It comes up on you, little by little.
You don't see it in yourself, necessarily. It's just the aches and pains that gradually come on as you become a bit less active, when joints and muscles start to fail you.
But when you have kids, it creeps up on you and then springs upon you when you least expect it.
The first time that your kids play in the neighbourhood, with their friends, without your supervision.
Their first sleepovers.
When you no longer have to see them off, on the school bus, nor await for their return.
When they take a city bus with their friends, downtown.
When they go on school trips, outside the city.
When they apply for their first job.
When you take them on tours of universities.
This last activity came up from behind, spun me around, and punched me in the gut. We've been looking outside of our city: Montreal; Toronto; Oakville. Next year, our oldest child will be in her final year of high school. She's toured three universities and picked her top two. Even our youngest, who has three more years of high school, has toured two universities.
She's determined that one of them, her only real choice, is where she'll be attending. It's the best school, in Canada, for her program. With her talent, smarts, and drive, I know she'll make it there.
And again, it hits me.
They're growing up. Soon, they'll be going away.
Today, DD17 takes her G2 driver's test, meaning that she will no longer need me at her side when she's behind the wheel. She'll be free to come and go as she pleases. She's demonstrated that she's a good driver but that doesn't mean I'll stop worrying when she rolls down our street, out of sight.
It's through observing your child grow, mature, and become independent that you see how you, yourself, have aged, grown old.
I shall not wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. I shall not part my hair behind nor dare to eat a peach (I'm allergic, after all). I shall not wear white flannel trousers, but may walk upon the beach*, knowing that my kids have done all right.
In spite of me.
* Inspired by (stolen from) The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot.