Tadpole sniffs heartily as we trot along the pavement in the direction of home. I feel around in my coat pocket for a tissue, but draw a blank. Permanently unprepared for any eventuality whatsoever, that’s me. No wipes for if she dives head first into a crotte, no umbrella should it rain, no tissues for sniffles or tears, no spare clothes for accidents, and my mobile phone battery is resolutely flat. My fingers are permanently crossed instead, but somehow – touch wood – we seem to get by.
“Mummy” says Tadpole in her ‘I’m about to say something extremely profound which changes the way you see the world around you’ voice. “When my nose gets sniffy. That’s because the winter, it does get stuck in my nostrils.”
Well that’s one way of looking at it. And not a worldview I feel equipped to challenge, as my powers don’t extend to explaining airborne viruses and bacterial infections to a three-year-old. That little pearl of wisdom doesn’t top my favourite quote of the weekend, however. Which I love, even though I don’t really understand it. “I had a dream,” said Tadpole that morning. “Not a dream in my eyes, but one inside my head. We can have two different sorts of dreams, can’t we mummy? Head dreams and eye dreams.”
I glance at my watch. Six o’clock. Plenty of time to get ready before the babysitter arrives at eight, as long as Tadpole shows some mercy and remains moderately compliant throughout. Although the check-list of “Things to Do Before the Babysitter Arrives” is long. Going out on a non-Tadpole free night can be something of a military campaign.
In no particular order, I must:
- Feed Tadpole (cook nutritious meal and somehow ensure fruit and vegetables are eaten using carefully dosed combination of distraction/persuasion/coercion/threats)
- Bath Tadpole
- Tidy flat (abridged version involving throwing piles of things into wardrobe and closing doors)
- Wash up and empty decidedly whiffy kitchen bin
- Log out of my profile on computer and put it into guest mode to avert possibility of snooping and cookies inadvertently taking sitter directly into bank statements/blog backend/gmail
- Hide manuscript
- Put away Tadpole’s toys
- Hide my toys
- Agonise over what to wear to vagina-themed birthday party (don’t ask)
- Supervise Tadpole’s making of home-made (non vagina-themed) birthday card
- Write down contact numbers and dig out spare house keys
- Get changed
- Apply make up
- Text door code to sitter who always forgets it
7.45 finds me at the end of my tether. Every single familiar gesture of our evening routine has been a battleground. Tadpole ate precisely four forkfuls of dinner. She splashed water all over the bathroom floor while I hastily applied make-up. She is now running around naked, refusing to have her teeth cleaned or don her pyjamas. I am dressed, and in between yelling threats and promises I am fiddling with my hair, spraying on perfume. My shoulders are sagging. I wonder how I will muster up enough energy to take the métro and actually spend four hours making small talk at a party before the clock strikes one and I leave before my carriage turns into a pumpkin/my babysitter’s bedtime.
At 8.00, when the doorbell trills, we are ready. Tadpole is sitting on her bed with her library book, the only French book in the house, her mouth minty fresh, patiently waiting for the babysitter to come and read her a story. I am ready, my bag packed with drink, present and card, money for taxi/babysitter. I did it! Against all odds. Cinders shall go to the ball.
I glance at myself in the full-length mirror and do a horrified double take.
Those tights, those magic tights I pounced on in Monoprix which make slightly wobbly tummies disappear, with their “control top” panel? Bad idea. My tummy is flat as can be, there’s no arguing with that. My bottom is also reined in to great effect. But where the controlling part bottoms out and my thighs begin? Oh dear god. I now have saddlebags. Second hips located halfway down my thighs as though there has been some sort of subsidence. It’s too late to re-think my entire outfit. And I don’t have any other black tights to hand.
There is nothing for it but to haul my two pairs of childbearing hips out on the town.