Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

Family Ties
by Melissa Ridge Carter

"Oh, she's so smart."
"Yes, she is."
"So inquisitive!"
"What a vocabulary! Does she always talk like that?"
"All the time."

This is exactly why I wish my smart, inquisitive, talkative five-year-old had a terrible memory.

But she doesn't.

And one day, when she's in middle school, at that exact age when kids begin to realize their parents have had sex, she will slowly begin to put two-and-two together about the handcuffs she found yesterday while snooping around in our bedroom. Despite being caught by surprise, we calmly prevailed and explained that Daddy, as an experienced and fearless Boy Scout leader, uses handcuffs to capture bears.

She bought it. She's five.

None of us like to think about our parents' sex lives. I assume that my parents had sex twice, both times resulting in conception, leading to a happy little family of four. No kinky stuff.

But what happens when the parents turn into us?

So here I am 33. I'm an adult. Responsible. I wash dishes, I fold clothes, I sing lullabies every night and drive my daughter to ballet on Saturday morning. I am not, however, dead.

A woman's sexual peak doesn't arrive until mid-life, and I intend to enjoy this journey, dammit. Besides, there's a freedom to sex after marriage. No one is sneaking out in the middle of the night, in the morning there are no red faces or embarrassed mutters. An unplanned pregnancy might be inconvenient, but seldom paralyzing. And there are no weird physical secrets (usually).  I'm more comfortable with my sexuality now than when my rear could squeeze into a size six and I want to celebrate this new awareness! Of course adding kids to the mix creates challenges, but a little creativity and common sense go a long way (read: firm bedtimes, reliable babysitters, a few blankets and pillows at strategic points throughout the house).

And an imagination is your friend.

I first wandered into an adult novelty shop only four years ago. Instead of being horrified or repulsed, I was intrigued — there was some truly interesting stuff. My husband has never complained about my budding curiosity (for the record, the darn handcuffs were his idea), and we've had a good time playing around. Also, we seem to have amassed a nice little collection of what some people disdainfully refer to as "sex toys" — things we really don't want our parents to see, even if we are grown-up (If we die tomorrow, they're in for a rude awakening). Of course, if they did happen to stumble across our stash, I feel certain they won't really know what they've found. They are, after all, our parents.

And now I am a mom, and the man snoring next to me right now is a dad. In the eyes of our future adolescent, and for the sake of tradition, we should be approaching a state of perpetual asexuality.

Ain't gonna happen.

This particular dad is also my husband, the same man who, for the last ten years, has driven me to increasing and lovely distraction. Life is full of tough lessons and I'm afraid our daughter will just have to accept that her parents are a couple of freaks with handcuffs.

In the meantime, my smart, inquisitive, talkative five-year-old is no doubt sharing her father's bear hunting adventures with anyone who will listen… which might explain the strange looks we've been getting from the neighbors.
Melissa Ridge Carter lives in Virginia and recently left the teaching profession to stay at home with her three kids and to (finally) pursue a freelance writing career.