The moaning woke me. It was dark, late. Someone was sick. Ooooh, they sounded really sick. I pounced from the end of my “big girl” bed into the hall, (to avoid whatever was waiting to grab me from under the bed) and stood in front of my parents’ door. Were they both sick? I knew how to help.
“Do you guys need some ginger a…”
I fled back to my room, feet on the floor (monsters please take me NOW) found my purple earmuffs and slept with them on every night for the next several months.
Now that you have all conjured up that deeply hidden memory of walking in on your parents having sex (you’re welcome), let’s talk about your kids walking in on you.
When my son was little, it didn’t matter. It was very easy to play off “We’re having a tickle party!” or some such panicked nonsense reply. But at age 9, there is an awareness shift that equates to an awkward, startling moment. Last week, in the early morning throes of passion, my husband and I heard the front door open and our son calling in the cat. To walk downstairs, you have to pass our bedroom door, which was open that morning. Certainly, he had seen “it,” and backed away in confusion, hoping his own monsters would come from under the bed and gobble up that sight.
My husband and I threw on whatever was close and walked downstairs to do what normal, healthy parents would do after their kid had witnessed a sweaty, basic biological drive: We made pancakes and let him eat an entire bag of chocolate chips and pretended nothing had happened.
Other parents (initials to protect whatever privacy they have left) shared similar moments when they were caught.
R.F. says, “The door opens, I see him look in sort of confused and mortified and he says, ‘Ummm, this is sex, right? Next time I’ll knock.’ He was 7.”
L.L.’s 14-year-old daughter busted in on them. “She slammed the door and yelled, ‘Eww!’ Then she couldn’t look at us for a few days, lol.”
A.E.’s son got protective, “What is daddy doing? Is he hurting you?”
During my annual exam a few days ago, I spoke to my OB-GYN Dr. Rebecca Whiteley about her professional take on this situation, while I was in the stirrups. (See, that’s how you multi-task.)
“You have to be honest. They know something is going on, so instead of letting them think it is something bad or hurtful, be truthful,” she says. “Tell them when two adults love each other, being close like that is something they like to do. You can also set some privacy boundaries and ask them to knock instead of just coming into your room.”
“It may be because I am a doctor, but I use the biological names with my kids,” she says. “A penis is a penis and a vagina is a vagina. They are very comfortable talking about body parts and what they do. It takes the mystery away.”
Then she offered up this great tip, “We have white noise machines in both of the kid’s rooms. If they open their doors, all of a sudden the white noise is very loud, so that’s our signal to pretend we are asleep.”
Or, ya know, there’s always the chocolates chips.
Maggie Knowles writes about all things kid. She and her family live in Yarmouth, where she gardens, keeps bees and refuses to get rid of her stilettos.