The great philosopher Bill Cosby once observed, "Human beings are the only creatures that allow their children to come back home."
Sometimes, they bring other human beings with them - smaller, energetic ones who fit into crevices with your stolen dessert and who pounce on your belly in mid-nap.
If you picture this as a conundrum, it's time to install new locks. The U.S. Census Bureau says your kids are packed, in the car and on their way home.
In 2005, 8 percent of women and 14 percent of men ages 25 to 34 lived with their parents. By 2011, it was 10 percent and 19 percent. And getting more crowded all the time.
Clergyman Henry Ward Beecher preached, ''There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.''
Between roots and wings, the wrong ones got clipped.
Empty-nesters about my age once were referred to as baby boomers. Baby boom, meet boomerang.
Now my gang are known as baby gloomers - supporting kids we thought would be dumping dirty socks on their own dining room floors by now.
Robert Frost, professional poet and father of six kids, wrote, ''Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.''
The very phrase cause quivers and quavers among some beleagured parents: "We just finished remodeling little Bobby's room into a den. Exactly how long is 'for a little while?'''
The recession takes lots of blame for parents' basements exceeding capacity. But the Census Bureau says the data doesn't necessarily line up with that. Other reasons include that the average marrying age is older, and housing and education costs shot up. Kids have more reason to return and less to move out in the first place.
Famous mom Lucille Ball said: ''You see much more of your children once they leave home.'' Today's proprieters of the Mom and Pop Hotel wouldn't know.
I once visited a country where several generations lived under one roof. On purpose.
''You call yourselves a civilized nation,'' one head of family chastized me. ''But you send your grandparents away, and your kids don't want to stay home.''
''We value freedom and privacy,'' I said. ''Success is measured in making it on our own. We live to launch.''
The fuse has fizzled.
Let me pause to clarify two points:
First, Mom and Dad, stop hiding in the closet when I knock on your door. You're safe. I'm too old to be counted among the boomerang generation.
Secondly, our own personal kids have not returned, even when we offered, cajoled or begged. They own better things than we do and prefer not to lower their standard of living.
Terry and I are thinking of starting a reverse trend. We're going to move in with them. ''Son, fetch me a sandwich.''
''Daughter, wash your car and give us the keys for our date tonight.''
''Say, can you spare a couple of twenties? Mom and I have a date tonight. Don't wait up!''
It's probably just an oversight, but neither kid has offered us a copy of their house keys.
I guess we'll just stay home. And get the old rooms ready for invasion. Just in case.
----- Phone home at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.