As the proud auntie of three rapidly-growing nieces and a nephew, I have fallen into the role of indulgent friend, the lady who cossets, treats and sends them home exhausted with new and exciting habits like watching TV in bed, chocolate muffins for breakfast and looking at tablets way past their two-hour daily limits.
It is, after all, my right to be popular and theirs to be spoiled.
Despite my regular babysitting gigs, I have so far got off lightly on the darker duties of pseudo-parenthood, with just a few nasty nappies (past that stage thank goodness), minor injuries and tantrums, rare vomiting and one incident involving locking myself and a child out of a house in pitch-black winter.
And the time I volunteered to cut a baby’s toenails (mum couldn’t do it) resulting in actual blood.
That aside, it’s been a whirl of cuddles, declarations of love, increasingly insulting pen and paper likenesses on my fridge door, and a very expensive do at birthdays and Christmas.
Until this weekend, when my adorable eldest niece came to stay.
Being the first to arrive on the scene, she long ago tagged my spare room as ‘hers’, conducting regular tours to unfortunate younger relatives when they come round (no rooms left for them).
We have a special bond, forged by Barbie (a dreadful show), trampolining, books and a mutual passion for chocolate krispie-cake cakes.
So far, so good.
Then this weekend, after tea, I briefly left the room containing her and the remote control.
Ten minutes later, thinking her safely in the hands of Disney, I returned to find her watching, with horror, the final, crucial, messy, loud, 10 minutes of One Born Any Minute.
Eighteen well executed and to the point questions later, I had failed to deflect and gently explained conception and childbirth while trying not to panic.
Needless to say she has now decided against a career in medicine because of ‘slimy babies’.
While I was still in shock, the next day she spotted a lady in a burkha, asking why she didn’t show her face.
I explained briefly.
Then she asked ‘What is religion?’
About time I pulled out the auntie card.
‘Ask your mum.’