My nine year old sits cross legged on my bed, head cocked to one side and she gazes at me, waiting for an answer.
I gulp, I hedge, I distract.
"Well, is he ?"
She waits on my reply and the longer I delay, the more insistent she becomes on a straight answer.
I'm looking into her eyes and honestly my heart is breaking.
Big fat tears roll down my cheeks and I am trembling.
Crashing around in my head, as I try to catch up with the transition is a running line of "Not yet, not yet, I'm not ready, I'm just not ready".
But she is trusting me to tell her the truth and with a few questions, I know she knows, I know it is time.
Through tears I confirm her suspicion and with that, we reach the end.
The end of Santa, of the mystery and the childish stories. The end of little ones imagining reindeer flying through the sky. It's the end of milk and cookies, and reindeer food, of listening for sleigh-bells. The end of trying to stay awake to maybe catch a glimpse of Santa creeping through the house.
I know there is still fun, still presents and decorating, and anticipation of Christmas morning, but it's with a wiser view, a more mature understanding.
I am still sad. Selfishly I hoped for another year or two before the magic disappeared.
She asks why I am crying and I can't even put it all into words. How can you explain to your baby that she is still your baby even when she is big and smart and clever. How can you explain that even though you are delighted at the wonderful girl she is becoming, part of you longs for the simplicity of babyhood, and the days when your 3 year old simply believed everything you told them because you were their world.
This morning I lay down on her bed beside her, and watched as she woke up. I explained to her that even though she now knows the truth about Santa, lots of kids in her class still believe in him, and that its important to keep the secret going for them. It's important that they find out in their own way, in their own time.
She just shrugged and smiled. "It's okay Mum. I won't spoil it for the little ones."
Another step towards grown up.
Have you faced this question? Did you bawl like baby too?