Tadpole and I are making our way home from “daddy’s house”. We make excruciatingly slow progress, as she insists on pulling her Miffy wheelie weekend bag along herself rather than letting me carry it. My eyes are riveted on the pavement ahead so that I can give advance warning should we encounter anything unsavoury left behind by a pigeon, dog or human.
Grinding to a halt at a pedestrian crossing, Tadpole suddenly becomes very excited at the sight of a teenage girl across the road.
“Wow! Look mummy! That girl has really red hair! Absolutely exactly the same red colour as the Little Mermaid!”
I take my eyes off the traffic lights for a moment and obediently take a look. The girl in question, striding away on the opposite pavement, has dyed her hair an unnaturally deep red, a cross between the claret colour so often favoured by Parisian café owners when choosing their awnings and my own crimson bedclothes. Uncannily similar to Tadpole’s Little Mermaid doll’s dishevelled mane. A colour which looks better, in my humble opinion, on fabric than on hair.
“Oh look, the green man!” I say, changing the subject and grabbing Tadpole’s free hand.
Later that evening, as I pull a wide-toothed comb through her damp ringlets (amusingly called “anglaises in her father tongue), I make the mistake of doing my thinking aloud. “We really must go to see a hairdresser sometime,” I say. “If we cut your hair just a little bit, then it will grow thicker, and longer.” I’ve been saying this for the past two years, ever since Tadpole’s hair finally deigned to begin growing in earnest, but somehow we’ve never got round to it.
“Mummy?” says Tadpole, turning to face me, her brow furrowed, “when you go to the see the hairdresser, sometimes the hairdresser puts some colour, doesn’t he?”
“Well, yes,” I admit. “I sometimes make it a little bit blonder, because it used to be light like yours, but now it’s darker…” I can almost see the cartoon lightbulb flickering to life above my daughter’s head, and have a sudden inkling of what is coming next.
“So when I go to see the hairdresser, can he make my hair a different colour too? Because I would like to have really really red hair like Ariel’s!”
I pause, wondering how to respond, then a phrase falls from my lips which somehow I never expected to find myself using quite so soon. “Not until you are at least sixteen years old, young lady! Your hair is very pretty just the way it is!”
“But mummy,” protests Tadpole with a sullen pout I find eerily familiar. “Sixteen years old is in a long long long time.”
Combing duty over, I pull myself to my feet and lead the way through into the bedroom.
“Hell yes,” I mutter under my breath.