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?"

"No."

"Well, so what did you do?"

"We all screamed and ran away."

Travel
travel
Sport
football
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
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
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Sales Representative, Leicester

    £25-£30k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major well established nationwide market...

    Sales Representative, Birmingham

    £25-£30k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major well established nationwide market...

    Juniper Security Consultant

    £300 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Juniper Security Consultant London (Greater)

    C# .NET Developer (SQL, ASP.NET, JS, MVC) London - Finance

    £50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Develo...

    Day In a Page

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment