories I’d filched from books I’d read and pawned off as my own into the dark night to my sisters here — here, too, I feel like a child.

In New York, as Mr. Magpie put it recently, “we adult hard.”  We attend pre-school open houses.  We make doctor’s appointments.  We tip people.  We have “Handyman Richie” saved in our cell phones.  We coordinate on schedules — “can you get a sitter for the seventh?” “what’s going on the 23rd?” We rant about the COI protocols in our building.  We weigh the pros and cons of renewing our Costco membership.  I realized as I sat down at my desk the other day, rolling its drawer towards my lap to remove my day planner, its pages thick with invitations, receipts, coupons, sticky notes — that I have become my mother.  The scroll-y thwirl of the drawer opening, her hand poised above the agenda page with a pen, her ear cradling a phone.  “Mhm, how about Thursday the 8th?” she would say, thumbing through her pages, also thick with invitations, receipts, coupons, and sticky notes.  I am an extension of her gesture.

Here, now, my mother has stocked the pantry with my favorite Cheez-its and the best flavors of LaCroix are never in short supply, without my ever having to take mental note.  Dinner is around the long polished wood table, on china, in their formal dining room, after grace has been said.  I have to start saying grace with mini, I think to myself.  Towels are fluffy, white, and folded in tidy rows in the linen closet — a far cry from the unceremonious stack in a linen bin on top of our drying machine.  The bathroom is always stocked with shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, qtips, soap, fresh towels, “and an extra set, too, in the cabinet, just in case.”  My father often inquires about the temperature of my bedroom: “a few degrees cooler? warmer?”  He leaves clippings and articles on the steps with my initials on them in blotchy permanent marker.  I will often return to the kitchen to find my belongings in a neat pile.

Aren’t we lucky to be children?

On the surface of it, an idiotic thought: yes, Jen, it’s the circle of life.  But I mean it in the sense that every now and then I come home and realize, “Oh, no no.  I’m not a real adult yet.”  And I feel myself relax into the indulgences and generosities of my parents, my New York life a kind of distant performance.  This visit in particular: I had committed to taking the 1 train to Penn Station to catch the 10 a.m. Acela to Union Station, and then jumping onto the redline up to the Tenley stop, all on my own, with my 18-month-old at my side.  Nothing indomitable, but — I’ll admit — tricky and exhausting when there were two elevators out of order on my New York subway excursion alone, and mini scarcely tolerated a few minutes on my lap on the train.  My father texted me early the morning I left: “Will meet you at the gate at Union.  ETA?”  I put him off: “No, no.  I’ll just metro.”  (You can do this!)  He insisted; I accepted.  And when I wheeled mini out the sliding glass doors into the station, his was the first face I saw.  I don’t know that he noticed the slight wobble in my chin when I hugged him.  The unfurling of something, the release, when he took my bags from my arms, wordlessly paused our little caravan at the pay-station to pay the parking ticket, led me to his car, contemplated the best route home.  It was a shift in gears.  I wallowed in the breakers of a relief I did not know I wanted or needed.

So yes, we are lucky to be children, even when we are thirty-four and capable and parents in our own right and busy with coordinating dates and unclogging drains and strategizing about pre-school applications and will often find ourselves seated at our agendas, their pages thick invitations, receipts, coupons, and sticky notes.

Mainly, though, what I really mean to say, is that I am lucky to be your child, mom and dad.

Thank you.

Post Scripts.

+One of my sisters happened to be home while I was there, and she was raving about these joggers from a label I’d never heard of.  Planning on ordering the gray, though I now own and DIE OVER these (<<strongly recommend)!

+My sister also raved about this at home facial and I instantly added it to my cart.  (Read the reviews!)

+More on my parents.

+Thanks to the mom who wrote to tip me off on H&M’s collared onesies!  I had been on the hunt for a style similar to Kissy Kissy’s unrivaled pima cotton ones in bigger sizes, and at $10, these are a major win!  Also had to order this traditional-looking corduroy toddler dress.  Who would guess it’s from H&M?!

+I’ve heard really good things about this bodysuit.

+Seriously lusting after an investment sweater this season.  I’m contemplating either this Demylee (M.K., I think you introduced me to this brand), this sky-blue Autumn Cashmere (cannot get over this blue color right now), or this puff-shouldered cashmere pullover from White + Warren.  On the inexpensive end of the spectrum, this bell-sleeved mockneck sweater is right up my alley in the lilac or navy.

+Love this bold blue, red, and white striped tee!

+I heard from another mom that this is the ultimate product for major fluffy bubble baths.  Just ordered a bottle for mini.

+A parenting curiosity and — are you a proponent of slow parenting?

+Into these marble accessories for the bathroom.

+Super pretty stationery for a girly girl like myself.

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25 thoughts on “Lucky to Be Children.

  1. Oh gosh, this post is so beautiful and makes my heart both flutter (for myself, and my parents, and the way they similarly take care of me) and wrench (for one of my closest friends, whose mother is dying). It’s so wonderful how aware you are of the privilege of having parents that are able to support you and take care of you, even in adulthood. It’s true, what Cynthia said — life does happen too quickly, and we should all be so lucky to recognize the support and love that we have in our families.

    On a lighter note, the mention of crickets brought me right back to the late summers & early autumns of my childhood in New Jersey — it was the soundtrack to my evenings at my childhood home as well, and when we’d return from Cape Cod in late August, they always let me know that a return to school was right around the corner!

    I also wanted to mention (for Jennifer’s sake, if she’s reading) that Marine Layer has some really cute pieces. I find their styles to be classic in a laid-back, California way. I have 2 t-shirts from ML and both of them have impressed me with their quality. I also bought my mom a cotton cardigan sweater from ML and she loves it!

    1. Love all of this. Glad you relate — we need to cherish our parents while they are still around! Thanks also for the tip on Marine Layer!! xoxo

  2. I spent the better part of the last two weeks deep in your archives — I adore your writing.

    I just returned to DC from a week at home. A house that similarly, my parents moved to when I was in college but but feels just as home as the house I grew up in.
    There’s something about my mother fussing over me and my father pretending to be begrudged at my requests for him to refill my drink that feels like the most luxurious break from the mental gymnastics of adulthood. And of course it is luxurious for parents too, to have their grown up children, who have their own busy and full lives, choose to come spend their time with them.

    1. Hi Elizabeth! Thank you so much for the compliment, and for digging back through the archives 🙂 You’re right. I kept thanking my parents for the treat of their doting on myself and my daughter, and they routinely said the same thing: “The pleasure is ours.” It’s so fortunate that both sides feel grateful for these visits 🙂 Hope you enjoyed your time at home, too. xo

  3. We lived in Palisades for four years, and on our first night in our home there the crickets and frogs kept me up. I love this, especially on a day I made a to do list that included: send insurance forms, and RSVP to the next two preschool birthdays.

    1. So glad it reached you on the right day 🙂 How long did it take to readjust to the sounds of nature?! Now I’m pretty sure the inverse would be true — hearing city sounds might keep you up. xo

  4. This post was beautiful and made me cry.

    I’m 25 and have been married for 3 years…spent 2 of them living on the opposite coast from my parents. 7 months ago I was diagnosed with cancer and needed to start treatment as soon as possible in the major city my parents live close to. Without a discussion they swept my husband and I up, moved us into their spare rooms and have cooked for us and attended treatment with me and put their lives on hold to help us get through this nightmare. Lucky to be children, indeed.

    1. Oh, Elizabeth – I’m so, so sorry to hear this and also so happy to hear this in the sense that you have found such loving care and comfort from your parents. I will be thinking of you and sending you lots of good vibes. Have been thinking of you all morning. xoxo

    2. Circling back because I somehow ended up here from this morning’s post. I reread your essay because I remembered loving it so much on the first go, and was surprised to find this comment I had forgotten writing down below.

      Three years on: my hair has grown back, my oncologist has given me the thumbs up and many of the details of that time are lost in a swirl of treatment and trauma and small moments in between. We have moved on in many ways, but I’ll never forget how lucky we are to be children.

      Love to you and yours!

  5. Another lovely post! I sympathize with you re: the babe who wouldn’t sit in your lap for the train ride – neither did mine, though we luckily had an empty seat next to us so she could climb around there.

    Love that stationery! I need to create some new cards for myself and to get cracking on our holiday cards (I know it’s early, but if I don’t start the process now it’ll never get done – I’m thinking watercolor palm trees with some Christmas lights this year??)

    Btw, have you heard of the brand Marine Layer? It keeps popping up in my Facebook feed (and I just saw a storefront at our local mall) – I’m curious, but don’t know anyone who’s bought clothes from them! The items look ultra comfy (but not dowdy) and up my alley – may have to bite the bullet and pick some items up to give them a whirl.

    1. Hi! I have seen Marine Layer from afar (in Chicago, lived close to one of their stores in Lincoln Park) and it does look like high-quality basics, maybe with a bit of a hipster vibe? I never walked in, though! I’ll need a full report if you do indulge 🙂


  6. Love this! So well written! We are always loved children in our parents eyes and you said/explained it so well. You too will always think of mini as your baby/daughter, even when she’s 34! Relish this special time with your parents. Life happens too quickly.
    On another note, I was speaking to some mothers at exercise class last week and Mom #1 was sharing how her son went to A++ high school here and was pro golf potential and now is in college and blah, blah, blah! Mom #2 piled on stating her son went to A- high school BUT he is now about to graduate with honors from the honors program in college, blah, blah, blah! It made me think I was back in grade school waiting to meet admissions staff and the mother’s are all “chatting” in the waiting room. It made me think of you having to deal with this in pre-k, and wanting you to know that I guess it never ends!!! It’s too much!
    Why can’t ALL these kids be wonderful? They ARE! The competition is intense, and so destructive.

    1. OY you are so right. I’m actually watching “Odd Mom Out” at the urgent request of several friends of mine who do not live in New York and know I am thinking about applying, and it REALLY underscores the inane competitiveness point…

      And glad the post hit home for you. I was moved at what you said: “Relish this special time with your parents. Life happens too quickly.” You make me realize that I don’t need to wait for my husband to travel abroad to make a trip down there…


  7. Hi, the link for at home facial on Sephora site takes you to French site, and not an at home facial, though my French is rusty! Not sure if that was intended?

    1. Hi Jane! Sorry the link wasn’t working for you — it’s a link to a Sephora page for TLC’s Sukari Babyfacial. Let me know if this takes you to the right place instead:

      (If not, google it!)


  8. Honorable mention to the pantry at Nurmily, which we would raid after whatever fancy theme party we’d thrown for ourselves during college summers. Why am I eating Pop-tarts at 2am? Why are there no chips going into my mouth?!

    1. Hahahahaha!!! So true. An endless supply of junk food (including gushers — who likes gushers?) Such good memories ❤️❤️❤️

    1. Thank you! You are so right – yikes! Will update this post and make a note citing your correction. Thanks for catching that! Xo

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