petite anglaise

October 21, 2005

burnt fingers

Filed under: parting ways, Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:30 pm

I arrive at the park, the stresses of the office and rush hour metro suddenly falling away as I catch sight of Tadpole sitting with her playmates on the grass. I cut across the lawn, my kitten heels sinking deep into the damp soil. The childminder points, “regarde qui est là !”, and Tadpole turns around with an expectant smile. I am already grinning from ear to ear. When I see her after spending a day or more apart, my heart never fails to skip a beat.

Suddenly, Tadpole’s face falls.

“No! I want papa!” she cries, stubbornly. And turns her back to me, arms folded.

I bite my lip but continue smiling, determined not to take her reaction to heart, even if it does smart, like a slap in the face.

Mr Frog had picked Tadpole up the previous evening, and dropped her off this morning. That she might have got her wires crossed about who was coming to collect her this evening is perfectly understandable.

I manage to coax Tadpole into the pushchair, using the effective combination of the sternest voice I can muster and the promise of chocolate at some unspecified time in the future if she complies, and we make our way home.

Half an hour later, I am pottering in the kitchen, making fish finger sandwiches with tomato ketchup (for myself) and soft cheese sandwiches (for Tadpole), when I hear footsteps in the hallway. My daughter appears. She has managed to put her shoes back on, albeit on the wrong feet, and has slung her miffy bag (containing a book, her water cup, two cars and a plastic harmonica) over her shoulder.

“Bye bye mummy, I ready to go to daddy’s house,” she says, with a wave. She motions to the locked front door: “ouvre mummy! Faut ouvrir maintenant!”

I sigh and shake my head, reaching for the telephone. After recounting the evening’s events to Mr Frog, who is tickled pink to be so popular with his little daddy’s girl, I pass Tadpole the receiver. A short, stilted conversation ensues, in which she describes the contents of her bag (still convinced, apparently, that the person at the other end of the line can see as well as hear), then she hands the phone back with a cheerful “à demain, daddy!”

An acrid smell assails my nostrils and I realise that in the process of placating my daughter, I have burnt my dinner.

The sacrifices one must make for one’s children are seemingly boundless.


  1. This kind of treatment seems to be the lot of the most present parent, whether they are together or not, I find.

    When Daddy gets home, he’s greeted with “un câlin, un gros câlin et un surcâlin” by our younger daughter and, if he’s still breathing, something just as enthusiastic but a bit more grown up from her big sister. Whereas I’m lucky to get a grunt and a list of whinges about their day when I fetch them from school. Unless I’m bearing pains au chocolat, in which case the reception is ecstatic. Pecking order – Daddy first, edible treats second, then me, if there’s nothing an no-one more exciting on offer.

    We are *so” under-appreciated, us devoted mothers.

    Comment by Susan — October 21, 2005 @ 12:56 pm

  2. I am new to your blog, but find it draws me back everyday to see what Tadpole is up to. You are brave to go it alone as an ex-pat mom, I don’t know if I would still find myself in Norway with my two if Mr. Viking and I parted ways…

    it is the opposite in our home. I am the one who gets the smiles and hugs and Pappa is often left wondering why he’s not good enough. My oldest has told him “jeg liker Mamma bare en dråpe mer enn deg” which is “I only like Mamma one drop more than you”. I can feel the sting even though it doesn’t hit me.

    Comment by nrg — October 21, 2005 @ 1:13 pm

  3. Though I have no idea what your daughter looks like, I can really see that look on her face! The power of a small child over an adult is truly amazing. They can make or break your day with just a few words and a look. I’m sure you’re aware of how much she adores you though. Fish finger sandwiches with ketchup. Yummy. Sorry they were ruined.

    Comment by Katherine — October 21, 2005 @ 1:40 pm

  4. Hm. I have observed this some times with a friends children. And I imagine to have a general idea of why this happens. I suppose, that “petite” sees little Tadpole more often than Mr. Frog and by there for a longer period of time.

    I suppose this, because that is what I have thought to be the cause of all this. Basically I imagine Tadpole to have a more “vivid” althought that may not be the correct word, experience when seeing Mr. Frog, than with you because she sees you more often.

