petite anglaise

June 12, 2007


Filed under: good time girl, Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 9:45 pm

“Look at my little girl!” I say, handing Mr Frog the cake box over Tadpole’s head and motioning to him to hide it in the kitchen. “She’s four years old!” Tadpole executes a coquettish little twirl in the turquoise dress I bought the day before in an Indian shop, with its silver thread and sequin detail. Any dress with a skirt big enough to curtsey in finds favour with my daughter these days. But god forbid I try to dress her in any sort of skirt which doesn’t have “corners”. That will simply not do. At all. And as for trousers, well, we simply don’t go there.

I had staggered down the rue de Belleville earlier that morning, leaving a mojito scented fug in my wake, and collected the Chinese sponge and whipped cream monstrosity I had thankfully had the foresight to order several days earlier. Now, complete with garish Disney princess decorations purchased on my last trip to England, it is suitably hideous. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Tadpole will approve.

“But mummy,” says Tadpole frowning, “when I did wake up this morning, I was not more-ler bigger! My legs are the same. My face is the same. My hair isn’t longer. I can’t be four years old yet. Because when I’m four years old, I’m going to be extremely big. Much biggerer than this!”

“Ah,” I reply, looking askance at Mr Frog, who shrugs and peers inside the cake box, his face registering first horror, then amusement. I dig inside my jeans pocket and hand him four glittery Barbie candles in nauseous shades of pink and purple, then turn back to Tadpole, my head spinning. “Honey, did you think you were going to be all grown up when you woke up this morning?”

Tadpole nods.

“Well,” I say reasonably. “Nobody grows that quickly.” A sly smile spreads across my face as I realise I can turn this to my advantage. “Especially not little girls who don’t eat their vegetables. Because no one can grow if they don’t eat green beans, and carrots and broccoli.”

“You’ll never guess what happened to me last night,” I call to Mr Frog, who is busy melting candle ends in the kitchen with his lighter and sticking them in the plastic holders I have already inserted into the icing. “I got asked if I wanted a student rate on my way into a club. Imagine?!” I for one am not looking forward to the birthday when I suddenly begin looking my actual age overnight. I take a step into the kitchen.

“Don’t come any closer,” says Mr Frog sharply, “you’re probably flammable!” Clearly the lashings of perfume I applied and half packet of chewing gum I’ve put away this morning have masked nothing. “Let me guess. Rum? Mojitos?”

At that moment, Mr Frog’s parents appear at the front door, his father brandishing a bottle of champagne. My stomach lurches at the prospect of alcohol, reloaded and I begin to feel light-headed.

“Hair of the dog,” I mutter under my breath as a generous flute of bubbly is put into my reluctant hand. “And don’t you dare translate that,” I caution Mr Frog as he sets down the cake.

“Wow!” says Tadpole, her eyes like dinner plates. “Qu’est-ce qu’il est beau, mon gâteau…

At least, I think to myself, taking a celebratory swig of champagne and managing to stifle my grimace, my horrorshow cake was worth the considerable effort I had expended that morning.

Maybe I’m not such a bad mummy, after all.


  1. Happy Birthday Tadpole and don’t grow up too quickly; let your mummy enjoy a few more years of colourful cakes and princessery dresses. You’ll get biggerer all in good time.

    Comment by sablonneuse — June 12, 2007 @ 10:21 pm

  2. CENSORED?! My GOD, woman, what did you WRITE on there?! She’s Four!

    You’re terrible, Muriel…

    Comment by anna — June 12, 2007 @ 10:26 pm

  3. No Petite you’re not a bad mummy at all! Happy Birthday Tadpole!

    Comment by Kasey — June 12, 2007 @ 11:33 pm

  4. Cute cute cute. Did tadpole really ask all that about being “much biggerer” in the morning? I thought that sort of thing only happened in the movies.

