The dining table, my house, the end of a lovely day

Picture the scene (albeit in a tidier house). My eldest son and I are seated side by side, me with a glass of chardonnay, him with a plate of potato waffles and Dora the Explorer spaghetti. My partner and our youngest are still out doing the weekly shop. It has been a good day and I am feeling proud and motherly. My son looks at me, his fork paused midway to his mouth, pasta flowers a-dangling, and suddenly, out of nowhere, the following conversation ensues:

SON: Mummy, what’s porn?

ME: <splutters on Blossom Hill, before going straight to the mishearing option> What did you just say?

SON: What’s porn?

ME: <moving on to the next best approach> Why don’t you ask Daddy?

SON: <sulkily> But I’m asking you. What’s porn?

ME: It’s …. <suddenly inspired> You remember when Daddy was teaching you chess? A pawn is one of the pieces, remember? You use it to … Well, I don’t know how to play chess, so Daddy will have to remind you. But “being a pawn” is also used as a metaphor. Do you know what a metaphor is? Shall we look it -

SON: NO! It’s not that! It’s something from school.

ME: <slowly, realisation dawning> Something from school?

SON: Yes! Mrs Russel said -

ME: Mrs Russel? The Year 1 teaching assistant?

SON: Yes, Mrs Russel said it was spicy -

ME: Spicy?

SON: – and just for grown-ups.

ME: <now picturing self selling outraged story to the Daily Mail> And when did she say this?

SON: At lunchtime. It was on the menu but she said only grown-ups could eat porn. I think you need to be old, like 100.

ME: <hopeful> Are you sure she didn’t say “prawn”? Could it have been a prawn curry?

SON: No, porn.

ME: <grabs phone and tweets about what has just occurred, for no real reason whatsoever. Then downs rest of wine>

SON: <1 minute later> Actually, I think it was “prawn”… It was definitely “prawn”.

ME: <sends further tweet, to clarify first tweet. Then pours more wine>

Just thought I’d share that little vignette (not that I know what a “vignette” is – thank god he didn’t ask me that). Clearly, I’m relieved that I wasn’t put in the position of having to explain “porn” to a five-year-old. But since then I’ve been wondering what if I had been? If he’d really said “porn”, how should I have responded? These are the options I’ve been considering:

  • say, vaguely, “oh, it’s rude stuff”, and then risk him thinking that forgetting to say thank-you constitutes “porn”
  • tell him it involves reading about or looking at images of people having sex. Then when he says “what’s sex?”, say “sechs? Oh, it’s German for “six””.
  • show him Fifty Shades Of Grey on the Kindle. It’s about his reading level, but he’d give up and go back to Oxford Reading Tree way before getting to anything dodgy.
  • show him “that cupboard” in Mummy and Daddy’s bedroom, but without actually opening the door. It’s not as though we ever do, either.
  • explain what porn is, in a mature manner, using words he’d understand, but giving no more information than necessary and making no value judgements (i.e. have a total personality transformation)
  • mutter something about objectification and how most of it’s rubbish and looks like bits of meat throbbing about, and then there are those Anna Span ones where all the men have blow jobs though their underpants, but anyhow, Mummy’s not an expert and she presumes Daddy isn’t either, and hey, are you ready for pudding yet?
  • cry

This is of course idle speculation, yet there is a point when questions like this might be posed for real. I don’t know what to do (but I suspect “cry” may well be the most likely option).

Anyhow, there are more immediate things to worry about. For the time being he’s forgotten, but it crosses my mind that I still haven’t told my son what a prawn is.