Life

‘HOW WAS HE, MOM?’

In the real world, kids just don’t want to know

BARBARA RIGHTON November 14 2005
Life

‘HOW WAS HE, MOM?’

In the real world, kids just don’t want to know

BARBARA RIGHTON November 14 2005

‘HOW WAS HE, MOM?’

Life

In the real world, kids just don’t want to know

BARBARA RIGHTON

ON TV IT LOOKS SO NATURAL. A mother—attractive, in her early 40s—and her bosombuddy daughter, twentysomething, are chatting about mom’s date the night before. “How was he?” the kid asks as mom pilots the family jalopy down the road. Mom prattles on. Nice guy. Dinner was great. “No, mom,” the daughter insists with a knowing smile. “I mean, how was he?” Oh. Now we’ve got it. How was he in the sack?

This bit of chick talk is, in fact, a car ad. And we never get the answer, although the

mom offers to tell all over lunch. Still, one’s interest was piqued. The camaraderie of this intergenerational tête-à-tête seemed so remarkable, Maclean’s tried to find out if it exists on this side of the TV screen. After all, there are about one million single-parent families in Canada. Fallow ground. Do single moms and daughters really discuss sex? Not just sex in the abstract but downand-dirty details? One single Mississauga, Ont., man in his 50s, who has dated his share of moms with teenagers, reported that most of the kids didn’t want to discuss any of his merits with their moms and generally resented the drain on their mothers’ time. A middle-aged woman in Kingston, Ont.—single, with a daughter in university— was good enough to bring the question to her women’s group. A couple of her friends whose new dates had bombed with their kids burst into tears, she said, and the subject was closed.

“Those women have to get a life,” says el-

ementary schoolteacher Nicole Krzyzaniak, a 42-year-old single mom with three children who has been dating the same guy for the past year. “There is so much pleasure in partnering up. People weren’t meant to be alone.” Still, Krzyzaniak doesn’t discuss anything sexual with her kids—her eldest daughter is just 13—and says such frank talks are unlikely even in the next several years. “I think that car ad is hilarious,” Krzyzaniak adds—her daughter definitely does not want to know what she and her boyfriend are doing behind closed doors. In fact, whenever they even snuggle out in the open on the couch in her Bolton, Ont., home “the kids run over and jump in between us.” If she ever offered to discuss her sex life, “they would most likely scream, ‘Oh, gross, Mom!’ ”

Toronto parenting expert Karyn Gordon agrees. “Details of a parent’s sex life—what positions they were in last Friday night— totally make children uncomfortable, even

children in their 20s,” she says. “I have spent thousands of hours in my office listening to kids spill their guts, and I have never met one like that daughter in the ad. Sure it’s important to talk about the benefits of sexual intimacy. But it is not appropriate for parents—single or married—to go into the details of their sex lives with their kids. It’s an unspoken rule.”

Most kids wouldn’t dream of telling their moms about their sex lives either. A single, 43-year-old editor in Toronto, who prefers to remain anonymous, has a 16-year-old son and says, “Sex is huge for him right now. At his age, kids spend all their time thinking about how to get it. But if he is getting it, he would never tell me.” Whenever she brings a man home for the night—and she does, occasionally—her son reacts awkwardly. “You know that queasy feeling you get when you think of your own mom having sex?” she asks.

Of course, mothers and daughters as equals and best friends is a popular theme on TV—in the drama Gilmore Girls, the thirtysomething mom and her college-age daughter supposedly continue to grow up together. In real life, children want their parents to be parents, says White Rock, B.C., sex therapist Anne E. Davies. “I saw that car ad,” she says, “and in a flash, it gave me an uneasy feeling in my stomach.” Davies, who has been practising since 1979 and has a largely female clientele, says the times are more conservative than when she started out. Sex is a taboo subject, especially between moms and their kids. “I was single for about five years when my kids were in their early teens,” Davies says, “and we did have discussions about sex, but not in that context. They certainly never asked me how my night in bed was, and I wouldn’t have asked them.”

So do her single women clients with kids bring guys home for the night? “Yes, but some are very cautious about it, and some are not,” says Davies. Either way, unless the relationship is very serious, “it will bother the kids. It will make them uncomfortable. This is their mother, after all.” Says Krzyzaniak, “I didn’t even think of introducing someone new for a year after I split up with my ex. Then I tried to be open about it. Maybe our moms did it better. They just hooked up with some guy in private and then they said, ‘Okay, kids, this is your new stepdaddy.’ ” PÎ1