    Comment by inspiredbycoffee — June 12, 2007 @ 11:46 pm

  5. Er, her name, Anna. Just her name.

    inspiredbycoffee: believe me, I never have to make up Tadpole quotes. Meg can testify. She thought I made up every word until they actually met.

    Comment by petite — June 13, 2007 @ 12:10 am

  6. The ‘bad mummy’ link takes one to a google search page. Goodness girl…did you have to google your own archive???

    Comment by P — June 13, 2007 @ 12:18 am

  7. No! I’m just ensuring my number one spot as bad mummy remains intact.

    There is almost always method in my madness.

    Comment by petite — June 13, 2007 @ 12:29 am

  8. You mean her name isn’t really Tadpole:-)? Well done with the point scoring over the vegetables. Let’s hope she has a wonderful year, and the same for Petite as well. Another good story beautifully told.

    Comment by Pierre L — June 13, 2007 @ 12:32 am

  9. It took me a few seconds to work out what you meant when you said you were censoring Tadpole’s name. I suppose I forgot that your daughter must actually have a name other than Tadpole!

    Comment by Stratfordgirl — June 13, 2007 @ 12:33 am

  10. Oh alright.

    Comment by anna — June 13, 2007 @ 12:48 am

  11. I’ve read that story of kids thinking they’ll turn grown-ups overnight several times, and it’s a cute one.

    However all the real chidren I’ve met were always very much age-conscious, and perfectly aware of other little girls next door who had just turned four, or five, and that were not showing any sign of adulthood. So I thought, so far, that these stories were just nice tales. But if authenticity is guaranteed here …

    Comment by Yogi — June 13, 2007 @ 2:30 am

  12. Petite said, “I for one am not looking forward to the birthday when I suddenly begin looking my actual age overnight.”

    And that’s all it ever is, an act. :)

    Anyone who tells you different is either telling whoppers or sadly devoid of life’s most basic joy: being a child.

    Comment by bonkers — June 13, 2007 @ 4:12 am

  13. Yeah, I thought the cake was obscene, too – probably from the bit about Mr. Frog “registering first horror, then amusement.” But I figured it was a mistake from the pastry shop, not a devious decision on the part of her mother.

    Comment by BlondebutBright — June 13, 2007 @ 6:09 am

  14. When I first saw the picture of the cake I assumed that the cake maker had written something bad in French that an English person wouldn’t necessaraly know was bad however good at the language they were and it was only until Mr Frog explained that you realised what a mistake had been made.

    And then I had a shower, properly woke up, and applied common sense.

    Comment by Daniel — June 13, 2007 @ 8:46 am

  15. I used to get my mum to measure me on my birthday to see if I had got taller overnight!

    Happy Birthday Tadpole!

    Comment by Sparkle — June 13, 2007 @ 9:01 am

  16. I love the thoughts that kids have and also their pronunciations of words. When my son was young we had “Floo wan mo” for lawnmower, “Remocurren Troll” for remote control and “Dondoo” for doughnuts.

    It’s a very special time for kids and parents and it all changes when they get to school. Keep Tadpole’s innocence for as long as you can Petite, it’s soon gone.

    Can I have a slice of the cake if there’s any left?

    Comment by Jester — June 13, 2007 @ 9:40 am

  17. You! A bad Mummy??? That’ll be the day; not with that adorable a kidlet. As for les haricots vert–I’m with the tadpole on that one. Yuck city. Yellow beans are a different story and so is broccoli. Mojitos or no don’t worry, C. you’re one of the better mothers I’ve seen and/or have read about. Believe me, I taught for 30+ yrs and I’ve seen some real doozies. To have called them a mother is a profanation of the name. Happy birthday to the little one, and may she have many many more happy ones with you.
    Cheers to you and to the little one from
    Beau in Seattle. :-)

