The Good Wife

by Mary Nelligan
Originally Published: 

I blame The Good Wife. A rerun no less. In my mind, our precious little girl’s loss of innocence is the direct result of a steamy, sexy elevator scene in this television drama, a scene my husband and I spontaneously chose to act out in our family room one evening. Potential lawsuit? Doubtful. Potential therapy highlight? Let’s just say we’ll be adding some money to her future therapy fund.

“Mommy! Daddy! Where are your clothes?” giggled the intruder, our daughter of eight years. Typically, the only intruders in our sex life are the insidious thoughts rattling around my brain; thoughts of the many things I could be doing with that precious free time. Updating Quicken or reading about the latest celebrity couplings on come to mind. Those and thoughts of what to have as a late night snack after we’re done. Is that wrong?

Perhaps it won’t be surprising to you that our sex life, save for a brief, heated tryst in the stairwell of Macy’s department store last year (got your attention now haven’t I?), is of the once-a-week between the sheets variety. Satisfying? Yes. Connecting? Absolutely. Toe curling? Only occasionally.

And this Sunday evening was one of those precious few occasions. Not a grocery list in sight. At least for me. With perfect timing, our oldest daughter, long securely in her bed, came down the stairs and quietly padded down the hall. In normal life, meaning when her parents aren’t fucking in the middle of the family room, our daughter never gets out of bed, preferring to use her not insubstantial voice to demand another glass of water or hug from the comfort of her upstairs bedroom. On this particular evening, she uncharacteristically chose to wander downstairs and share her requests with us in person.

Without warning, without blanket or clothing in site, suddenly our little princess is staring into my naked brown eyes. As she walks closer, a note of hysterical laughter rising in her voice, she asks, “What are you doing?”

The laughter is contagious and quickly uncontrollable as my husband and I scramble to grab pillows to conceal ourselves. We “suggest” she go back upstairs to her bedroom and we’ll join her in a minute to tuck her back in. After several tense moments of mutual giggling and no movement toward the stairs, she asks again, “What are you doing? Where are your clothes?” while we repeat our directive to go wait for us in her room. When finally she does, we start breathing again and scramble to dress and calm ourselves.

Deciding the best parenting move in a delicate situation is a sure way to bring parents closer together (or closer to blows). My husband first suggests we deny it all (ca-ching goes the future therapy fund) and then deadpans, “Where’s the book?” referring to the proverbial child owner’s manual that will tell us what to do and say in this moment to unscar our precious child and wipe this scene from her memory. “We’ll tell her the truth of course,” I declare, my bravado blending with hysteria. “Follow my lead,” by which I mean don’t fuck this up and make it worse.

What happened next is a blur and surprisingly, one of my proudest parenting moments. With a grace not our own, once we cuddled with our daughter on her puffy comforter- topped twin bed, the words came. We started with the facts: Mommy and Daddy were making love, our clothes were on the couch, and although we’re antsy and giggly in this moment, making love is a good thing and one way grown ups show their love for each other. After this explanation, my brain screamed, “Ok. Show’s over. Goodnight,” but my mouth said, “Do you have any questions?” Surprise, surprise, she did.

A sampling: “Why did you and daddy have to be naked?” “Why were you sitting on daddy’s lap?” “Are you going to have a baby?” (Her thoroughness evoked a surprising mix of terror and pride in me). An equally-thorough discussion of making love and baby-making followed. As our curious daughter peppered us with questions, we breathed deeply and answered honestly (not always in that order). Somehow, this crisis turned into a loving connection and I hope, a good story without a lot of therapy in future retellings. Our conversation officially ended when I delivered this deal-breaker, “Making love is fun and feels good. You may want to do it too when you’re older and in love with someone.”

“Ewww! I doubt that will happen, Mom,” she stated with a groan. With a sleepy sigh and a hug, we were dismissed from her room. The Good Wife awaited.

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