It was a summer morning, just after Sunday Mass. My mom was talking to another parishioner (remember, Mom? It was Rhonda), and while I don't know how it came up, I vividly remember her saying, "I don't know why people say high school is the best time of your life. Those years can’t even compare to right now. This is the best time of my life, with my family."
That one comment made a huge, perhaps lifelong impact on me.
High school was great. While I had my share of differences with friends, pseudo broken hearts (I was a bit boy crazy, and by boys of course I mean hockey players who had no interest in me) and my first real broken heart, I enjoyed those years. I was a strong student, usually had a great group of girls around me, and got involved to the extent I wanted (which of course meant school newspaper, where I covered the religion beat, and school play, where I had the role of a nun...what do you mean, you see a theme emerging?)
That said, my biggest goal as a child was to be an adult. I've always been responsible, hardworking and serious, which led me to believe that adulthood would be more my zone than childhood. I certainly have my fun, but in the way that I define the word - which may be quite different from how the majority of people would! (I mean, if I had the choice between skydiving and organizing closets...)
My parents raised us right (in my opinion), teaching us that the adults were in charge and had the final say...and that someday it would be our turn. Recently on Live! With Kelly, Ethan Hawke jokingly lamented that when he was a kid, kids were the second-class citizens. Now, as a parent, parents are the second-class citizens. When does he get to be a first-class citizen? While of course I believe we are all first-class citizens, I also believe the grown-ups should run the world. Otherwise what is there to look forward to, if your peak of control and happiness comes when you’re a fickle tween? (That said, in my mind there is no fixed age when one becomes an adult. Some get there at 16, some 36, some clearly don’t get there at all.)
I hadn't even turned 23 when I was offered a full-time teaching position, and I have had no qualms about being tied down Monday to Friday since such a young age. Daily routine, rewarding work and a paycheque with benefits...it doesn't get better to me.
Getting married, building a house, these were commitments I was excited about. Even the logistics of having children didn't drag me down as it does some moms. While the early sleep-deprivation was a killer, and we are lucky enough to have active grandparents and incredible babysitters, I've also often been glad to have an excuse to turn down social events or leave early “because of the kids”.
In terms of fulfillment, I am still so close with my mom, dad, brother and his family...but now I have a wonderful husband (and all the in-laws he brought with him) and amazing children of my own.
I think there's something to be said for the perspective of appreciating your life where it is right now. I really hope that when the time comes, I will find joy in the empty nest phase (with my lovely daughters off fulfilling their dreams…and God willing, someday giving me grandchildren) and even retirement from teaching (though I am nowhere close to being able to envision that yet - I didn't just purge and paint those kindergarten rooms for nothing!)
Maybe there will come a day, after the loss of a loved one perhaps, when I will feel like my peak is behind me. For now, life just keeps getting better and better.
My glory days are right here, right now, and I would argue that there's a real benefit to believing that yours are too. Not only that, the next phase will be just as glorious as this one…different, but glorious.
P.S. A final takeaway: your kids are always listening to you, and something you say may have a monumental impact that they refer to on the Internet 30 years later.