“Soon, I’m going to grow into a big lady, jus’ like you,” says Tadpole, between forkfuls of rice. “I’m going to be thirty-ten years old – not yet, but in a little while – and then I can be able to touch the lights and the ceiling.” She stretches her arms high above her head to demonstrate. I decide against pointing out that I can’t actually reach the lights or the ceiling at the grand old age of thirty four, not wanting to burst her bubble, and take a sip of lukewarm tea instead.
I wonder what it is that makes my daughter so desperate to grow up. “Stay young!” I want to say. “Enjoy pre-school! Don’t wish your life away.” There are days when I would happily trade places. I could go to the maternelle and spend a day looking at picture books, playing in the kitchen corner, getting kissed by the small Chinese boy who simply won’t leave the girls alone, or drawing pictures with brightly coloured felt tip pens. Instead, I spend hours chasing tax forms, cleaning, buying groceries, procrastinating, feeling guilty about procrastinating or staring at a computer screen and wondering whether I’m writing well. Or not.
“When I’m a lady,” Tadpole continues, “I’m going to touch all your things.” I raise my eyebrows, remembering an altercation which ended in tears earlier when she made off with my bag and all its precious contents. “I’m going to buy something in a shop,” she continues, “and put you in the bath. And put the dryer on. And hang up the clothes.”
Put like this, my life sounds truly fascinating. I suppose Tadpole doesn’t get to see many of the fun things I do, like drinking lots of gin and tonic or dancing to electro, as they invariably happen when she is elsewhere. The result being that I don’t particularly like my life as seen through Tadpole’s eyes. I’ll have to set her straight, one day, when she is all grown up.
“And will you be able to read my bedtime stories when you are thirty-ten?” I enquire.
“No, I don’t know how to read stories, mummy,” Tadpole says, in a tone which makes it quite clear I am an imbecile for even suggesting such a thing. “I’m not grown up like a lady yet, but I’m going to eat rice and peas mixed up together and that makes me grow quicker and mucher bigger like you. So I’ll grow a bit soon, in two holidays. After the weekend, and Christmas. Tomorrow. That’s going to take two months so we have to wait a minute!”
I am left hoping that she will grow up soon enough to catch my head when it falls off, and to drive me to casualty to have it stitched back on again.