My biological children ( I have a stepson too) have been on the planet for eighteen and sixteen (and a half) years respectively. Both of them are entering adulthood, and my role is changing. Unlike so many parents that I have met (I have to say; chiefly mothers), I have not a single moment of regret that they are no longer babies, or toddlers or younger kids. In fact I'll go further; parents who wish that their children were still any of the above things are just being selfish and childish. Our children are not toys - in the most clinical sense they are packages of DNA; they exist to pass on our genes - they are here in order to grow, develop and become adults. Regretting the passage of their lives seems to me to be both disrespectful and shallow. If you don't relish them growing up, what did you have kids for?
I've watched my children grow from their very first breaths, and every step of the way I've been filled with joy and love for them, as well as being fascinated by their progress and their journey through their early years until this moment. I plan to continue enjoying their journey as the world receives them and they learn to deal with life's challenges and successes. They've become (and continue to become) wonderful people; thoughtful, loving and kind - I am proud of them beyond my capacity to describe.
I'm still their dad, but I know that my role under this title must change as they become more mature, knowledgeable and independent. Soon I'll no longer be a repository for useful knowledge (although I shall steadfastly maintain my position as the family's keeper of useless information); soon I shall be someone with more experience, but without quite so many surprising answers. Soon I shall begin fading slightly in their lives; available whenever necessary, but taking second, third or fourth place (or less) to the many other people in their lives who become more relevant on a daily basis. My own relevance will fade.
I'll still be 'dad', though.
Soon, I'll be 'the old man' in more ways than one, and I will seem more old fashioned than ever before. I'll become gradually less physically able, less up to the task of being the strong man in the house, and one day I'll have to take a breather when they haven't even thought of needing one. Soon their experiences will begin to catch up with my own in more topical ways. My words of advice will begin to mix with their own experiences, and they will make their decisions about life without needing to ask my opinion - except for, just maybe, once in a blue moon. My importance will diminish.
But I'll still be their dad.
Not very long from now, there will be other 'dad' figures in their lives: perhaps fathers-in-law, a husband or even becoming a dad. When the glorious excitement of parenthood arrives for them, they will begin to fully understand my love for them; its power over me, its strength and its instinctive nature. They will begin to understand the importance of the little things that I have done - for them and with them - as well as the seemingly big stuff. We will share a love for their own children, and I will revel in it, and I will explain my love for them all as often as I can. I'll help when and where I can, and I'll butt out when I'm not needed - it's their life, after all.
No matter what, I shall still be their dad. My love will never lessen.
Hopefully a long time from now, I shall leave them. This chilling, lonely thought fills me with a sadness and horror that is almost unbearable, but when it happens I will know that my 'children' are wonderful people, that they always knew that they were loved from the heart, and that being their dad was the most important thing in the world to me. They will also have come to know me as a man, and hopefully as I used to be - the child that stays within. They will know me by the name that I was given, rather than the title that I have assumed. That will be my true legacy, the only legacy that counts. No; I will be sad to go but I shall not regret that they grew and became the people that they already are. I am privileged to be part of their lives. I will not have made them who they are; I have nudged them, guided them and been a role model to them, but they take all the credit for being the warm, sensitive and loving people of whom I am so proud.
Because I have been their dad.
Growing older may be something that I'm not looking forward to, but watching my 'kids' grow will be more than adequate compensation, and is of course for all of us, our true life's work. Growing older? Bring it on.