Every once in a while, I have a Single Parent Moment that leaves my married parent friends shaking their heads in amazement and quiet relief that they are not in my boat. Last week, I had such a moment.
James and I have been on-again, off-again for just over a year now. My daughters, aged 10 and 8, have known him for many years, became reacquainted with him before we started dating last September, and have been mostly unaware of our relationship ups and downs. To them, he has been a constant over the last year. They know him, they like him, they have vacationed with him, and for the last few months, they have known that we sometimes spend the night together. But he has never stayed over at my house when my girls are also there.
Until last week.
I decided it was time, so I told the girls that James would be coming over, was going to spend the night, and that he’d be there when they awoke in the morning. My youngest, Bryn, teased me about it with a grin. Sabrina, my 10-year-old, shrugged.
James arrived as I was putting Sabrina to bed. He let himself in the open front door and shouted up his hellos to us all. And then it began:
Sabrina: So, is James coming over to have a drink with you?
Me: Yes, and remember I told you that he’s going to spend the night tonight?
Sabrina: Uh-huh. So…. are you guys gonna have sex?
I wish I could report that I responded maturely and gracefully, but I’d be lying. What I did instead… was laugh. Yes, that’s right. I laughed. I giggled until I had tears squeezing from the corners of my eyes and I was clutching my tummy. At first, Sabrina looked at me, puzzled, but then she started laughing, too. We ended up lying on her bed, clutching each other amidst fits of giggles. It was ridiculous.
Eventually I recovered, and, wiping my tears of silliness away, replied thusly:
Me: Baby, I’m a grown-up and you’re a child, and so who I do or don’t have sex with isn’t something we are going to discuss. In fact, who I do or don’t have sex with isn’t really anyone else’s business except for the man I’m involved with. That’s not even a question that other grown-ups typically ask each other. And, when you’re a grown-up, whether and with whom you’re having sex won’t be any of my business either. Do you understand?
Sabrina: Hmmm…. Yes, I think so. I guess I feel like it should be my business if I’m going to end up with a little baby brother or sister.
This dramatically illustrated the fact that, while I have instructed her quite a bit about the biology of sex, I haven’t quite gotten around to the idea that adults have sex for reasons other than procreation of the species… So I punted and went with what I had:
Me: I can absolutely, positively assure you that you will not be gaining a little brother or sister.
Sabrina: Phew. Okay. That’s really good news. Thanks, Mom.
Me: Sure, baby. Anytime.
There is so much about single parenting that is surreal. So many conversations that I never imagined having, so many events that I never pictured, so many moments altered by the simple, pivotal fact that their father and I no longer live together. Parenting is always something of an exercise in Extreme Winging It, but single parenting throws in the extra curve balls. Just for fun.
I am sure that there will be many more moments such as that one, many more conversations that leave me speechless or giggling at the absurdity of the situation. But I feel quite certain that, even if I should live another 42 years, I will never, ever, ever forget the night my 10-year-old asked me if I was going to have sex.