    It’s kind of difficult to explain my point. But you understand no doubt what I mean. :) Could my assumption be true?

    Comment by maradong — October 21, 2005 @ 2:16 pm

  5. I think Mrs Soldier will certainly sympathise with you. When I’m away (which I often am) she is a one parent family. As soon as I return the children want nothing to do with her and only have eyes for dad.

    Comment by Universal Soldier — October 21, 2005 @ 2:39 pm

  6. This sort of stuff drives Barbarella nuts.

    And me after a while once the ‘cutenes’ has worn off.

    Comment by Greavsie — October 21, 2005 @ 2:40 pm

  7. Ahh yes, little girls and their daddies… Last night my nearly 2 year old started yelling in bed at about 9pm for no apparent reason, but I suspect she was waiting for Daddy to come home. When he walked through the door, she stuck to him like glue, insisting on sitting on his knee while he ate, and kept up a constant monologue all the while which went something like this “papa papa papa, oui, papa, genoux, oui, more bread, papa, papa, kiss…” When I tentatively intervened, murmuring vaguely about it being past bedtime, she turned to me and frowned and said “No! Pas Mummy!”.

    Comment by Mancunian lass — October 21, 2005 @ 2:51 pm

  8. I often wonder if words of ‘it is the same here’ are really that comforting, but, I’ll add them in part here anyway. Bedtime is like that in particular. I get them in the shower, tuck them in, remind them about what-nots that need to get done. I do all the dirty work. But they call for Dad after I kiss and tuck them in.

    Actually, now that I think about it, sometimes I do hear them calling from upstairs now and again. “Mommy, just one more kiss and hug!”

    Don’t ever fret it, petite. No one can take the place of Mommy.

    Comment by Beltane — October 21, 2005 @ 2:59 pm

  9. Don’t worry Petite, you’ll have those moments when all Tadpole wants is mommy. Live for them.

    What I want to know is, when was the last time you had a good home cooked meal? Seems your dietary choices at home need repair………..:-)

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — October 21, 2005 @ 3:22 pm

  10. Yet another superbly written post evoking the kind of sad surprise our kids can hold in store for us.
    Once again, I recognise the hurt.
    Isn’t the option of moving away from Paris becoming more problematical?

    Comment by Parkin Pig — October 21, 2005 @ 3:37 pm

  11. Totally OT, but I saw this article on BBC, and thought some of you here, esp. petite might be itnerested in it:

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — October 21, 2005 @ 3:54 pm

  12. Ouch! When i was tadpoles age my father commuted to London and so only saw me for about half an hour (if that) on weekdays. Don’t know if that’s enough of an excuse to still be a daddy’s girl at 21 though…

    Comment by Ellie — October 21, 2005 @ 4:02 pm

  13. Dave of the Lake – (I always imagine you as a kind of Loch Ness monster by the way) my dietary habits leave a lot to be desired when I am on my own with Tadpole. But I can assure you that when the man from Rennes comes to stay, I cook proper food.

    This week I have been alone, hence the fish fingers, knacki sausages, crisps, maltesers, home made scones, cheese and branston on toast…

    Comment by petite — October 21, 2005 @ 4:27 pm

  14. I would just have the home made scones….

    Comment by Flighty — October 21, 2005 @ 5:07 pm

  15. I reckon most single Moms probably don’t eat properly. My Ex and I have ‘la garde alternee’ and the week that I have my boys is when I eat properly as I have to make them veggies and I have to show ‘solidarite’ by eating them too…but when they are at their Dad’s…I indulge in my fave foods….tabbouleh, spring rolls, tarte flambee, tartiflette, pizza….not a fruit or veg passes these lips….bad, I know.

    Comment by Wendy — October 21, 2005 @ 5:34 pm

  16. I would have ordered pizza.

    Comment by Heather — October 21, 2005 @ 5:37 pm

  17. “Dave of the Lake – (I always imagine you as a kind of Loch Ness monster by the way)”

    You’d be surprised what one can find in Lake Ontario these days…………..

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — October 21, 2005 @ 5:40 pm

  18. “This week I have been alone, hence the fish fingers, knacki sausages, crisps, maltesers, home made scones, cheese and branston on toast…”

    Oh, speaking of branston, the supermarket near me here in Rochester, NY just started carrying Branston pickle. Have never had it, (even when I visited England.)and what would be a good food to try it out on?

