Imagine our surprise when, one morning, we awoke to find two grown men sleeping in our basement.
Although they appeared to be denizens of another era, legs protruding from over the end of the black IKEA youth beds in the room, athletic socks festooning lampshades, and open drawers like flags announcing the Feast Day of Dirty Laundry, they acclimated quickly. They'd last occupied this room, together, when they weighed no more than 100 pounds between them, but quickly adapted to their former environment by regressing, searching the couch for spare change for gas, and rising at 11 a.m. to consume half a gallon of milk and a loaf of toast before noon.
Yes, they were our own sons, back victorious from the baccalaureate battle.
Yet, still, somehow, in the middle place between nestling and fully plumed eagle, they needed rest (and lasagna), space to think (and to change their brake pads), time to plan (and to throw a July 4 campfire with all their friends from high school, also sleeping in their parents' basements).
We know that this situation is not particular to our family. It's more an artifact of hard times than soft upbringing. Soon, our sons will move on to their own homes, condos, or yet other people's basements. Until then, it behooves us boomers to think of the benefits of what we might call … early returns. This is what we're planning — and you can, too.
- Put the zing back in our romance by making out in the car, since privacy has left the building.
- Rejoice. There are two more licensed drivers to run the younger kids around. And they have night vision.
- Lay off the chores. We now have two more pairs of hands to shovel, pull weeds and throw into the wash the 200 towels we'll be using each week.
- Impress everyone at the next family wedding by adapting boomeranger moves to our statures, both physical and sociological.
- Imagine ourselves super-styling at said family wedding with hip accessories.
- Equalized movie-trivia teams to be on par with the 12-year-old.
- Sleep through the night instead of lying awake thinking about maintenance issues at apartments we've never seen on which we've signed the lease.
- Relish daily boomeranger contact with younger siblings, the most potent form of protection against premature grandparenthood.
- Get in better shape with new ferocious workout buddies who now jog half a mile ahead — about the same distance they used to sit behind their parents at the movies when they were 13.
- Let someone else take the adorable 7-year-old brother to the community pool eight times a week.
- Repair and redefine relationship with social media. No more need to Skype the college kids so they can teach how to record a movie while playing X-treme Skateboard Bonanza and watching Law and Order.
- Take weekend getaways anytime we want, something the younger sibs are insisting that we really deserve. (Ah, if only the cost of the extra milk and bread weren't so steep.)
- Appreciate an honest opinion of new haircut before going to work where someone would ask if you went to the party as Danny Zuko or Kevin Bacon in Footloose.
- And the mousse topping is this: As your boomerangers job-hunt, watch every single thing you ever advised or warned — and your dear young kin ever ignored — become a dawning reality on their faces. It's like being in the front row of your own canonization.
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Jacquelyn Mitchard, the best-selling author of 20 books, lives near Madison, Wis., with her family. Her next novel, Second Nature: A Love Story, will be published in September by Random House.
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