    Comment by Beau — June 13, 2007 @ 10:09 am

  18. Happy birthday Tadpole !

    Comment by Anna — June 13, 2007 @ 10:29 am

  19. My mom used to pick up a boring cake from the local Safeway. Your cake sounds much better.

    Comment by Caroline in Rome — June 13, 2007 @ 10:32 am

  20. Happy Birthday Tadpole!
    What a fantastic cake…foresight makes up for many mojitos :)

    Comment by Alex — June 13, 2007 @ 11:08 am

  21. quite an honour – to be no.1 bad mummy in the whole world! for a while i was top if you googled ‘wrinkliest tits ever’ (which someone unaccountably did, i saw from sitemeter).in my defence, it was just after i did that post on ‘breastfeeding algebra’. pourtant, i think you came off better!
    meg x

    Comment by rivergirlie — June 13, 2007 @ 11:45 am

  22. My mother delighted my 4-year old with a home-made chocolate cake in the shape of a hedgehog, complete with chocolate button spikes, and a bunny-shaped wobbly lime jelly. At first, I too was delighted, until I realized the following year that a precedent had been set and I was expected (by the now 5-year old) to produce the same level of artistic creativity… Thank goodness for French bakeries!

    Comment by Amanda — June 13, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

  23. Hope Tadpole had a wonderful b-day! Now, that’s some cake — the perfect princess confection. I imagine that she was thrilled.

    I still haven’t had a proper Mojito — but that probably has something to do with the fact that I always end up ordering a glass of wine to be on the safe side. But one of these days…

    Comment by Alice — June 13, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

  24. I was really worried wshen I saw the “censored” thing. For a moment I thought that it was because you had used Disney characters on the cake, and it was some sort of censoring by the Disney Corp. “OMG” I thought, “When I think of all the pix I put on my blog that are probably “borrowed””………….

    And, like others, I forgot that it could be something as simple as hiding her name…..

    I’m impressed that you made that with a hangover.

    Funny post. Happy Birthday Tadpole.

    Comment by Sally Lomax — June 13, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

  25. do let us know if tadpole starts munching enthusiastically on her vegetables..

    Comment by John Koh — June 13, 2007 @ 1:42 pm

  26. Happy birthday, dear Tadpole… and many more! And the perfect 4-year-old’s cake, too. Not a bad mummy in sight.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — June 13, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

  27. Happy birthday Tadpole.

    Just don’t eat the sprouts! You’ll still grow up to be big and healthy. Believe me.

    And Petite, be mindful that Tadpole may remember this gesture, when you are old and she is feeding you mushed up food.

    Comment by Steve... — June 13, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

  28. I remember the days of twirly dresses, lace socks and black patent leather mary janes. I think my girl went through that stage at 3, 4, and 5. Then she went to school and noted that it was very hard to climb monkey bars and ride the teeter totter in lace and frills. She started to wear denim and never looked back. All her femininity these days is expressed with hair and make up, save for prom. Enjoy it while it lasts!

    Comment by Kaycie — June 13, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

  29. Happy Birthday Tadpole! My, what a grown lady to have a fancy dress and her own party!

    Comment by Leslie — June 13, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

  30. Happy Birthday Tadpole!

    I am glad you continue to censor her name – all the safety reasons aside, to your readers she is always tadpole and seeing a different name would confuse us too much!

    Comment by Kingston Girl — June 13, 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  31. Cake! I love cake! Especially store-bought sheet cake with lots of frosting … the sugary kind, though. Not as big a fan of whipped cream.

    My mom thinks my cake-love includes ones with glazed fruits on top or custard-y types, but no. I smile, say “thank you” and eat some anyway, making sure to stop at the store (maybe even Safeway, Caroline in Rome!) for my real cake fix …

    Comment by Kelly In Seattle — June 13, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

  32. Wow, this is a first. Not one reader telling me to sign up for AA…

    Comment by petite — June 13, 2007 @ 6:19 pm

  33. Maybe you should do a t-shirt@

    For a good time
    call Bad Mummy
    +31 1 70 38…

    Great cake! Truly great cake! And well balanced to get it home in one piece.