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — October 21, 2005 @ 5:43 pm

  19. a burnt fishfinger sandwich isn’t SO bad. At least you can get the necessary ingredients in Paris. I would die for a decent FF sarnie here in San Francisco.

    Comment by sam — October 21, 2005 @ 6:58 pm

  20. I had the same today. My husband had been away since Sunday and he got back today so we both went to pick up our son today from school. When he came to the door he only seen me and he turned round and said ” Oh no its my mum” as you could imagine i was well pissed off. On the way out he must have seen his dad because he ran passed me straight to him. My husband is away a lot so i’m mum and dad most of the time and it is very hard. I’m sure when Tadpole is with her dad she talks about you alot because you are the one that is in her life the most.

    Comment by Growing Up — October 21, 2005 @ 7:33 pm

  21. Awww! I know how you feel…For quite a while, our 2 year old was a daddy’s girl, but now the tables seem to be subtly turning in my favour. Why? I don’t know but I’m not complaining! Perhaps Freud would know, or not, as that is also debatable! :)

    I know that kids of either gender tend to have “phases” – preferring one or the other parent. It’s so beautifully endearing to witness pure honesty though, don’t you think? It’s a trait that becomes steeped in surreptitious behaviour sooner or later as they mature and learn the modus operandi of us “Adults” comprised of hidden agendas and white lies to name a few…*sigh*

    My little one was born in June 2003. When was Tadpole born again?

    Comment by Kiora — October 21, 2005 @ 7:33 pm

  22. My niece practically throws a parade when I come to babysit, instantly ignoring her mother. Makes me feel like a queen, but I’m sure as much as her mom understands intellectually, it has to be a little wrenching at the same time. Also? Husband and I eat “easy” like that many a night (but the American version), so what’s OUR excuse? :) Love your site.

    Comment by Quinn — October 21, 2005 @ 8:20 pm

  23. Tadpole is a June 2003 vintage too Kiora…

    Comment by petite — October 21, 2005 @ 8:27 pm

  24. Tadpole is merely playing her part, toughening you up for life’s trials to come. No Mystic Meg crystal ball to read the future, of course, and ‘que sera, sera’ – but here are a couple of thoughts or posibilities which may chime in with the experience of many.
    1. Perhaps you will continue to have a great relationship with tadpole, & become adjusted to her understanable pleasure in her much less frequent encounters with papa, until those dreaded hormonal changes kick in around ‘teenage’ time, when ‘friends’ may quite suddenly replace you as the main focus of her attention, if not affection? Feelings of ‘rejection’ can then kick in big-time, especially if if it ties in with a rebellious phase in her life …. and awareness that one’s own options are radidly diminishing!
    2. As a general observation on life, I have often noticed the irony of how the offspring of, shall I refer to them as ‘less than adequate’ parents, who neglect, deprive & even abuse their own kids, are often fiercely loyal, loving and protective towards their parents…. whilst, in contrast, the offspring of some very caring, loving parents who make endless sacrifices for their kids sometimes become completely uncommunicative towards their parents and unappreciative of all that care lavished upon them. Boys more than girls, but girls too!
    No explanation for this, just an observation that life isn’t always fair, no one said it would be so….. and if the dice fall out reasonably well for you as you go through life, count all your blessings!
    Oh!….. and don’t omit to keep enthralling us all with your daily adventures.

    Comment by fella — October 21, 2005 @ 10:34 pm

  25. So what did you eat instead of “doigts de poisson”?
    Do the French eat them?
    What do they call them?
    C’est quelque chose que je n’ai jamais mange! Un de ces jours, peut-etre!
    My English laptop keyboard is not into accents, sorry!

    Comment by Cream — October 21, 2005 @ 11:31 pm

  26. Ah…beautiful, astute little communicators Geminis are, aren’t they? My Natasha was born on June 3rd 2003. :)

    Comment by Kiora — October 22, 2005 @ 12:30 am

  27. Dave of the Lake: branston pickle is best on a cheese sandwich, or on a baked potato.

    Petite: as a daddy’s girl, I must say that my relationship with my father is all about how fabulous and infallible he is, while my mother and I know each other for real, and have a much more balanced, mature relationship.

