I hear the creak of a door, followed by a pattering of bare feet on the floorboards. Pulling the bedclothes up to my chin, I snap my eyes hastily closed, as per the usual morning ritual, to preserve Tadpole’s illusion that she is responsible for waking me.
A hand softly grazes my cheek, and I prepare myself for the habitual “WAKEYWAKEYMUMMY!”, the volume of which never ceases to amaze me. Such a loud voice from such a small pair of lungs surely goes against all the laws of physics.
Today however the ritual appears to have changed. Instead tiny fingers are exploring my face. My mouth twitches, involuntarily, but I keep my eyes firmly closed, hoping to prolong the moment for as long as I possibly can.
A finger traces the curve of my eyebrow.
“Mummy got lovely eyebrows,” a Tadpole voice mutters, softly.
There is a feather light touch on my lower lip.
“Mummy got beautiful lips,” she whispers.
I bask in the glow of her unconditional love. Even if I know she is only repeating things I say to her on a regular basis, because I simply can’t help myself and refer to her as my beautiful princess at least ten times a day, her flattery is still music to my ears.
My mouth is slightly ajar, and a digit ventures inside to probe my front teeth. I deliberate about whether to make Tadpole jump by gnawing on her finger, pretending to bite.
“Mummy have very pretty yellow teeth,” she continues.
“YELLOW?” I splutter, the spell irrevocably broken, all pretence of sleep brusquely abandoned. “NO! Mummy’s teeth are white!”
Tadpole is unconvinced. “Nooo. Not white, they yellow,” she maintains, stubbornly, “just like your hair.”
I resolve to give up tea and coffee and invest in some heavy duty whitening strips. The truth hurts. Especially, it seems, from the mouths of babes.