LAST week I was caught out. I was simply not ready for the words that came out of Master Five's mouth.
Busy strapping Miss Four in the car, throwing everyone's bags, lunch boxes, drink bottles and my stuff in, I was asked a question I had promised myself I wouldn't answer with a lie.
"Are you Santa, mum?" Eek! He's only five. She's only four. "No, of course not."
It was out of my mouth before I had a chance to think about what I was saying. He caught me unaware and my defences went straight up.
But honestly, even with hindsight, what was I to say? To ruin the perfectly good lie most parents tell their children at such young ages seemed like a waste. I needed to get more milage out of it before the truth came out.
And even if I pulled him aside to admit that, yes, I was the jolly fat man wearing red who broke into people's homes on the eve of December 25 to fill stockings - and leave a present that waned in comparison to those from the parents - he would tell his sister.
Master Five could probably handle the truth. But he would tell his younger sister. Straight away.
I remember finding out who Santa was when I was six and had just finished Prep, almost where Master Five is up to now. My brother, two years my senior, had just found out the news and came bounding into my room to pass on the information.
After about a minute of disbelief (I'd been getting suspicious of the whole sham anyway) and being told I wasn't supposed to know so I couldn't tell anyone, I ran to tell my little sister. At the ripe old ages of 5, 6 and 8 our family all knew the truth.
But guess what? It didn't ruin the excitement, the build-up or the spirit of Christmas. It didn't make me wonder what else my parents had lied about (I believed in the tooth fairy for a few more years) and it didn't make me blame them for lying to me.
But while it may have been a seamless transition at home, school was another thing. Once you know, you can't unknow. And at 6, once you know something, you want to share it with everyone. I spent the rest of primary school dreading the Christmas discussion and the arguments that would ensue as my classmates tried to convince me that the hoofprints they found were real, and that Santa had drunk their milk.
If this is something I can alleviate from my children's first few years of school, I think I'll keep up the charade a little longer.
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