“Make sure your heart is healthy enough for sexual activity.” There is some kind of commercial about medication for erectile dysfunction on TV. Mary and Carl are looking apprehensively at each other. I can feel what’s coming next. They are children. They have questions. They have had the unfortunate traumatic experience of seeing sex in real life at a very young age. I take a deep breathe to fortify myself for the coming conversation. I can do this. We have talked about good touch vs. bad touch. I’ve told them about their puberty and where babies come from. What they came out with was not what I was expecting.
“Mommy?” asks Mary, “Umm…does Daddy have that?”
“Have what?” I’m confused, “A heart condition? Medication for ED?”
This isn’t exactly the turn I expected the conversation to take. They usually just ask about sex. They want to make sure the woman says it’s OK. They want to know what’s wrong with me that I don’t have any boyfriends at all, “just daddy.” They basically think I’ve done it all wrong by having a husband first, and then children. They have told me, on several occasions, that I should have children and then a boyfriend, and then other boyfriends. They are glad I don’t have other boyfriends who “do stuff to me, like with those toys,” but they are still befuddled over my monogamy. They have no problem telling strangers, or my mom, that I have “just daddy!” or that we kiss and it is “gross!”
I am extremely confused. I am also slightly nervous that my children will begin to tell strangers that their father’s heart is, indeed, healthy enough for sex. Worse still, they may start telling strangers or unsuspecting relatives, that Daddy does not need medication for erectile dysfunction, but if you do, please consult your doctor. I am praying they did not hear the part of the commercial warning against an erection lasting for more than 4 hours. If Carl starts carrying around a stop watch, we are doomed!
“No, mommy. Sex. Does Daddy have that?”
Oh. Phew. This is common ground, something I am prepared to discuss. Before I can even start with “Daddy and I are married. We are in love. We would never hurt each other,” Carl jumps in and says, “Don’t tell her, Mary!”
Mary responds with, “That never happened Carl. Mommy, it’s not true about Daddy, is it? He never did that.”
“Oh yes, he did! And we should tell her!” shouts Carl. This is getting heated.
“Mommy,” says Mary, the picture of seriousness and compassion, “people can make bad choices sometimes. It doesn’t make them a bad person.”
These are my exact words, and apparently facial expression, I have used to discuss questions about why their bio-parents did certain things. She gently touches my arm and moves closer to me. The thought fleetingly crosses my mind that she is picking up some great therapeutic parenting skills!
“Mommy!” shouts Carl, “Daddy did that. He did it to Jessie. TWICE!”
“How do you even know?” retorts Mary. “Daddy is appropriate and he’s nice.”
“Because of Seth and Catlyn. Duh!” Carl snaps back at her.
Oooooh. Now it dawns on me. Jessie is my husband’s ex-wife. She is the mother to Seth, and Catlyn, my step-kids. Carl and Mary are under the impression I am unaware of Luke’s previous transgressions. Mary wants me to know he is still a good person and we should definitely keep him!
As I attempted to jump in and correct the course of this conversation, the argument somehow turned into questions about why the “guy does the thing” and the “girl just lies down and does nothing.” I tried to explain that this wasn’t the correct view about sex. I wanted them to realize it was something both people participated in, when they loved each other. Mostly, what they took away from this portion of the conversation was, “The girl can SIT UP when she sexing? Really??? Why?!?!?!!!!”
Today will go down in history as the day that I spent an entire conversation talking about my husband having sex with his ex-wife, and how much they loved each other. Some highlights from this conversation include my saying how glad I was that Daddy had sex with Jessie because now we have Seth and Catlyn. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jessie, and I really do appreciate her. I just never pictured myself discussing, in detail, why it was OK (and even great!) that she used to have sex with my now-husband. Oh yeah, and did I mention that Luke hid in the bathroom for the entire conversation?
I ended the conversation by explaining to Carl and Mary that it would be rude to ask Jessie if she “just laid there” during sex with Daddy. I attempted to reinforce that it was OK for two consenting adults to have sex when they are married. I tried to help them remember that sex is supposed to be a loving act for adults and not hurtful. What Carl took away from the conversations was, “My daddy is the MAN. He did it TWICE!”
Both children have solemnly agreed not to run and call Nana with this news.
Luke and I are downstairs, by the fire. He magically appeared AFTER we finished the conversation! The kids are in bed. I am laughing so hard that I am practically snorting! I need a glass of wine. The problem is that I am laughing too hard to swallow.
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
*If you’ve ever considered fostering or adopting, I encourage you to get started on your own adventure!