For the benefit of any parents currently enduring "the sleep-over years" - when your kids have a high time staying over with their mates and are delivered back to you, grey-faced with fatigue and wired on computer games, ready to unload their newly foul mood on you - or the "under the duvet years" - when the only clue to their presence in your house is a trail of cereal bowls leading to an old Postman Pat quilt covering a snoring hulk who is unlikely to rise until the early evening - I feel I should hold out the promise of a better day.
In my thirty-year experience of parenthood the best bit of parenthood comes when they're young adults and they start bringing home boyfriends or girlfriends. These people are very often just like your own sons or daughters with one important difference - they're required by their upbringing and the peculiar etiquette of their situation to go out of their way to be nice to you. After years of having your every utterance greeted with a heavenwards look and a heavy sigh, or ignored altogether, this comes as a pleasant surprise. The sunniness of the guests has a lightening effect on the mood of the household. At the same time your own child, suddenly finding themselves in the unfamiliar position of host, has to raise their game to make sure it all goes as swimmingly as possible. This day, when it arrives, is one of the few moments in the child-rearing process when you feel like you might be getting your reward in this world rather than the next.