When I was two I knew I'd come out of Mummy's tummy; by three I'd grasped by precisely which exit

My newish friend Isobel tells me over tuna salad sandwiches and fizzy water that she discovered her four year-old daughter licking her six year-old son's penis. "Really? Was it her idea?" I demand, intrigued.

"Of course not," she says. "Holly's four, for God's sake. It was Tallulah, who's eight. She often comes round. She's a perfectly nice girl, but I had to give her a bit of a talking to. It's a really tricky one - I just don't know whether to tell her mother."

"But what is there to tell?" I ask, laughing.

Isabel fiddles with a slice of lemon, "I don't think it's all that funny. Tallulah may be sexually aware but Holly and Tom are very young."

"But she can't know what she's doing at eight? Surely it was just a bit of fun?"

"Fun?" Isobel stares at me as if I'd just suggested a double junior subscription to the Playboy Channel. She bites her lip. I hear the disapproving fizz of her water.

"I mean," I struggle to qualify, "a game. It's not at all sexual at that age - or, OK, if it is, surely only in a perfectly normal, natural, experimental way?"

"Natural?" bays Isobel, picking at her watercress garnish. "But Holly was licking his ..."

"But only licking!" I exclaim hopefully. "Like a lollipop. Children are always licking things, for heaven's sake. I agree you should discourage it, but it's hardly deep-throat fellatio. I think you're making rather a big deal of it, that's all."

Isobel looks upset. "I'm sorry, but I think it is a big deal," she says, ever so quietly.

We order cappuccinos. "I'm really surprised you're so laid back," she says. "Wouldn't it bother you at all? A friend of a friend had something similar happen and went straight to the headteacher."

I laugh at the idea of dragging in the poor headmistress. "About something that happened at home?"

"Yes. Why not? It was someone else's child. What could she do?"

"But what was the headteacher supposed to do about it? Who was it anyway? Anyone I know?"

But Isobel smiles and shakes her head and flicks a Hermeseta into her coffee. "I'm naming no names. Well, she complained to the parents, of course."

"Really?" I say, more coolly now. "How repulsive."

"Oh? I don't think so," says Isobel, narrowing her calm, brown eyes at me. "Someone's got to take responsibility.

"For what exactly?"

She gives me a chilly stare. "For behaviour that can lead to ... other things."

Other things?

It occurs to me that I haven't known Isobel long and maybe we just don't like each other very much. Or is this simply the next hurdle - arguing with our friends over how we tell our children about sex? As we divide our bill, I wonder whether Isobel will think twice in future before sending Tom and Holly round to play in our casual bordello of a house.

My mother introduced my sisters and me to sex in the most open, logical and gentle way I can imagine. I've copied her methods with my own children. Good sex education is when kids can't remember when they first heard about it - it just feels like they've always known.

When I was two, I knew I came out of Mummy's tummy. By three, I'd grasped by precisely which exit, and by four or five, I knew how the seed that turned into me had got in there. By the time I was old enough to demand precise details, the idea of penises going in and out of vaginas was so absolutely everyday as to seem dull. Which is just how it should be until you get older and then it turns weird and embarrassing all over again. I don't remember licking any little boys' penises, but then how would I know?

"Nothing you could think or imagine, nothing you could want to know about sex could shock me," our mother boldly assured us right from the start. "You can be pretty certain I've seen and heard it all." Who cares whether or not it was true? It was what we needed to hear - a beacon of comfort in the thickening gloom of puberty. "This is routine," you could reassure yourself as you sprouted, bled, fantasised, feared, in the Charlie-scented privacy of your own room. "Everyone's done this. I'm normal."

And I want the same easy comfort for my children. So penises are cheerfully compared in the bath, nipples routinely discussed over supper. "Mummy," says Jacob later that afternoon, as he stabs a pasta shape with his fork. "At school today there was a bit of a situation."

"Oh yes? What happened?"

"Well, Lester came into the loo and he pulled down his pants and ran around pointing his penis at everyone."

"Well," I grate Parmesan on to pasta. "You know what to do when that happens, don't you? He was only doing it to get attention, so the best thing is just to ignore it and look away, or to look really bored. If you react and make a big deal of it, that's exactly what he wants and he'll do it again."

"Penis, penis, peanut," chants Chloe, dressed in nothing but a green dayglo tutu, silver tiara and pearls - a four-year-old Cicciolina with milk moustache.

"But he just got it out and ran around holding it," persists Jacob, head on hand. He sighs enthusiastically at the mere memory.

"So did you just ignore it?"


"Well, so what did you do?"

"We all screamed and ran away."

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Colin Firth and Emma Stone star together in Magic in the Moonlight: Woody Allen's 1920s romance

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Life and Style
The findings suggest that some of the genetic factors which influence birth size may play a part in influencing an infant’s mental development
health...while smaller babies have greater schizophrenia risk, study claims
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

    This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

    SEN Coordinator + Teacher

    £1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

    Maths Teacher - Evening session

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: I am looking for a qualified experi...

    Teaching Assistants

    £50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week