The moment we give birth, our lives get complicated. Some memories stick better than others. This is what I say to myself when I try to remember why I came home later than usual that day. Perhaps I was at an audition. Maybe I was on set.
It was during my acting days, not that that really has anything to do with this memory except it would explain why I had come home late and was sitting at the table by myself, after warming up a plate of leftovers in the microwave.
The sun was setting, the house quiet.
Then my daughter, 16 years old at the time, came into the kitchen and plunked herself down with me at the table.
We were chatting about everything and nothing until the words came tumbling out of her mouth like a heavy bag of marbles. "I had sex and I like it."
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During the next few seconds, a few things happened very quickly. Yet I can still see the scene as though watching a row of perfectly lined up dominoes topple each other over one by one.
First, the insides of my stomach had a heart attack. Then, my soul left my body for several seconds.
My daughter, who I realised was waiting for a response, said, "Ummm... mum?" I then scooped up the biggest pile on mashed potatoes I could possibly gather onto my fork and shoved it all in my mouth.
As she leaned in from the edge of her chair, waiting for me to speak, I nodded my head and pointed to my mouth as if to reinforce what I had always taught her: that you don’t speak with your mouth full of food.
My goal was to buy time so I could gather my composure while at the same time regather all the little pieces of me that had scattered into the corners of the kitchen. Unfortunately for me, it doesn’t take a lot of time to eat a shovelful of mashed potatoes. There’s just not that much chewing involved.
Finally, when I knew that I had exhausted every possible excuse for pause, I put down my fork and said, "Oh. Wow. Well, I’m so glad you’ve come to talk to me about it." Except so glad may not have been exactly what I was feeling at the time.
I was still processing the shock. In hindsight, I can say with 100 per cent confidence that I AM happy she came to talk to me about it. I believe – or perhaps hope – that it means she trusted me and wanted to share an experience with me.
Before I go on, I want to give you context. She had been seeing her boyfriend at the time for about a year. I was friends with his parents, and he was a good boy. Polite. Hygienic. All the things a mum wants from the boy her daughter is having sex with.