I withdraw my foot from my left shoe with a sharp intake of breath and massage my big toe, before tipping up the shoe to see what the culprit was this time. A sharp, triangular building block falls out.
I slowly pull the washing out of the machine, looking for the offending item which has rattled and clanged insistently for the entire duration of the hot cycle. Behold, a spoon, placed in the drum, or the washing basket, by tiny hands when I wasn’t looking.
I ease my tired limbs between the bedsheets, and then sit up, startled. After the removal of one plastic toy telephone, one TV remote control and one rag doll, the coast is clear. Except for the Miffy book lurking under my pillow, which I only discover the following morning.
When Mr Frog and I decided to have Tadpole, I knew that this meant kissing my pristine, adult apartment goodbye. I’m not sure, however, that I was prepared for the extent of the proliferation of child-related items, or indeed the damage that one child can inflict.
Toys overflow from a box in the living room and lurk under chairs and tables. A family of ducks, a (toy) frog and an octupus line the bathtub, eyeing me suspiciously whenever I take a soak. Soft toys are regularly to be found hidden in amongst the pots, pans and tupperware in the kitchen cupboards. Magnetic shapes adorn the metal stove in the living room fireplace (oh yes, we have original features which would drive Kirstie and Phil wild), and are stuck randomly on radiators and domestic appliances in ever changing configurations. Every time I race to record something on the video, first of all I must extract a pingu or postman pat cassette.
In addition to toys, we also have a plethora of Tadpole-proofing paraphernalia. A gate across the entrance to the kitchen, so that access can be denied if necessary, a measure taken upon discovering an over-ripe goats cheese in my underwear drawer, after a weekend away. Plastic covers, to prevent moist, enquiring fingers from entering the two-pin, no-earth electric sockets which abound in our apartment. We stopped short of putting locks on every cupboard door, however, and refused to be bullied into purchasing the foam helmet advocated by our puériculture catalogue. Oh, they’re clever alright, these marketing people, playing on your inevitable insecurities as a new parent to sell you expensive and completely unnecessary safety gear.
Being of a houseproud, obsessively tidy nature – which may or may not be related to being born when the sun was in Virgo – I have also had a hard time coming to terms with the damage inflicted on our existing possessions. The Ikea standing lamp with its tall, white paper lampshade, which now dangles bedraggled and forlorn in a corner of the room, because, guess what, Ikea don’t sell those lampshades separately. The deep purple sofa cover, washed to within an inch of its life, now shrunk and faded, and despite my best efforts still bearing traces of some of Tadpole’s first puréed meals. Aside from the furniture, the apartment itself has not escaped unscathed. The wood floors, which show every single drop of spilled liquid as a pale stain, are looking far from their best, as I rarely have the time or inclination to wax. Greasy fingermarks abound on the white painted walls.
Now, I can learn to live with all of these things. I have, in fact. I am even mellowing to the point where I actually like all of Tadpole’s colourful clutter.
But, Mr Frog, putting Tadpole’s music on my Ipod – even if, in your defence, you claim it might come in useful when we are trapped in a car with a fractious toddler someday – is taking things ONE STEP TOO FAR.
When I am “shuffling” in the metro of a morning, I do not expect The Killers to be followed hot on the heels by “une souris verte” at full volume. Some things, some precious little things, are SACRED, and as such, need to be declared TADPOLE FREE ZONES.
Is that clear?