2018-09-12 / Columns

An evening of family togetherness mixed with a little role reversal


They arrived in their characteristic styles: Oldest daughter Jill a tad late, youngest daughter Nancy early, and middle daughter Amy—yes, right in the middle.

But this was no ordinary visit. This time, our daughters were coming for an overnight without their husbands and without their kids. That meant that instead of a crowd of 13— seven grandkids, three sons-in-law, three daughters— it was the just our quintet. The original five who once defined our family constellation.

And for a single night, we were—well, the way we were.

The next day, there was to be a special visit with their aunt Ruthie in Philadelphia for yet more family bonding. But for this one night, it was the five of us. Just like old times.


What we’ve learned as parents of very adult children is that old times can’t really be resurrected. Not when the “kids” are now parents themselves leading lives we really can’t know.

As much as we adore our “girls,” as their father sometimes calls them just to get their feminist ire up, our universes no longer are in synch.

They are “out there,” arguably at the most productive stages of their lives. They are all working mothers with careers that matter to them. We are at the other end of the age/work spectrum. Even though we once dried their tears and taught them how to tie their shoes, a subtle shift really began when they left us and created homes of their own. And yes, that took some getting used to.

Even though it’s exactly as it should be, I will sheepishly admit that it still feels a bit weird to be on the receiving end of their advice and wisdom. On our long and lovely night together, there were flashes of the surreal.

Our daughters have decided that we should make use of the Uber phenomenon now that neither of us loves night driving.

They have strongly suggested that we also could use a bigger and better refrigerator, that the sofa in the den—the one we adore despite its age and wear— has to go.

And yes, they also decreed, with the best intentions, that it would not be a bad idea for both of us to pursue yoga.

Once upon a time, we were the directors, the CEOs, the leaders. Now these daughters have decided to take us in hand and straighten us out.

In some ways, it was quite lovely that they solved a balky computer glitch, convinced me that an iPhone would change my life, and did not allow their father, who has a tricky back, to do the heavy lifting he had planned to do in the garage.

It’s an old, old story, this gradual parent-child role reversal. But when it’s happening to you, it’s downright shocking.

I wasn’t ready for Nancy to rearrange our jumble of leftovers far more deftly than I can, or for Amy to show me how to finally put together my jeans with the right shirt. And Jill did truly improve our lives when she showed us how to hang a picture correctly.

But the best was yet to come on our sleepover.

For a wonderful hour that night, before we all crashed, we sat in the family room and retold old stories that would bore anyone else. We dredged up catch phrases that only make sense to us—and that made us laugh longer and harder than we had in too long.

And in the sweet simplicity of the moment, we sat around the kitchen table and ate strawberries and those huge chocolate chip cookies that you say you’ll only eat half of, but somehow manage the whole decadent thing.

Our daughters—all three of them—shared the guest room, and let us boss them around about what pillows and blankets to use. And as we closed down the house that night, we heard the loveliest sound of all.

From the guest room came the voices of our girls—grown women now—laughing together.

There was no sweeter lullaby.


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