“Don’t Worry, Mommy and Daddy Are Just Having Sex”
The joys of parenting….
The sounds of growls and moaning wake me up. It’s the middle of a hazy summer night and my nine-year-old brain is trying to process what I’m hearing. ‘Yup, it’s a catfight,‘ I conclude because my beloved cat Zoro is nowhere in sight. It’s the 70’s and cats are unneuteredand free to roam around. Worried, I run down the stairs to my parent’s bedroom and the bizarre cat sounds become even louder. I’m now confused, and yell outside my parent’s bedroom door, “Mommy and Daddy, there’s a cat-fight outside and I think Zoro might be hurt!”
Silence. And then my Dad responds, “Don’t worry sweetheart, Mommy and Daddy are just having sex.”
This memory of hearing my parents have sex, and then my Dad’s reaction is seared into my brain.
This memory of hearing my parents have sex, and then my Dad’s reaction is seared into my brain. In that moment, I promised myself when I became a parent, I would try my hardest to muffle and stifle any and all sounds of pleasure trying to escape from my – or my husband’s – wayward, rebellious lips.
Here’s the thing, I wasn’t grossed out or traumatized, I was just perplexed. I knew that sex was a form of intimacy, but I didn’t understand why it could sound like that?!
I ask my friend Cory Silverberg who is an award-winning author and sex educator if it is problematic if your kids hear you having sex. He tells me that for people who are vocal, and they make a lot of noise while they’re having sex, the noises don’t necessarily sound like fun. (Yup, catfight, I think). “I don’t think the child is actually traumatized the way we see it in movies by hearing their parents have sex,” he says. “Having said that, I think it can be confusing, I think it can be scary, and I also think that it’s not actually appropriate for any us to be talking to our kids about the details of our sex lives.”
I tell Cory my childhood story. He immediately asks me how old I was; the issue of dealing with your kids when they overhear your sexual expression changes over time, obviously. And so, when my Dad said, “We were having sex,” he should have been prepared to follow up with any questions I had about sex, like why does it sound like that? “There are age-appropriate ways to describe almost everything surrounding sexuality,” says Cory.
If my father had explained to me that sexuality is playful and adults make loud – or even strange – noises when they’re having a good time as well as a bad time and they were having a fun time – I wouldn’t have been so confused. I think I also needed to be told that there was nothing to worry about and my cat was safe…
Cory brings up another good point. “When you say, ‘hearing your parents having sex,’ everyone assumes that means intercourse, and of course it doesn’t. And that might make it easier. If your kid hears you having sex, and asks you what was all that noise was, and you know you’re not going to get away with saying it was the TV or whatever, you don’t have to explain intercourse.”
“We shouldn’t pretend that sexuality is only about making babies,” says my friend Kim Dalton of Spice of Life Sexual Health Education. “It’s not a bad thing for kids to know that sex is about intimacy and sharing and pleasure. Sex is a healthy expression of love in a relationship.” It’s good for kids and parents to be able to talk about sexual expression in age-appropriate ways and it shouldn’t be made into a big deal, something taboo, secret and shameful. Our kids should know that sexuality is a normal part of life.
Kids should know that sex is private and they should respect their parent’s intimate time together.
My parents’ door was closed. That’s important for me to remember because part of teaching kids about sex is teaching them about boundaries. Kids should know that sex is private and they should respect their parent’s intimate time together. And if your kids hear you have sex, you don’t have to go into specifics. Kids should also feel that parents also respect their private time – their personal and intimate space.
I ask my 25-year-old daughter if she’s ever heard us – her parents – having sex. She says yes. Oops. “How old were you?” She tells me she was 9 years old. (It runs in the family at this point.) We talk about it. She tells me that it did make her feel uncomfortable hearing us have sex because there’s something inherently chaotic, wild and out-of-control about sexuality when you’re a kid and you want parents to be stable and in control. (We should be neutered). But, she adds, “it didn’t traumatize me or disturb me at all. And I was happy that you still loved each other.”
So what have we learned here? If your kids happen to overhear you in the throes of pleasure, don’t worry! Just be prepared to answer any questions in age appropriate ways. Also remind them that sex can be expressed in a variety of ways, and that volume can range from a whisper to a racket.
Just like cat fights.
First published in FIND YOUR PLEASURE