I’ve had DAD as my personalized plate for about the past 12 years. In various phases of her evolution — this has both delighted and horrified my daughter. Now, at almost 17, she’s resigned to it. And was thrilled when I bought a new car, so it no longer is on “her” vehicle.
I had dinner the other night with a good friend and as we walked out to the parking lot, she nodded towards the plate and said, “so will you go back to normal plates once Kelsey goes to college (in about 18 months)?”
I just said no, that my job was not quite done.
As I drove off, I thought about the brief exchange in the lot. It had never even occurred to me to swap out my plates. Being a dad certainly isn’t tied to my license plate…but over the years, I guess I’ve considered it a badge of honor. It is declarative. It announces to the world what I am all about. And above all things — I am Kelsey’s dad.
I know that my dadhood will change as Kelsey moves through the stages of her life — but I doubt I become less of a dad.
Maybe that’s what struck me in the question. That somehow, as we evolve into this next phase of her life that the rest of the world sees my job as done. Or at least shifted to part-time.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a dad is that each time I’ve thought “this is the most important phase of her life for me to be very present” — I’ve been wrong. When I can’t imagine that she’ll need me more than “now,” the next significant moment in her evolution reminds me that life doesn’t get any simpler as we get older. In fact, all that seemed black and white as a kid morphs into gradients of gray as life teaches us that there are rarely easy answers.
I suspect I will never swap out my plates. Perhaps for me, it’s symbolic that who I am at the core is Kelsey’s dad. No matter where either of us are in our life journey and no matter how old we might be.
I am… Dad.