Wise Words for Younger Me

By Diane Stark

When I was a brand new, 23-year-old teacher, I envied the 30-something teachers. They’d taught for a while, and they knew what worked and what didn’t. I was fumbling through my first year of teaching, putting in a lot of time, but still making a lot of mistakes. The more experienced teachers were able to recycle their lessons plans from previous years, so they were doing a better job than I was in half the time.

I watched them leave the school each afternoon, while I stayed late, working hard to be a good teacher. They were so comfortable in their role, while I felt awkward and insecure.

I was also envious of their paychecks. Each year they’d taught, they’d gotten a small raise, while I was still at the beginning teachers’ salary. They owned their own homes, while I still lived in an apartment.

They were only a few years older than I was, but those years brought a level of confidence and security I desperately wanted.

Soon I was that confident, experienced teacher. I’d stopped staying at school until dinner time. I didn’t need to – I knew what I was doing now. My paychecks were slightly larger, and I owned my own home.

I should have been happy. I’d become the person I used to envy. But now I found myself looking at the first-year teachers and being jealous of their energy and enthusiasm. They stayed late every night. They cared so much about getting better at their jobs.

More than a decade ago, I left the classroom to become a stay-at-home mom. It was a dream come true. For my entire teaching career, I’d cherished my summers at home with my kids and wished I could be a year-round, full-time mom. I’d missed them so much when I was working. Resigning had been such a relief.

But that first day of school the following year had been bittersweet. Teaching is such an important job, and now, I was just a mom. It took me a few weeks to figure out that being a mom is important too.

When my house was full of little kids, everything was an adventure. Going out to eat with babies and toddlers was always a gamble. We would sit at the table, working hard to keep the kids entertained. We’d pray our food would arrive before any tantrums did. Just going out for dinner was a lot of work.

I can remember looking at the families at the other tables. The couples with older children seemed so much more relaxed than we did. Their children sat quietly, playing on tablets while their parents enjoyed a peaceful conversation.

I remember thinking how much easier parenting would be when my kids got a little older. These days, my older kids are teenagers and young adults, and my youngest child is ten years old. Going out to eat is no longer an adventure. And I’m shocked by how much I miss it.

As my kids have gotten older, I’ve come to hate their birthdays. Don’t get me wrong. I still love buying them gifts and celebrating them on their special day. It’s just sad that they are another year older. On my youngest son’s last birthday, after the presents were opened and the cake was eaten, I thought, “All of my kids are in the double digits now.”

It made me cry. Having big kids was something I’d always wished for, and now that I have it, I just want to go back and have littles again.

When they were little, my kids needed me constantly. It was exhausting at times. Now that they’re older, I find myself wishing they needed me more than they do.

It seems I’ve spent my whole life wishing I could fast-forward or rewind time. I’m always wishing for a different stage of life than the one I’m currently in. When my kids were younger, I longed for more freedom and time to myself. Now that I have it, I miss the bedtime stories and little kid snuggles.

A few weeks ago, ten-year-old Nathan and I were sitting in the waiting room at the Toyota dealership, killing time while my car was being repaired. I read a book while Nathan sat next to me, playing a game on my phone. My book was interesting, but I couldn’t concentrate because a toddler was circling the room, his mom following behind him.

“I’m sorry,” she said when her son walked by, stepping on my feet.

I smiled at her. “It’s no problem. He’s adorable.”

“He’s a lot of work. I wish he was older so I could sit and read a book like you are.”

“When my kids were his age, I used to wish that too.” I sighed. “Now I wish they were little again.”

She smiled. “Well, you know what they say about the grass being greener somewhere else.”

“I do. I think I’ve spent my whole life looking for that greener grass.”

“Ever find it?”

I shook my head. “Not really.” Her son toddled by, stepping on my feet again. He stopped and grinned at me, then drove his Matchbox car up my leg.

“Tyler, don’t bother her.” She rose to grab him, but I motioned her away.

“Why don’t you grab a magazine? I’ll play with Tyler for a while.”

She grinned. “A break would be wonderful.”

“The funny thing is, it’s a break for me too,” I said.

For the next half-hour, I entertained little Tyler while his mom read a magazine. When they announced that her car was finished, she thanked me for watching him. “I feel so refreshed,” she said.

“Me too,” I answered.

I still haven’t learned to be completely content with my current stage of life, but I have found that every stage has wonderful things to offer. I only wish I’d discovered this sooner. The younger me would have been a happier person.

One day, my peaceful, quiet life will be turned upside down in the most wonderful way possible.

Grandbabies!

But for now, I’ll just enjoy life right where I am.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark

    Diane Stark

    Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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