    Comment by EasyJetsetter — October 22, 2005 @ 1:58 am

  28. My daughter continues to be a “Papa’s girl” and she is going on 12! But there are some advantages…I defer to Papa on numerous occasions, especially situations that are somewhat stressful. For example, like taking our daughter to the doctor for stitches, having blood taken for a physical, or having a broken arm set at the orthopedist, etc. My daughter prefers her Papa in these situations, and since I am not a “Nurse Nancy” I prefer it, too. This gives Papa opportunities to be a good Papa…and the hero of the day. Works for me.

    Comment by Elle — October 22, 2005 @ 3:09 am

  29. Tadpole’s father gets the role of “fun” parent now. The occasions that he sees her are short bursts of fun and whimsy, whilst Petite is the parent that must enforce the rules of managing life day-to-day. Trust me when I say, though, that when the chips are down and the child really needs something, she will look to “Mummy” first. It is only when the child is old enough to understand how her mother betrayed her father, that she will lose all faith in Petite and demand to live with her father full-time. I wonder if Petite truly understands the scope of her infidelity and its long-term impact on her, the father, and the Tadpole. It is the kind of thing that Tadpole may never forgive her mother for, in large degree for the destabilizing impact it had on Tadpole and father’s relationship.

    Comment by Benetton — October 22, 2005 @ 9:04 am

  30. Benetton – it’s interesting to see that while Mr Frog recognises we have done the right thing in separating (and remember, you really know very little about our lives), you on the other hand have a problem with my/our behaviour.

    I can only suppose that events in your own life have made you so bitter.

    Comment by petite — October 22, 2005 @ 10:05 am

  31. Hi Petite. You have strange readers some times. I hope you re ok, it’s been a long time

    Comment by Negrito — October 22, 2005 @ 10:26 am

  32. Bennetton said:”It is the kind of thing that Tadpole may never forgive her mother for, in large degree for the destabilizing impact it had on Tadpole and father’s relationship.”

    I have to say, from what I have read- and I’ve been reading the same postings as Bennetton- Tadpole’s relationship with Mr. Frog seems to be anything but destabilised. Does Benneton really think that petite and Mr Frog should have stayed forever in what was clearly an unhappy relationship? Or should they perhaps have waited until things got really bitter and nasty before deciding to separate? I’ve said this before, but I think it took a lot of courage to do what petite did- so many people go by the rule of “better the devil you know” and before they know it, life and a great deal of happiness has passed them by. YOu only get one shot, why not accept that nothing lasts forever and let go? It leaves all the parties with new possibilities and opportunities. i don’t understand benneton, why you’re so against that.

    Sorry petite, didn’t mean to go on. ;) Rant over.

    Comment by suziboo — October 22, 2005 @ 10:29 am

  33. While this is beautifully written and the episode conveys sadness, I have to say it’s overridden by my thoughts of how advanced Tadpole is!! I just have this picture in my mind of this totally organised toddler with her bag all set to go! Perhaps that’s a bright spot to make up for what must have been a hurtful moment?

    Comment by Claypot — October 22, 2005 @ 11:36 am

  34. Petite – take no notice. Benetton (overpriced crap jumpers, anyone? has overlooked the fact that Tadpole is now having effective parenting from two loving parents who are – by and large – putting a lot of effort in to make things work well. Whereas before, when Mr Frog never made it home from work before her bedtime, she was largely being raised by a lonely, frustrated mother.

    Yes, Mr Frog is forging a different kind of relationship with his daughter now, and you are left with a lot of the mundane stuff still, but because you are loved you will be stronger and you will deal with this rollercoaster. Tadpole will most certainly NOT reject you when she’s older because of your “infidelity”, because she’s going to be brought up by sane, thinking adults.

    Just keep telling her the truth, always, always… from seeing my friends’ experiences, rejection and bitterness only develop when one or more parties are determined to weave a web of lies.

