Watching my daughter and son-in-law, who are staying with me this summer, waking their three children this morning, I was struck by the advantage of the group, here the traditional family group: husband and wife working together plus grandma chiming in. The three adolescent girls, who are sleeping in our living room on a fold out couch and a sofa, had been up late the night before and were sleeping soundly in the way only adolescents can.

My wonderful son-in-law had made the breakfast, while my daughter and I had been out walking in the park, oatmeal and strawberries. He had already set the table, in the dining angle of the living room, while my daughter now tried to rouse her sleeping adolescent girls. She was met by grunts, groans, and protestations. Then the father was sent off to try the same thing, while my daughter served up the strawberries and oatmeal.

I think, at this point, I, too, may have joined in to add a few comments like: "Only a few strawberries left for the early birds!” or something of that kind. The father did not have much more luck at rousing the sleepers, but when my daughter, having laid out the hot breakfast, in a loud voice of authority shouted, “Get up and come and have your breakfast!” they stumbled forth somewhat to my amazement in all their adolescent beauty, short pajamas and lots of long hair, to the laden table. What lucky children, I couldn’t help thinking! And how much easier their parents’ task was made by working in tandem.

The discussion then came up at the breakfast table about groups and how they are able to help one another in this way.

I said how helpful it was for the children to have two parents who could confer and sometimes perhaps check an impulse that might seem exaggerated or unfair.

The 13-year-old girl deferred saying her parents never did that.

“But you don’t know what goes on when you are not there,” I said.

My son-in-law said, slyly, “Yes, I’m always saying how wonderful you are behind your back, not wanting you to get a swelled head.” Which made us all laugh.

The three sisters then said that they too conferred about their parents which was very helpful to them! Which, indeed, it often is for siblings.

Sheila Kohler is the author of many books including the recent Dreaming for Freud.

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