petite anglaise

October 16, 2007


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:47 am

One of the reasons I have been feeling low since the school year kicked off in September (and yes, I realise this has had some incidence on the frequency of posting here at petite anglaise) was that for a few excruciating weeks, I became increasingly convinced that my daughter had been abducted by aliens.

Gone was the cheerful sprite I had entrusted to the care of the beaux-parents while I skipped off to Greece for two blissful weeks with the Boy. Upon my return, I discovered that a tantrum-throwing, insult-hurling stranger had taken Tadpole’s place. She looked like my daughter – the same blonde corkscrew curls, the same grey-blue eyes – but this little imposter had the power to tear my nerves to shreds, to cut me to the quick with harsh words. She awoke in a filthy temper every morning and greeted me with disdain – if not fury – when I trudged down the hill to collect her from school.

“Hello sweetie, did you have a good day?” I would say, my mouth smiling, but my eyes anxious, bracing myself for what was surely to come.

“I DON’T WANT to come home with YOU. I don’t like YOU and I don’t like YOUR HOUSE. I want to stay at SCHOOL!” Tadpole would reply, her mouth surly, her forehead crumpled. For added effect she also experimented variously with folding her arms, squeezing her eyes tightly shut while putting her hands over her ears to effectively shut me out, or clamping her hands tightly around the bench she was sitting on next to the Maîtresse so that I couldn’t prise her free and pick her up.

In response, I tried:

a) talking in wheedling tones about something “really fun” we would do when we got home
b) pulling a chocolate biscuit out of my handbag as bait
c) pretending to leave without her
d) threatening her with “no CBeebies” when she got home if she did not comply
e) trying to pick her up and carry her out of the school
f) looking askance at the Maîtresse to see if she knew of a magic combination of words which would make my daughter miraculously see sense
g) chasing her around the school hall under the amused gazes of all the assembled teaching staff
h) dragging her outside by force, my hand clamped around her right coatsleeve

Once we were outside, the trials were far from over. The rue de Belleville has never seemed so long, nor its gradient so steep as on those days when I had to climb it alongside a little person who insisted on walking in fairy steps, all the while screaming at the top of her lungs that I was not her friend and she wanted to go to daddy’s house, instead. She would frequently sit on doorsteps, or indeed the middle of the pavement and refuse to move while I stood, arms folded, a few metres ahead, trying valiantly to ignore her until she came to her senses.

By the time we got home it was not uncommon for me to shut myself in the bathroom where I would muffle my howls in the dressing gown which hangs on the back of the door.

She’s tired, I said to myself. She’s in a new class, with lots of children she didn’t know last year. She’s testing my limits now that we are reunited again after the holidays. Mr Frog and I compared notes on the phone, and I was a little reassured to hear that Tadpole wasn’t sparing him either. It’s just a phase, we mumbled soothingly. These things always pass. But my confidence in tatters, I found myself reading chapters from parenting books. I started to wonder if it was All My Fault. After all, the Boy had all but moved in since we got back from Greece. And even if Tadpole and he had always got on famously, could this new development have anything to do with it?

And then one day I went into Tadpole’s bedroom to wake her and, for the first time in weeks, she greeted me with a smile. The school run, that morning, was painless. When I kneeled by her side in the school hall, that evening, fishing in my pocket for a chocolate biscuit, she did not protest. A flicker of something mutinous darted across her face, just for a moment, but she seemed to brush the impulse aside, rising to her feet instead, and taking my hand.

Just before bed, as I bent to give her a goodnight kiss, she made her apology. “Mummy, I did do lots of bêtises, but it’s all finished now.”

I pulled her closer. “It made me sad, you know, when you were naughty every day. I didn’t understand what was wrong… But it doesn’t matter now. Let’s just be friends.”

“I love you, you know,” Tadpole said, her mouth so close to my nose that I could smell the toothpaste on her breath. “I love daddy more, because he is big, and you are only middle-sized… But I do love you quite a lot.”

Padding back into my bedroom, I saw a green light by Mr Frog’s name on gmail.

“The aliens have returned our daughter, safe and sound!” I wrote. “Halle-fucking-luja…”


  1. I’m glad she’s back.

    Comment by amy, la petite americaine — October 16, 2007 @ 11:02 am

  2. You have my sympathies. The tantrums are very frustrating. Our three year-old son, while at times very sweet and loving, will not hesitate to tell me that “we’re no longer friends” if he doesn’t get his way, or will yell at me in the car for answering his question, since the question had been directed at his father and not at me. I usually try to ignore these little episodes, but sometimes, they really do get the best of me. No one ever said this job would be easy…

    Comment by Liza — October 16, 2007 @ 11:10 am

  3. How old is she now? We had the alien abduction thing on JP”s sixth birthday. We’d been warned, but it was still a shock. With him it was the activation of the sarcasm gene that was most infuriating.

    Oh, and I see you sneaked in ‘the Boy had all but moved in’. Don’t think we didn’t notice.

    Good for you. My friend has just chickened out of the chance of a boy of her own. 38 v 23 was too much for her. I think she’s a fool and should have gone for it.

    Comment by Duck — October 16, 2007 @ 11:21 am

  4. Yes, on reflection parenting through the baby stage is a relatively easy task. It certainly gets more challenging beyond this age, and parenting becomes less about taking care of the physical needs and more about attending to the psychological ones. This requires much more time and attention and can be a very tricky path to negotiate. There are no signposts so … Good Luck!

