The first little traveler was five when she asked "how did that baby get in to Mummy's tummy?" I knew the question was coming, I just hadn't worked out exactly how we were going to answer it - which is why G and I froze for a moment in the kitchen before I came out with this little gem.
"Mummies and Daddies have special cuddles".
I had always hoped that we'd be very open with the discussion of sex but I really wasn't ready to get down to the nuts and bolts of it - so to speak. We were still in the world of Maisy Mouse and Bob the Builder, it felt like a pretty big jump to spring towards the vagina, egg, sperm and penis conversation with a background track of 'this is how we do it'.
I was instantly impressed with my new phrase. I hadn't told a lie and a special cuddle sounded so much better than just an everyday cuddle. The special cuddle also meant that G didn't have to face the "Dad put's his what where?!" I figured as everyone became older we could fill in the details as we went along. We had a starting point.
The 'special cuddle' conversation worked well for the next couple of years, and then I noticed that the questions that followed required a little more detail. "Where do you have the special cuddle?" asked the second little traveler, "I think they probably do it in the bathroom. Do you do it standing up or laying down?" said the third. My favourite question was asked one night at the dinner table in a pass the gravy fashion, "If you decide to have another baby can we all watch you have the special cuddle?" Naturally all the little travelers presumed the special cuddle was only performed when a child was required, it was maybe time to elaborate. I invested in a book, with pictures, and everyone agreed that no-one wanted to see Mum and Dad do that!
Somehow though, I forgot to have the conversation with the fourth little traveler, I'll admit this tends to happen a lot. As much as he is overindulged as the youngest child we tend to forget the things that seemed so important with the first three travelers, like teaching him how to ride a bike. He may be the first university student to cycle to campus with his training wheels firmly attached.
During our holiday last week, we left Westminster Abbey and marched two by two towards Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. We were with friends who were keen to get a good position and keeping up the half walk/half run pace was proving troublesome for the youngest traveler. The fourth little traveler and I were at the back of the pack, he was in his usual state of being completely unaware that everyone else was in a hurry. He wanted to have a chat. In the madness of crossing the road amongst London traffic, double decker busses, cabs and speeding cyclists he asked "how did Jesus get inside Mary's tummy?" The trip through Westminster Abbey had obviously provided some further questions.
"That's a sit down chat, can I answer that one over lunch? We really should be walking as quickly as possible"
"Okay - but how did I get in your tummy? Can you tell me that now?"
Breathless and marching towards St James park I asked "Have I not told you about special cuddles? Mummy and Daddy had a special cuddle. We have to run, lets catch up".
The situation was ridiculous, my child was asking for the facts of life while I was trying to maintain a headcount of the other three children while keeping up with the rest of the group.
"I was born in a puddle?"
I giggled at the response and the timing, we were now power walking.
"No, Mummy and Daddy had a SPECIAL CUDDLE and that's how you got in my tummy".
"I don't think that's right Mummy, I don't think that's how it happens."
He wasn't having any of it, and that's when it happened. The death of the special cuddle.
"Well, you're right it's more than just a special cuddle, I have a book in Doha, it's written especially for kids, can I read it to you when we get back?"
He seemed pleased with the idea and nodded, we continued to half run/half walk, and as the band marched past us, I realized that it was over, the special cuddle was gone.