I was at a garden party last summer with my new baby. A group of twentysomethings smiled at her between bites of flatbread pizza and fruity, boozy popsicles. One of them admitted that the baby was cute, but asked: Doesn’t having a baby cramp your style? I told him I was really glad that someone was cramping my style, that I was starting to be afraid no one would ever cramp my style, that I’ve had so much time with my style! It’s one of the big benefits of being an old new mom.

If turning 30 meant saying goodbye to my young youth, then 40 is saying goodbye to my youth, period. It’s accepting that some of my wildest fantasies involve eight consecutive hours of sleep, or sitting down in a chair with a magazine, or trying out a new kale soup recipe. As I try to figure out this new stage of life, I find myself more and more irritated by the ideas and habits of younger people. But to my surprise, I’m also discovering how much I have to learn from them.

I teach English at a Christian liberal arts college in the Northwest, so I spend most of my time with 18 to 22-year-olds. At the end of every semester, I give a spiel in which I praise students for their hard work and thank them for being my teachers. I almost always mean it. Many of the texts I teach are as familiar to me as the chairs in my house, but my students often see things I haven’t seen before, and I’m grateful for their insights.

Outside of the classroom, however, I have a harder time listening with both ears to young people. I like millennials. I’m friends with them. I’m related to them. But sometimes I have to roll my eyes at them. I sit close enough to them in coffee shops to hear them listing all of the adulting they ...

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