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Mom, Dad and the Anti-Sex League

12/30/2014 19:57 ● Published by Sandy Kauten

I could almost remember a time when my wife would tear off her clothes and it did not mean that the baby had just thrown up on her. But a lack of privacy and fear of discovery don’t have the same aphrodisiac effect on parents that they do on teenagers.

Part of our problem was a permissive policy that let children drop into our bed at all hours. When I was a kid, the only time I was ever allowed into my parents’ bed was right after a nightmare. We tried that rule, but the girls responded by claiming an improbable number of nightmares. One night 3-year-old Sally climbed into our bed saying, “I had a bad dream about a cracker. It was making crumbs.” At dawn I declared our rule unenforceable and our bed continued to be a good place for neither passion nor repose. It was more the household equivalent of an all-night cafe, lacking only a bleary-eyed cop, sitting between husband and wife, soaking a doughnut in a cup of coffee.

But Baby Wendy was even more of a deterrent. Evenings were her season of discontent. From 5 to midnight, she’d cry often and nurse like a disgruntled diner who was about to send something back. (And sometimes she would.)

But we never gave up. In some of the more leisurely and sensuous parts of the Orient, foreplay begins with kissing of the fingertips and goes on, step by step, to consume the amount of time that ought properly to be spent on dinner and a movie. In the temple of love that we call home, the approach was just as time-consuming and infinitely more subtle. My wife and I would set out on circuitous and divergent paths to romance right after dinner.

While Betsy contended with the baby, I’d start our two older daughters on their own long, winding path toward Dreamland. Sally, age 4, was fairly businesslike if you could catch her and were willing to let her wear whatever inappropriate garment she chose. But 7-year-old Marie would dreamily remove her clothes and put on pajamas so slowly that only time-lapse photography could detect movement. Then Sally would gnaw briefly on someone’s toothbrush and Marie would polish her teeth one by one with frequent rinsings and spittings. Then we three would lie down in our big bed and we’d turn out the lights for story time. The bedtime stories I’d make up were long because they tended to ramble along in the hope that an ending would present itself, but the girls seemed to like them. Eventually, the tale would grind to a halt, and the girls and I would get up and conduct our nightly search upstairs and downstairs for Marie’s teddy bear and Sally’s skunk. Then they would kiss their mother and baby sister and I’d finally tuck them into bed. But “finally” was not always the right word. About 40 percent of the time they’d get loose and come downstairs and require more tucking and sometimes a hard word to hold them in place.

Then I’d go downstairs and join Betsy in front of the TV to play a waiting game with our wide-eyed infant. Baby Wendy was like a dour Amish graybeard sitting-up in the parlor chaperoning his nubile daughter and the town drunk. Who would doze off first? The answer varied night to night. Sometimes we’d outlast the baby, but would be too tired for anything beyond lying side by side, as though we’d been washed up on a beach.

Other times, the baby faded early, and we’d find ourselves both awake in bed. But Betsy would have trouble making the transition. She’d continue talking about the children when we had supposedly turned amorous.

My feelings for my wife arrange themselves into a sort of spectrum. At one end are the bravely shared traumas and worries of parenthood. In the middle of the continuum is our joy in babies’ smiles and the laughter of fluffy-haired tots. Way at the other end is my first sight of Betsy – at a party, with a face and physique that called to me from across a crowded room. It’s an image that will color my perception of her even when we are both as gnarly as a pair of snapping turtles.

All of this made me glad to be in bed with my wife, but only parts of it inspired desire. And a rundown of which kid ate what for dinner and descriptions of the baby’s latest rash were arousal’s antidote.

I never asked for anything fancy or kinky, but I did have one request. Call it a requirement. “No more talking.”

Rick can be reached at rickepstein@yahoo.com.

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