Now that Christmas is in sight, I am once again readying myself for The Conversation.
It won’t be the first time I’ve had to do it, but it never gets any easier.
Each year they ask me about it, but no-one actually wants to hear the answer. As soon as the first sentence leaves my mouth, they swell with outrage, they call me a Grinch, they tell me I’m No Fun At All.
Mind you, these aren’t my kids we’re talking about – these are my friends and acquaintances. Typically they’re people with younger children, and they’re weighing up the best time and way to break the news about Santa in their household.
They ask: “When did you tell your kids?”, “What did you say?”, “How did they react?”
But I’m no help whatsoever, because I’ve never been in that situation.
I have a friend who no longer reads novels.
She used to, but that was before we knew each other. When we met, she had a pile of books stacked next to her coffee table, up to the height of my thigh. She’d read all of them, except the one on top, which she’d gotten partway through and stopped reading – not only it, but all fiction, altogether.
A few months back she did a spring clean and the books disappeared along with the expired cans of food, obsolete paperwork and an incredible array of shoes that were easy on the eye but extremely unkind on the feet.
Back in the days Before Technology, when I was growing up, we entertained ourselves by interacting with other kids.
This usually involved riding bikes or climbing trees, making up games or going to imaginary places. But sometimes we’d talk about Really Important Stuff like –
I would nearly always answer –
Or sometimes –
Keep in mind, it was the 80s.
As a child, I had the misfortune of being labelled the brainy one. My younger brother scored the accolade of being sporty.
Don’t get me wrong, I saw my smartitude as a wonderful thing. When I grew up, I wanted to become a doctor and get a PhD and end world poverty. But I was less thrilled that braininess seemed to rule out the possibility of having any sporting prowess whatsoever.
A few years ago, my son spotted a remote control helicopter out the back of a charity shop as we dropped off some clothes. He immediately wanted to buy it.
Unfortunately, the bloke at the store said he couldn’t sell it to us. Because it was a potentially dangerous, untested electronic item, he was supposed to throw it away.
However, he mused, perhaps he could trust us to take it and throw it away for him? Wink wink nudge nudge.
My son joyfully brought the helicopter home, powered it up and launched it high in the air on its maiden flight. It span briefly at its apex, burst into flames and plummeted to the ground, smashing on impact.
Far from being disappointed, he was thrilled by the unexpected outcome.