Truth, lies and Santa were the topic for a recent discussion I had with two students from the University of Lincoln who were researching the topic of lying, especially those lies we tell our kids, for a radio documentary they were making.
Along with a psychologist and a professional Santa impersonator among others, they asked me to contribute as a mother. I wasn't sure how representative my views would be, I'm no parenting guru but I agreed to take part.
Initially, I set out thinking I'm straight up and honest but by the end of the hour-long chat I realised I tell white lies all the time.
I know I am guilty of tripping out everyone's favourite at tea time, "Eat up your carrots and you'll be able to see in the dark", or, when the toast is left uneaten, "Those crusts will make your hair curl". Pretty innocuous but we all know it's not true. Children soon cotton on anyway when they don't develop night vision or a mop of curly locks.
And who hasn't used the odd lie as a means to control a situation? Ever been in the supermarket and heard yourself uttering, "See that policeman (security guard) over there? If you don't sit down in the trolley he'll come over here and tell you off". Well, he won't, he couldn't give two hoots if your child wants to throw a tantrum but your little darling isn't to know this, plus, he's not a policeman.
What about when your child goes through a phase of not wanting to go to school in the morning? I have told Lottie more than once she has to go because it is the law (true) and if she doesn't mummy could be thrown into jail (massively stretching the truth). See how easy it is to get into the habit of fibbing?
Then there's the big issues. The tough stuff; death, illness, relationship problems, even sad or horrific things your child might see on the news. How to explain those topics? I remember Lottie being terrified after hearing about the incident in Woolwich earlier this year when a soldier was allegedly murdered in the street. She saw the story when it was splashed all over the six o'clock news. I told her bad things happen but a couple of nightmares later I resorted to softening the information by reassuring her things like that only happen in London, many miles from here. A white lie to help my child feel safe? I'm afraid so.
Some topics may make us squirm slightly as parents. Sex. Babies. I have had to field a line of questioning from my daughter about how Louie came to be. She knows about eggs and seeds but I managed to distract her with a bag of marshmallows and a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors before I had to go into too much technical detail.
On these occasions, I suppose essentially what it boils down to is being frugal with the truth as opposed to outright lying until your child is old enough to understand the nitty gritty. I think it's known in parenting manuals as 'age appropriate information sharing'.
What then, was I to say to my daughter who only last week sat me down, looked in my eyes and said, "Mummy, I need you to be honest, you can only say yes or no."
I braced myself for what was coming then she socked it to me and asked, is Santa real?
The topic of Father Christmas (being one of the biggest lies perpetuated by parents) was one of the key points for debate during my radio interview. When I relayed this conversation to the students they were intrigued. What did you tell her they asked?
I said yes without any hesitation, not a flicker, not even a twitch.
With a little over three weeks to go to Christmas, the letter to the North Pole has been sent (via the chimney with a sprinkle of fairy dust), the reindeer food purchased, stockings hung and the Please Stop Here sign posted outside the front door. Can you imagine what would happen if the truth came out now? The magic would disappear and there'd be no going back.
Lottie might well be ready for me to spill about Santa but I wasn't ready for it to be this year. Ironically, with a baby brother who is eight years her junior, when the facts finally do come to light, she's going to have to keep the magic alive for him for as long as possible.
I can't help but wonder if the temptation to tell him the truth will win over watching him buy into one of Western culture's most wonderful fabrications?
After all, one of the lessons we teach our kids from an early age is to always tell the truth.
Louie may be child number two for Mr C and I but certain things never seem to change.
Coats. Why don’t they design jackets with stretchy arms? Or zips on sleeves? Babies under the age of six months have no desire to bend their limbs. I still get flustered trying to feed an arm through (always the second arm, the first one is a doddle) and don’t even get me started on snow suits. Louie has two. The first fits him so snugly he can’t move at all and has to lay in his carrycot like a starfish and the next size up is so expansive he might as well be wearing a duvet. Roll on summer and T-shirts.
Skin. You know how advertisers like the phrase baby soft skin? Where are these mythical cherubs with their perfect complexions? All the babies I see, including my own, have dry patches, scales, milk spots and scratches where their little finger nails have caught their faces.
‘Boing, boing, boing,
Thank goodness for Junior Oilatum. (On the topic of moisturisers for mum and baby, I have discovered that nipple cream is a fantastic lip balm).
Crawling. Not the babies, the parents, who find themselves crawling away backwards from a baby sleeping just in case said baby opens one eye and on spotting you rouses from the state of sleep you have helped him or her to achieve.
I have discovered I have ninja-like stealth after putting Louie to sleep.
Giggles. A baby giggling is the best sound in the world. Nothing comes close to that first chuckle your baby makes. Once you have made your baby laugh out loud you will stop at nothing to recreate the chortling. Louie finds the word boing, absolutely side-splitting. We never tire of saying it to him, even though we sound like a family of loons. Boing, boing, boing, boing, BOING!
Sam Curtis, 43, lives in Lincoln in a house that's not as clean, tidy, or quiet as she'd like with her husband Leigh, Lottie, 8, and new arrival, baby Louie.