When I became a mum, in the weird, slightly back-door kind of a way that I did (it's a long story. And, for that matter, doesn't involve my back door), I thought I had it taped. Like 99% of parents, I soon found out that I didn't.
And the remaining 1% are lying.
You see, my son was an easy baby. He did all the right stuff, at the right time. Crawled at eight months. Walked at fourteen months. Talked at fifteen months. Ate everything he was given. Did all that stuff. And now, as he approaches his sixth birthday, I knew - of course I did - that there would be awkward questions. I prepared. He has a rough idea of where babies come from, and how they get there, thanks to nature documentaries, and relaxed answerings of the inevitable questions. I thought, smugly, that I was ahead of the game.
I didn't know, dammit. I didn't appreciate the sheer range of childhood questions. I had an idea that there were only a few, and they would be asked at home or on walks or something, as opposed to at the checkout in Tesco.
No. My most awkward question so far has been: "Why do we eat meat? We are made of meat." Quite apart from sounding like an alien conqueror from 1952, this completely threw me. As I floundered through an explanation of the role of protein in the human diet, I could tell it wasn't washing. "But," he said, frowning, "we can eat other things. Lions can't eat other things so they must eat meat. But we must not eat meat." My son, with syllogism.
We continue. "Isn't it wrong to keep tigers at the zoo? They should be with their families in the jungle." He failed to be convinced by my discussion of endangered species captive breeding programmes, or by the fact that tigers are solitary by nature. "How long does it take to make a big cloud? Why must hyenas survive? If the hairdresser's mirror isn't magic, why can I see the back of my head?" It's like being interrogated by the information Gestapo. After a while I can only feel like collapsing exhausted onto a crate of yams, weeping.
But no. I must soldier on. For as long as I answer, he will believe I Know Stuff. And as long as he trusts in my superior intellectual ability, I can still insist that there is a law that says people under six have to be in bed by half past seven, and the world will be safe for another day.