    Comment by Damian (WWSWPA support crew) — June 13, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

  34. “Wow, this is a first. Not one reader telling me to sign up for AA…”

    Go sign up for AA and remember: take it one drink at a time! ;-)

    (Disclaimer: Yes, I know alcoholism is a serious problem for some people.. I’m not ridiculing them, I’m just ribbing Petite)

    Comment by bonkers — June 13, 2007 @ 7:45 pm

  35. ..and I always thought her name was Tadpole! Happy Birthday to her!

    Comment by Jean-Luc Picard — June 13, 2007 @ 8:16 pm

  36. JO-YEUX A–NNI–VERSAIRE! JO-YEUX A–NNIVER–SAIRE!!! JO-YEUX A–NNIVER–SAIRE CHERE TETARD (TADPOLE). JO-YEUX A—NI-VER-SAIRE!! And oh, Petite, don’t stop being the ‘bad mummy’ – ever!

    Comment by JamRock — June 13, 2007 @ 10:59 pm

  37. Hilarious posting. Reminded me of my four year old niece, who would be very impressed by a cake like that. Having already reached the birthday where you wake up suddenly looking your age, I can tell you the only antidote is another glass of champagne.

    Comment by mimi pompom — June 13, 2007 @ 11:37 pm

  38. Long time reader, first time poster….When our daughter was four, our dogs would chase “rappits and swirls”, and she loved watching “callipittars” and “flutterbys”. Thankfully, she did not end up lysdexic like me……..JD

    Comment by Jim Denney — June 13, 2007 @ 11:45 pm

  39. Happy Birthday Tadpole! I suspect you are much better at this mummy business than you think. Tadpole is a lucky girl.

    Comment by Jules — June 14, 2007 @ 12:17 am

  40. Happy Belated Birthday Tadpole!!! Stay as adorable and gorgeous for as long as you can! For what it’s worth I would be pleased if I got a cake so lovely for my 18th! xxxxxxxxxx
    You are a fabulous mummy! Never forget it! xxxxx

    Comment by Rachel — June 14, 2007 @ 2:58 am

  41. Happy Birthday Tadpole…

    Enjoy it, don’t rush to grow up, relish being the age you are.

    My daughter informed me last night that instead of going to university in Granada, Barçelona or even Madrid she wants to go to university in Milano.

    She’s ten!


    Comment by Brennig — June 14, 2007 @ 4:08 pm

  42. The idea behind a child’s birthday cake is a children’s birthday party. And, like, sharing things with friends.
    Bad Mummy!
    (See how you always get your own way in the end)

    Comment by andrew — June 14, 2007 @ 11:52 pm

  43. sweetness all around. smile.

    Comment by dawn — June 15, 2007 @ 5:24 am

  44. Hey, that’s a really interesting article about French mothers, with the argument they are more vicious, but more successful at bringing up children.

    Comment by Dan — June 15, 2007 @ 6:52 am

  45. Hello. I also just read the DT article on French mothers and am wondering what someone from the frontline might opine. I wonder if the generalisation on French mothers are accurate or whether this is more relevant to the Paris mums who strut about in the Jardin Luxembourg?

    Comment by Robert — June 15, 2007 @ 9:19 am

  46. I read that too – thanks for the link.

    I agree that French children are expected to fit around their parents’ lifestyle (for example going to restaurants to eat at 9pm and falling asleep on their parents’ laps) and that French women tend to go back to work when their children are younger (Tadpole was 4 months old when I returned to work – a financial necessity). True also that French schools can leave parents feeling a little excluded.

    But the skinny, cruel, superbitch Jardin de Luxembourg mothers described in this article are possibly more of a bourgeois neighbourhood phenomenon. I never see any evidence of that sort of authoritarian, cruel to be kind parenting among the Belleville bobos of my neighbourhood.

