As I sit in the photographers studio waiting, I can’t believe what I am seeing. I’m watching an incredibly beautiful young woman strike pose after pose for the photographer. She is tall, thin. blonde and gorgeous. The camera loves her and the pictures will be amazing. All I can see though is the slightly pudgy, fearless toddler I first met over 15 years ago. The gorgeous young model is my 17 year old step-daughter Marissa, as her mother and I are watching her first professional photo shoot ever.
I sit and watch her – so poised and confidant. So sure of herself. I know at 17 I was a gangly, self-conscious kid and she is the opposite of that. How quickly she has transformed. How fast it has all flown by. While technically her “step” father, her “real” father was not around much. My own (slightly older) daughter and Marissa were best friends as soon as they met. I took Marissa into my heart when she was 18 months old and in there she has been my own daughter ever since. I have watched with joy while she has grown and matures. Moving with grace from the pudgy awkward caterpillar she was as a toddler to to the beautiful butterfly she is today.
Where did all that time go? How could she possibly be so grown-up already? The youngest of our six children, she will be a senior next year. I know that I will blink and she will be off to college. A straight “A” student and incredibly talented dancer who is on the swim team, plays soccer and lacrosse, and works as a life-guard in her spare time. She plans to become a doctor. No shit. She is absolutely one of those girls in high-school that was way out of my league.
I’m not sure where the last 15 years have gone, but I can attest to that old saying that ‘time flies’. Not only does it fly, but it flies faster the older you get. It seems like yesterday all our kids were little. Since we both brought a set of twins into our marriage, even though there were six of them, they were grouped within four years of each other. And so as group they all grew up. It’s been amazing to watch the very different young adults they have all grown up to be. Some as I might have expected, some a total surprise. Our oldest will be 22 soon, and lives in Santa Barbara (and is thiving, by the way). Now that Marissa is 17, soon our last little baby will be grown and gone.And it is with no small degree of sadness that I say goodbye to my role as “Parent”. I know you never really stop being a parent, but I especially enjoyed being the kind of hands-on Dad I never had as a kid. Coaching Little League, Soccer and Basketball. Cub Scout den leader, in-class volunteer – the whole nine yards. I will miss all of that. Those memories are something I will always carry with me and treasure. But like all good things, even the joy of parenthood eventually comes to an end. As I told a friend the other day – there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’ve begun to suspect it is not an oncoming train afterall.
Some in my position might begin to wonder, what now? Couples spend their lives raising children, and then don’t know what to do whith themselves once the kids are grown. That will not be a problem for me, as I am however blessed to be married to my best friend. We love to travel together and plan to fill the void with lots of fun and travel. I will always miss having small children in the house, but it is nice to look forward to that time in our lives when we finally get our reward. It isn’t wrong to think of it that way. When you have done your time and raised your children you deserve to have some fun – just for you.
And besides, if we get to missing having kids around, eventually there will be grandchildren, right…?