I slept in my parent’s bed until I left for college.

I didn’t sleep there every night, and it’s not as though I wandered wearing extra-large footie pajamas. I just often found myself still there in the morning with hazy recollection of the 48 Hours that my mom and I had been watching before we drifted off to sleep. I’m supposed to sleep in my own bed now that I’m a wife and a mother of three children, but I miss laying in theirs, chatting and flipping through the channels. To this day, their visits to my home trigger that impulse to behave like the kid I was. Each day of their stay is met with manic swings between setting the table with matching flatware and whining with a mouth full of cake about my horrid clothes.

I left my parent’s home after high school and only ever returned for brief reunions during holidays. Before long, I was caught up with life in the big city in an apartment so small that even the mice were begging for more floor space. Whenever my folks flew across the country to visit, it was so easy to get my act together. I buffed all 40 square feet to a high gloss. I filled the barren refrigerator with foods that seemed sophisticated, like cilantro and condiments imported from Portugal.

I put out fresh towels in the bathroom. I asked my neighbor to bring his histrionic sexual partners to a hotel for the next few days. For extra effect, I would request my doorman answer only to the name Vladimir instead of Mike whenever he saw me flanked by two older people who resembled me. And if anything was overlooked, I would wave a hand dismissively and hiss: “I worked 65 hours last week. In my office.” The word office silences every parent because they imagine you as Hillary Clinton briefing the president on the political instability of Libya in a red pantsuit with shoulder pads.

I imagined when I had a real home filled with children that their trips would go even smoother. I certainly did not visualize them arriving at my door, after eight hours of air travel, at the exact moment I submerged three kids in a full bathtub. Knowing that the kids always attempt to kill themselves the instant they enter the bathroom, I yelled: “Give me 10 minutes! Maybe you could jimmy a window open!” The door was at last pulled open by a brigade of wriggling naked bodies while I frantically yanked sheets over the corners of the bed they would sleep in, a bed that was not located in a private guest room but one that sat across the room from a crib that would be occupied by a toddler. If Colin Cowie could do a citizens arrest, I would be in jail for this, I grumbled.

Meal times were no better. The kids orchestrated violent coup d’états at every restaurant. Rebel chanting, toppled objects, crayon graffiti. And when at home, I never seemed to have the right accoutrements in my kitchen. No sponges. No tin foil. No lemon zest. I spent an inordinate amount of time thumbing through recipe books, struggling to convince everyone, including myself, that Chicken Piccata was in my culinary wheelhouse. Once I had laid out all of the ingredients, my folks would scurry in, whisking it all away while reassuringly whispering, “Honey, we already ate while we were out earlier.”

It was like hosting teenagers who were getting all their needs met at the mall. Teenagers who don’t ask for money and can’t figure out how to accept an incoming cell phone call.

Driving around was the worst part. Unable to fit the Congressional hearing of humans in our car, we had to take two cars to traverse any distance. Any motive I’d had to act poised in front of my parents was blown when I spied their rental car with its clean leather upholstery. I would forget about my own family in our filthy vehicle in favor of riding with my old family, a decision that earned me several exasperated looks from my husband. “What do you need me for?” I yelled, “There’s a full continental breakfast under those carseats! You’ll last longer than that Chilean soccer team did in the Andes.”

At night, I would wander by my daughter’s room, pausing at the doorway to listen to my mom read stories. The familiar timbre of her voice reeled me in closer. The sight of my children nestled against her ushered in feelings of satisfaction and nostalgia. The many books we had read while lying together. The countless conversations we’d had.

My hovering frame in her periphery caught her attention and she peeped over the book, “Do you really not have any Half and Half in this house?”