    French correspondants in newspapers always seem to have Left Bank stories to tell (as do many authors – Adam Gopnik, Kate Muir’s “Left Bank”, etc) which I simply can’t relate to.

    Comment by petite — June 15, 2007 @ 10:54 am

  47. This article is a bit less stereotypes-filled than usual British articles about France. The only problem, as you pointed out is that the model of education they describe is far from generalized. It’s not typically a question of upper-class or working-class, it’s much more a question of different styles of families.
    I know very bourgeois families where children are brought up as self-centered brats that get all their wishes and working class families where the (quiet)word of a parent is enough to make a child behave.
    American-style families do exist in France, but they are still a minority. Another model we share with ango-saxon countries is the single parent household, especially in racial minorities.

    Comment by Jack — June 15, 2007 @ 11:54 am

  48. The DT article was an interesting piece of fiction as I’ve never seen that sort of behaviour around here in the banlieue. Nor in Paris when I lived in the 16th or the 11th or the 3rd.

    Incidentally, Censored is a strange name to choose for a little girl…..

    Comment by Dumdad — June 15, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

  49. Wow you’re good! I love how slid in the part about the vegetables!!

    Comment by Anali — June 15, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

  50. One afternoon, my husband and I went to parents evening at my 4 year old girl’s school.. The teacher showed us her tray and her ‘work’. In her drawing book she had drawn some approximation of a duck with a speech bubble coming from its beak. “Twat, Twat”, it said. At the time she was having trouble with her ‘cuh’ sounds. The teacher was mortified.

    Comment by Welsh Cake — June 15, 2007 @ 5:20 pm

  51. Lovely post! I mentioned you in passing on my own blog today, but of course if this offends you I’ll remove it. I hope you all had a lovely day!

    Comment by Despina — June 16, 2007 @ 12:54 am

  52. I’m convinced that in years to come there will be Children of Bloggers groups, who get together and discuss what it was like to ‘grow up on a blog’. When Tadpole is older — and if you are still blogging — do you think you’ll get to a point where you ask her if she minds being featured on your blog?

    Comment by Scottie — June 16, 2007 @ 2:23 am

  53. Having just read the Telegraph article and just returned from a week in France with three of my chidlren I can only hang my head in shame. Every single day I removed them from restaurants as soon as we’d sat down as their behaviour was appalling, especially when their French counterparts sat there, silently and smiling as mine played with the napkins, tore the napkins, fiddled with the wine glasses, threw the menus on the floor, argued, figdeted. It was intolerable. Stuff Super Nanny send me Le Nanny Superb (say it with French accent)…

    Comment by Welsh Cake — June 16, 2007 @ 8:09 pm

  54. I work as an au pair in a very bourgeois area of Paris and every day I am just about appalled by what I have come to know as the ‘Marlboro Light Mother’s Club’. I have long noted that for many of the mothers in the park after school their children are little but lapdogs. On one occasion I noticed a toddler, maybe a year old, alone in an empty corner of the park, a parent nowhere to be seen. Concerned, I followed him for about 20 minutes as he wandered. Finally, when he started to frantically look for his mother, I picked him up and took him to the playground area. After a few minutes a typically svelte black-clad French woman finally heard him crying, sighed, stubbed out her cigarette, marched over and tore him from my arms with nary a ‘merci’. Sadly, in my experience, events like this aren’t isolated. I’ve seen kids run out of school and give the nanny a hug then just stare at their mothers, and many children whose mobility is compromised by the ridiculous designer clothing and shoes they are dressed in (does your two year old really need knee-high leather boots?). I sometimes worry about the next generation of the French bourgeoisie…

    Comment by Tara — June 17, 2007 @ 3:16 am

  55. Buon Compleanno petiteanglaise’s little girl :-))

    Comment by Eric — June 18, 2007 @ 12:26 am

  56. Nice

    Comment by Vassilios — August 23, 2007 @ 3:01 am

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