I glance anxiously at my watch. It is 8.27. School drop-off time is between 8.20 and 8.30, and the small but perfectly formed tantrum Tadpole threw just as we were poised to leave the flat – when I so foolishly dared to insist she wear a scarf to ward off the biting cold – has cost us dearly. If we don’t get a move on, I will be one of the latecomers, those wretched folk who scuttle past the directrice, head down, shoulders hunched, to escape the full force of her withering stare. I quicken my pace, and Tadpole breaks from a trot into a canter in order to keep up with me.
But when we reach the slightly surreal Chinese shop which sells wedding dresses and ball gowns which wouldn’t look out of place at a Jordan and Peter André wedding, Tadpole grinds to a stubborn halt.
“Look mummy! Princess dresses!” She tears her hand free from my grip and gestures excitedly at the window display. A particularly unattractive frothy pistachio number catches my eye and causes me to shudder, involuntarily.
“I like the white ones better,” I say, pointing towards something marginally more tasteful. “Those dresses are for weddings. Just like in the Little Mermaid, you remember, when Ariel marries her prince?”
Tadpole nods. “Yes, I know mummy.” This is her new favourite phrase, designed to shame me into silence if I over-explain things in a patronising tone, and terriblement efficace.
I grab her hand and we hurry on. I dare not look at my watch. I’m simply banking on the fact that it may be one minute fast.
“When I’m a big lady,” Tadpole says suddenly, “just after my tooth gets wobbly, I’m going to marry a prince as well.” She has a slight obsession with wobbling teeth at the moment, courtesy of a Charlie and Lola episode entitled “My wobbly tooth must not ever never fall out”. I have assured her that there will be no wobbling before she is six years old, but she seems to have decided that grown up teeth equals adulthood.
“Hmm. Maybe a little while after your teeth start wobbling, but yes, I’m sure you’ll get married in a pretty dress one day,” I say brightly, although I feel like I’m sucking on lemons.
“Yes, I’m going to marry a prince. Daddy is my prince,” she says with absolute certitude.
Will someone who, unlike me, actually reads all those parenting manuals and knows about the phases little girls go through be kind enough to reassure me that this is a Perfectly Normal Phase?