“My parents had a really sweet tradition when we were growing up,” commented a friend of mine one day. It was some years ago now, and we were talking about what our respective childhoods had been like. “Very often,” he continued, “after my mum had finished her bath, she’d call downstairs – and my dad would go up to help dry her back.”
“He wasn’t really drying her back, though, was he?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, her arms aren’t particularly short, are they?”
“So, they were getting up to something else in the bathroom, weren’t they? How many times a week would he ‘dry her back’?”
“Oh, about two or three….”
The look of complete horror on his face at that moment of realisation, when it became clear than his randy parents had fooled him and his siblings well into their teenage years with their bathroom charade, is something I’ll never forget.
The whole issue of parents and sex is one that’s likely to provoke a reaction – especially when it comes to the thought of your own parents (yuck, obviously). But as a sleep-deprived dad of three, the main thing I genuinely wonder is how, as your family grows and your kids get bigger, any parents manage to get away with it without being caught.
My wife still vividly remembers a family holiday to visit her grandparents in Scotland – she must have been about eight at the time – when she was sleeping on the floor of her parents’ room. “I lay there, wide awake, honestly thinking my dad was having a heart attack.” He wasn’t, obviously, but there was certainly something else going on with an altogether happier conclusion. In a similar vein, a mate of mine recalls growing up in a house where, very often, a large wooden trunk was placed in front of his mum and dad’s bedroom door every Saturday morning, preventing him and his his siblings from unexpectedly running in. Subtle, it’s not – but it certainly must have been effective.
Once kids are part of the mix, finding any time for romance is quite a challenge. And nor is it always a priority, either. I remember a mum friend of mine once saying that when asked what she wanted for her birthday, her instinctive response was “a chance to do a poo on my own.” With two under-5s in tow, her birthday wish-list no longer involved flowers, chocolates and naughty underwear: she simply wanted a moment’s peace without a toddler standing barely two feet away, pulling all the loo roll off.
Right now, with a baby under two weeks old, I think it would be fair to say that long, lazy mornings in bed aren’t exactly an option – so my wife and I won’t be investing in a wooden trunk any time soon. By contrast, though, just up the road from us there’s a lady who has two children, with an age gap of just under 11 months between them. So it’s clear that some people are at it like rabbits barely days after having a baby – which is strangely commendable, I guess, as well as being deeply puzzling.
Finally, you’ll notice that all my anecdotes have been related to other people’s parents. That’s because mine have never had sex, never will, and would never want to, anyway.