I remember things when I was 5 years old (… not everything, but a few things), such as that I couldn’t wait to turn 6 so I could go into town with my step-cousins and attend the three-grade, one-room country school. It was interesting that the classes were taught by a young lady still in her early 20s.

I thought my world would really change for the better the moment I turned 6 and could spend some of my time away from the daily routine of farm life. Interesting how when I turned 6, nothing much changed, except me wanting to turn 7 so I could be doing the same classwork as my favorite cousin, LaVera, who was one year ahead of me. When I turned 7, I couldn’t wait to be a teenager so I could drive a truck, like my older cousin who was driving us to school, dropping us off, and then driving to the small high school about a mile away.

When I was a teenager … (Oh, before I continue I need to say that my dad moved us back to Wichita because he said he wasn’t “born to farm.” I think it had a lot to do with the one year of grasshoppers, then a year of cinch bugs, and then the tornado that ripped through the area.) So, when I turned 13, I couldn’t wait to become an adult and make more of my own decisions. Well, at least I was able to decide I wanted to go to California and live with my birth-mom and stepdad, which my older brother had done by running away a year earlier.

Within a few years, and sooner than I had thought, I was an adult. Things had to be decided by myself which I also had to take full responsibility for. And during my first year of college, I found myself wishing I were 5 years old again, remembering how easy school was when I was 6.

Why are we never satisfied with who we are right now? Why don’t we ever slow down and enjoy the moments of the present, instead of focusing on the past, or trying to jump to the future?

In my lifetime I’ve learned that most companies and schools follow a formula for success, which is: If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier. That seems to underscore most of how our thinking and behavior are motivated. The problem is, every time you seem to have a touchdown, the goalpost of what success is supposed to look like gets moved further away. I got good grades, but then I had to get better grades. I got a good job, and after that I needed to get a better one. I wrote what I thought was a good novel, but the editor “tracked” changes.

Thinking back to my childhood, in turning a year older, success was not where my true happiness came from. We seem to constantly be in the habit of thinking things will be better in the future instead of being grateful for how they are now.

Thinking about my next birthday, that’s just around the corner, I would like to remind you parents (and your child), as you begin to gear up for the next birthday party, that life is okay the way it is right now. Every age your child turns has its own milestones to be excited about.

Below are just a few milestones by age so your family can live more in the now. Find your child’s age and make your own list of exciting firsts to look forward to this year right now. There are tons. But here’s just a few:

1 to 2: crawling, first words, first steps, walking

3 to 4: sleeping in a big bed, becoming potty trained

5 to 6: playing sports, starting school, learning to ride a bike, or skate board

7 to 8: losing the first tooth, joining a special program of interest

9 to 10: developing new long term interests

11 to 12: puberty, starting middle school

13 to 14: becoming a teenager, starting high school, riding a motor scooter in the rural Midwest

15 to 16: obtaining a driver’s permit and first driver’s license

17 to 18: graduating from high school, registering to vote, becoming an adult ... oh no! All those responsibilities!

19 to 77 and older: uh, there’s not enough room left in this column to list all the milestones and exciting firsts between those years, but I will say that my wife and I are excited about being able to experience the first house we’ve ever built.

And, God willing, we will be embracing the remainder of our retirement years in it.

— Contact Allen Stark at amsstark@msn.com.

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