That I am a person who has an innate drive, and an exceptional quality, for being something of a "big-brother" type figure to children, not specifically but including young girls - and in our extended family, and with non-relatives too.
There is a whole entire bracket of VERY SIGNIFICANT level of connection between older youth, and younger youth. That bracket sometimes gets downplayed, severely undervalued, and even ignored by western society, even though it exists and is universally recognized as beneficial.
This is largely because many of the big brothers feel the need to stay very "underground" because of the way such men have been persecuted, as a very real and unfortunate side-effect of the very real and unfortunate "multi-cultural child abuse hysteria phenomenon".
There are definitely really dangerous individuals out there from whom your children ought to be protected - psychopaths and sociopaths and predators who prey on the children of their own species. Those people are not, collectively, pedophiles. Pedophiles are the institutionalized (or, should I say, transformed into a clinical phenomenon), modernized subset of a population who identify strongly as the big brothers: older youths who who bond with younger youths for a multitude of reasons - could be shared circumstances, shared interests, or any number of things in common.
The pedophile youths protect and nurture the younger youths, but also share a more person-to-person, quasi-peer bond with them than other adults* in their lives, thus giving them the capacity to help the younger youths in ways that the adult population simply cannot due to the greater generation gap.
There's a powerful thing there which I think, over time and if there's a mutual attraction (such as the crush between my niece and I), eventually turn into something romantic.
I do not claim that it is "appropriate" for it to turn into something romantic in mine and my niece's case! And if, in the distant future, my niece were to want that to happen, then I assume it would be up to her after interpersonal freedom is apparently granted at 16. Or granted officially at 18.
In the meantime, her parents dictate how much association we have (whether that's for better or for worse, only time will tell).
But I urge them to realize that I was more to my niece than an uncle. I was hers and my nephew's big brother.
Our relationship was inside that bracket of "older youths and younger youths empowering each other".
To my brother: you said that my relationship to your kids was like your relationship to us.
I argue it was even more personal, but yes: it was at least that.
Me losing them is like you losing me. To them, losing me would feel like I would feel losing you. That feeling isn't going to help your kids, and it sure isn't going to help me.
I feel like I"m losing four siblings. Have I really offended you that much by saying I'm in love with your daughter - but not acting on it - and knowing what that means to me... that you are all better off without me forever?
* as defined legally, as opposed to developmentally