My daughter is looking sheepish. 'You'll be very surprised,' she says, 'but there's a boy I really like.' I am surprised. My nine-year old has a healthy contempt for the male sex. 'Bullocks' she calls them dimissively. She once flung movable parts of the sitting room at her brother's head when he suggested she fancied one of the boys in her class. But romantic fervour has swept our local primary school. Six year-olds who share a football are deemed an Item. Eight-year-olds nurse ruptured hearts when their swains place their lunchbox alongside a rival's. I, therefore, conceal my surprise and look encouraging.
'Who do you like?' I ask as I suspend a row of damp underpants from the drying rack.
'I'm in love,' she says,'with Harry!'
Harry is the cat.
'Harry is a cat,' I point out.
'But I'm in love with him.'
'You love him, sweetheart. You're not in love. If you're in love with someone you, um, want to share a bed with them.'
'I do share a bed with him.'
'Yes, but - you want to, er, kiss them ...on the lips.'
'I do kiss him on the lips.'
'Darling! his mouth will be full of germs.'
'But you kiss Daddy.'
'And his mouth will be full of germs.'
'It's not the same. Daddy doesn't eat mice.'
'But Daddy eats cows.'
I rearrange the underpants to buy myself thinking time. Then I arrive at the clincher.
'When you're in love with someone, you want,' I declare momentously, 'to marry them!'
My daughter looks obstinate.'I'm not going to marry in that sense,' she says.
'In what sense?'
'I'm not going to marry someone who I have to kiss on the lips.' She seizes Harry and nuzzles his neck affirmatively. 'Especially,' she adds, 'if they eat cows.'
For more on how not to handle your child's biological education see Facts of Life and Facts of Life: Part II