Twas the week before Christmas, six years ago. We were driving back from trampolining practice and having one of those car conversations. It’s funny when you are trapped in the car with your kids, it can go either way. Sheer squabbling Hell or lovely family chats. We were discussing friends at school and it was all going swimmingly.
Eight year old son pipes up. 'You know Mary.' 'Yes,' I say, thinking he means his sisters best friend. 'Has she never eaten meat?' His sister answers, 'Duh, she does eat meat, are you stupid.'
'No need to be rude' I say, 'but I don’t think she's vegetarian.'
'But vegans don’t eat meat' he insists. 'She's not a vegan, you really are dumb' says his sister helpfully.
'But if she's called the Vegan Mary, she can’t eat meat!'
Something clicks and I suddenly get it. 'You mean the Virgin Mary' I say, thinking perhaps, the right on, veggie eating, embrace all religions school they go to may have slightly confused him.
'Oh' he says, 'she's called the Virgin Mary, I thought it was vegan, what does Virgin mean?'
Fascinating, he's only 8 and understands the meaning of vegan, but obviously not virgin! I mentally consult the page in my 'raising emotionally rounded children' book that covers sex education. 'Always be honest and factual about sex and children will just accept what you have told them and move on', it said.
'It means someone who hasn't had sex' I say, proud of myself for my frankness.
'Is sex when a man puts his willy in a women’s front bottom to have a baby' he asks while his sister screams 'Eeeeoooo, yuk'
I really must think of a better word for front bottom, I think. He could grow up with a weird view of women! Frank and honest, I remember, as I answer 'Yes it is.'
'Well that's just wrong, how could Mary have a baby, if she's a virgin.' Now I'm slightly out of my depth. How do I get out of this one without opening up a whole can of religious worms?
But, slightly older than his years son, is already on his next train of thought. 'Have you and Dad ever had sex?'
'Of course we have, but only twice; once to have you and once to have your sister.'
'Oh ok, can I get my Playmobil out when we get home?'