I tiptoe into Tadpole’s room and kneel by her new bed, where she is sleeping peacefully, surrounded by her favourite teddies. I can hear her slow, regular breathing (with a hint of snoring, caused by her blocked nose), and bend to smell the baby shampoo on her honey-coloured curls, noticing a flicker behind her eyelids, which I take to mean she is dreaming. Tears stream silently down my face.
I go back into the living room, where Mr Frog is in his habitual evening position, lying on the chaise longue in front of the window watching TV.
“She looks too grown up!” I wail. “I feel like we’re forcing her to grow up too quickly. She’s not even two yet, and we’re already dismantling her cot…”
“Mais non, n’importe quoi, bien sûr qu’elle est prête, elle s’est endormie ravie de son nouveau lit. We’re not forcing her into anything. And anyway, it was your idea, n’est-ce pas?”
I blow my nose loudly and start clearing up the toys and remnants of Tadpole’s dinner from her new mini table and chairs, which she is now using instead of her highchair. Provided, that is, that I sit on the other chair opposite her, which I suspect will not prolong the life of that particular piece of furniture, given I weigh five or six times more than your average infant.
One of the things I find hardest to judge as a parent is when Tadpole is ready for something new. So I end up measuring her against other children, which I know you are not really supposed to do. People I know with slightly older toddlers have bought beds, so I thought we should. Keeping up with the Jones’s. The fact that Tadpole could almost get her leg over the barrier, ballerina style, seemed to suggest that she was outgrowing her cot, but as she goes to bed wearing a
straitjacket sleeping bag anyhow, once that is firmly fastened, she’d have to pull a Houdini-like stunt in order to make her escape. The sleeping bag, and the safety barrier on the side of the new bed, are cunningly designed to prevent her from deciding that she would rather play with her train set, or pay mummy and daddy a visit in the middle of the night. Nevertheless I don’t doubt it is only a matter of time before I am awoken by an almighty crash, whereupon I will find Tadpole standing on her head, cocooned legs in the air.
When I pause to think how far we’ve come, I simply cannot get my head around how quickly Tadpole is learning and changing. The progress is so gradual; it is only when I conjure up an image of her crawling in reverse gear this time last year, that I feel overwhelmed by the speed of it all. Back then, she babbled cheerful nonsense, devoid of any actual English or French words, but now she can recite ‘Mary Mary quite contrary’ (glossing over some of the words, like a French speaker doing an approximate rendition of an English pop song, parrot fashion, not fully understanding the meaning of the lyrics). This progress is bittersweet, like the joys and constraints of motherhood itself: on the one hand I look forward impatiently to the day when she will be potty trained, but on the other, I am nostalgic for the snuffly, terrifyingly needy baby animal she was, not so long ago.
And, if I’m honest, I feel slightly guilty for spending weekdays apart from her, unable to savour every minute to the full.