the big questions, Mr5 unleashed another tonight... adding another special challenge to my parenting pantheon. We had managed to make it unscathed through 'World's Most Dangerous' animals, where the sole subject tonight seemed to be about male elephants looking for female elephants and how they got very aggressive when 'must' came over them.
He turned to me, questions filling his eyes, and came out with "What's a male, Mum?" Given that I was standing by with hurried explanations about 'mating' and 'must' at the ready, I was thrilled with this one, eagerly explaining that it simply meant you were a boy.
No further questions at that time.
He waited until later to really test my game. When I was distracted by the washing up. After an intense discussion about Christmas lists.
"Can goats really fly, Mum?"
It took me a moment, but I was proud of myself for grasping the gist of this relatively quickly.
"You mean reindeer?"
"Yes," he said. "Those. Goats. The ones that take Santa around."
"Well," I said, thinking on my feet and in the suds. "Reindeer would have to fly to get him all over the world, right?"
"I guess. But I can't see how they can really fly. Planes and gliders can fly. Not goats."
"Reindeer," I corrected again, brain churning wildly. Was this going to be the big Santa talk? Already? I was hoping to get one more Christmas in with Mr8 who, being the eldest and the most earnest, still clings to the belief that his parents tell the truth at all times. I hadn't even considered the idea that I'd be dealing with Mr5 first. But then, I shouldn't be surprised. Mr5 is an altogether different cup of tea.
"Well, lots of people believe they can fly," I prevaricated, rattling dishes.
He thought about it a moment. "I can't see it Mum," he said. "People can't fly without planes and gliders, why should goats?"
Why indeed. I forestalled further conversation by hurriedly switching the subject to Power Rangers, but I can see the writing on the wall for Santa and the gang. If not this year, then maybe next.
It's a funny thing, this whole business. I think I get as much out of Santa as the kids do - maybe even more, now that I think about it. There's a magic in it that sums up childhood for me. But there are times when I wonder why we do it - to them and to ourselves. Because at some stage, for all of us, the reindeer become goats and we realise who's really drinking Santa's Christmas beer.
In the meantime, however, Mr5 and I will spend Christmas Eve this year scanning the skies for Santa and his flying goats.
It should be quite a moment.
Does Santa still visit your house?
[Image from here]