They arrived in their characteristic styles: oldest daughter Jill a tad late, youngest daughter Nancy early and middle daughter Amy right in the middle.
But this was no ordinary visit. This time, our daughters were coming for an overnight visit without husbands and kids. Instead of a crowd of 13 – seven grandkids, three sons-in-law, three daughters – it was just the quintet. The original five who once defined our family constellation.
And for a night, we were the way we were.
What we’ve learned as parents of adult children is that old times can’t be resurrected. Not when the “kids” are now parents themselves who lead lives we really can’t know.
As much as we adore our “girls,” as their father sometimes calls them to get their feminist ire up, our universes are no longer in sync.
They are “out there” at the most productive stages of their lives. They are working mothers with careers. 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 began when they left us and created homes of their own.
Even though it’s exactly as it should be, I will admit that it still feels a bit weird to be on the receiving end of their advice and wisdom. On our 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 also strongly suggested that we also could use a bigger and better refrigerator, that the sofa in the den has to go.
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 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 in the garage.
It’s an old story, this gradual parent-child role reversal. But when it is 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 put my jeans with the right shirt.
But the best was yet to come.
For a wonderful hour that night, we sat in the family room and retold stories that would bore anyone else. We dredged up catchphrases that only make sense to us and that made us laugh harder than we had in too long.
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, we heard the loveliest sound of all: the voices of our girls laughing together.
There is no sweeter lullaby.
Sally Friedman is a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer.