You must not tell lies. I must say this to my children every week. Trust has to be the basis of any relationship and the parent/child one is no exception. And yet I am about to embark on a period of consistent and blatant lying which is not only condoned by those around me but positively encouraged.
I talk, of course, about the gigantic fiction that is Father Christmas. (If my elder children are reading this I am really sorry but you had to find out some day.) Over the next few weeks I will be telling whoppers that are, quite frankly, so preposterous that I can't believe that any right minded and healthily sceptical child is taken in.
I have been warming up nicely this week with a couple of visits from the Tooth Fairy, called upon to visit daughter number 3 who lost teeth on two consecutive days. Fortunately she is only really interested in the gap and the coin unlike her sisters who regularly wrote notes to the Tooth Fairy which I would discover quite by chance as I grovelled under their pillows to find the tooth. I became quite adept at Tooth Fairy handwriting and at trying to maintain consistency between both the style of the script and the answers to the questions.
But the myth of Father Christmas is so complicated that I can't believe that I seem to pull it off year after year. Firstly the whole entering via the chimney thing is wrought with difficulty. We do have an open fire but I doubt that a small mammal could find its way down it, let alone a rotund elderly gentleman with a huge sack of toys.
Then the letter. Orchestrating a scenario when the children request the presents that are already bought and wrapped and secreted about the house is no mean feat. Many's a time when I have had to steer the child back to the gift that they had wanted but had gone off. Then one year daughter number 2, always a cynic, wrote her letter and sent it up the chimney before I had a chance to read it. I am sure it was a test.I still don't know if I/Santa passed.
Then the gifts. Which ones are from Santa? The ones I buy? What about the ones that have labels from aunts and uncles? Did Santa deliver them too? If so, how did he get them? And why is that present to my cousin wrapped in the same paper as Santa uses? One year I got so frustrated that we got no credit for an expensive gift that I said that Daddy and I had bought it. This led to an expectation that they would receive a big gift from Father Christmas and one from Mum and Dad. Disaster!
Interestingly, only my youngest has ever questioned Santa's existence. He's nobody's fool and whilst I fobbed him off with all that " It's magic!" rubbish I could tell that he was far from convinced.
And now the whole rigmarole starts all over again. I have to remember what I have said in previous years because, sure as eggs is eggs the children will. And I will lie. Unashamedly. But faced with the option of taking an honest approach and telling them that it is all invention or perpetuating the myth for another year I know what I'll be saying. Because where would Christmas be without a little magic?