    As for the opposite-gender parent thing – as the mother of three boys I unashamedly revel in their love and adoration! Boys get such a bad press these days: just my luck to live in the UK in the 21st century, any other time or place and I’d be revered as a male-baby-producing goddess! Instead I get horrified glances from strangers in the street, or even worse, totally unwanted pity. But my trio are SO affectionate, so warm, so playful with me – and I know that I benefit from that more than their Dad. C’est la vie – he decided to have the snip rather than try for a daughter!

    Comment by Helen in beautiful Bath — October 22, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

  35. Petite, you are her left arm, her right leg. She knows you are there, always, every time.

    Mr Tadpole would give his left arm to be in the same position as it is the sign of true comfort and ‘knowing’.

    Cherish it.

    Comment by Laura — October 22, 2005 @ 12:44 pm

  36. “fish finger sandwiches with tomato ketchup” -> it seems a strange dinner… probably an old English habit… English people eat strange things… even after 10 years in France…

    Cream> Fish fingers are known in France are “battons de poisson” (de capitaine Igloo!). That’s good with purée or vegetables (never tried sandwishes ;-).

    Comment by vonric — October 22, 2005 @ 2:49 pm

  37. Our son often goes for his school holidays either to the South of France or to the UK to be with one of his sets of grandparents, as his school holidays far out way our holiday allowance.

    While he is away(and there are alot of school holidays in France !) you can bet that he can’t even be bothered to speak to his Mummy and Papa, but getting him on to he plane ( all on his own) in floods of tears is a feat in it’s self.

    So this goes to show you that it’s not a girl/boy or Mummy/Papa thing it’s just that the grass is always greener….

    I’ve never felt saddened or jealous of his lack of interest in us, whilst he is away, I am just happy that he is happy to be where he is. The alternative would be all the holidays in a ‘Centre de Loisirs’and thats defintely not better.

    Comment by p in france — October 23, 2005 @ 3:47 pm

  38. “Batonnets de poisson” actually.
    I should know, I cook them at least twice a week.

    Comment by Mancunian Lass — October 23, 2005 @ 6:39 pm

  39. Its great that Mr Frog is now devoting so much more quality time to Tadpole – both for him & her, too. But as these bonds contine to grow & strenghten, won’t it be correspondingly more of a wrench for both of them when, as you hope, you move to Rennes? And for Mr Frog it wil be a double whammy. At present he has frequent access to Tadpole and an amicable relationship with Petite. Won’t it be so much harder for him, not just to maintain access to Tadpole but also to maintain his rapport with Petite when you anmd the new lover are a ‘couple’, perhaps a married couple and thus a totally different family unit? Not that you won’t have already taken this on board, of course.

    Comment by fella — October 23, 2005 @ 10:05 pm

  40. Just to lighten the tone… no offence, fella… here’s a Bath Uni/fish finger memory for you, Petite! When I was a student in Bath in the mid 80s those Breville toasted sandwich makers were all the rage – the sort that make two sealed triangular sandwiches. Normal people generally put cheese in them, but my room-mate’s favourite recipe was to place a cooked fish finger in each of the two triangles, along with (variously) ketchup, Branston etc. No wonder we all put on weight in our first term!

    If you lived on campus (which I sadly didn’t) you could be a member of the Toasty Club. This involved being prepared to make a toasted sandwich for other club members at any time of day or night, should they knock on your door and find you in – and, of course, being able to go and demand toasties yourself. My mate Pete, who also still lives in Bath, fondly remembers top recipes such as banana and Mars Bar, made by bleary-eyed friends at 3am…

    Comment by Helen in beautiful Bath — October 23, 2005 @ 11:51 pm

  41. fella – of course I think about all the issues involved in moving Tadpole and me away from Paris. The timing will never be good, but I hope maybe next summer I can move, in time for us to get settled in before Tadpole starts school part time in September. All the same, yes, it will be hard. I hope Mr Frog and I will continue to email and phone, and he will make time not only on alternate weekends, but in the holidays too to see his daughter. Possibly with the help of his parents, who will be retiring soon, and who could come and stay in Paris from time to time.

    There will be many evenings spent in return train journey’s to Paris, and I can’t say I never have doubts about what I am planning to do.

    But, right now, a life away from the big city is still what I want for my daughter. And for myself.

    Comment by petite — October 24, 2005 @ 10:41 am

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