    Comment by MrsB — October 16, 2007 @ 11:27 am

  5. I’m glad I missed the aliens! She was most angelic when we saw her on Fri.

    It’s one of the distinctive features of parenthood – the rollercoasteriness of it all. Every now and then I try and remind myself, that all the trials each pass, that no bad spot ever lasts long (and instead will be replaced by another entirely different one…) but the main thing is, love goes a long long way.

    Comment by Clare — October 16, 2007 @ 11:30 am

  6. Bon courage. The ALIENS WILL BE BACK in approximately 10 years. It’s somehow reassuring to read of this happening to other people, albeit at the wrong age.

    I was in a coffee shop recently where I overheard a lady with a charming Scottish accent explaining to American tourists that her son had been abducted “be aliens.” “I just want my boy back” she said. I chuckled to myself, not having heard this explanation before. I passed her in the street weeks later and I thought: you can’t tell by looking.

    Maybe we should have a secret badge. Worn one way it could signify that the aliens are winning still.

    My other half reported, with some been-there-done-that amusement, having seen a film in which parents cut the electricity to a child’s bedroom in order to get some peace from horrible music played deliberately at maximum volume.

    Really? I said. This happens to other people? (I was joking).

    Comment by Eats Wombats — October 16, 2007 @ 11:40 am

  7. A month ago two-and-a-half years daughter started acting like she was scared of me, not wanting to kiss me at bed time, etc… sure I do not spoil her as much as my wife does, but WTF ??? then about 3 days later we figured it all out. It had started when she was watching a DVD with me, and she danced on the bed and then she fell off of it. Somehow she thought I had pushed her !!! So the next day when she refused to kiss me at bed time, my wife and I asked her if she was scared because of falling of of the bed, and she said yes. Then I told her I was sorry she fell and that I did not push her, and she got happy again and said I love papa.

    Kids are weird sometimes…

    Comment by walken — October 16, 2007 @ 11:50 am

  8. I think aliens took my 7 yr old when she was having her arm put in plaster. They’re obviously covering Paris and Belfast. Hopefully she will be returned when she gets the plaster off on Thursday. Aliens on the move to another location on Thursday, parents be warned!

    Comment by joanne — October 16, 2007 @ 11:54 am

  9. I hate children – even when they’re in their 40’s – but in a nice way ………. obviously.

    Comment by Daddypapersurfer — October 16, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

  10. That sounded really harsh. I’m glad the nice Tadpole is back. :-)

    Comment by Anna — October 16, 2007 @ 12:18 pm

  11. Sounds like she’s mummy’s daughter. The aliens abducted you a few weeks ago, albeit for a much shorter time.
    Glad she’s back on even keel. It’s a bugger when they;re abducted like that. My eldest son was abducted on a regular basis, so I can empathise.

    Comment by AussieGil — October 16, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

  12. What we really need is for the aliens to have some planet somewhere, where they keep lots of spare Nice Children, which they will swap for Horrid Children whenever ours start playing up…

    Comment by Clare — October 16, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

  13. Not so much abducted by, but inhabited by aliens. It happens to most children, at unpredictable intervals. They’ll come back for another turn in her body when you least expect it- or at least they did with my offspring.

    Now that my daughter really has been abducted, or at least gone away to university, the literal and metaphorical quiet and emptiness are shocking.


    Comment by Moses — October 16, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

  14. “I love daddy more, because he is big, and you are only middle-sized… But I do love you quite a lot.”

    – that is toooo cute!

    Comment by Guilty Secret — October 16, 2007 @ 1:24 pm

  15. Nice drop of your life, very moving! I hope I will never have to get through waht you lived since september, that must have been heart-breaking!

    Comment by Mr Jo — October 16, 2007 @ 1:45 pm

  16. Oh my Mum would love this story – she loves a grumpy fairy.

    Glad she’s back.

    Comment by Damian — October 16, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

  17. Not being a parent, I have these fantasies of what it is like to have my own. You know the ones where there shower you with random acts of love and affection, they make you feel like the cleverest thing in the world and in return you shower them with love, feed and cloth them etc.Then I get sent back to earth with tales like yours and stumbling across bawling children sprawled on the pavement with the exasperated parents looking on with that ‘here we go’ expression on their faces. Makes me think (hard). Glad she is better but something tells me there will be more to come. Remember yourself as a teenager?
    Out of interest was your trip to Greece the longest you have been away from her, because that might be her way of ‘punishing’ you.

    Comment by sugar007 — October 16, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

  18. Welcome back Tadpole. And you too Petite!

    Comment by running thread — October 16, 2007 @ 2:18 pm

  19. Hopefully having taken her for so long, the aliens won’t need to take her again.

    Why is it that children can push an adult to the limit of endurance. Climbing Mt Everest can’t be as hard as being a parent.

    Comment by sandwichfilling — October 16, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

  20. My five-year old had falling-down, rolling-on-the-floor, screaming tantrums every day (and for every imaginable reason) for a fortnight after school started up again. It was like when she was 2 – only bigger, even noisier and much less acceptable. Then one day she stopped. Go figure.

    Comment by Victoria — October 16, 2007 @ 3:08 pm

  21. Hmm… idly sipping my tea and wondering if the continuing and more meaningful relationship with The Boy and the appearance of The Alien might in some way be connected…

    Comment by Brennig — October 16, 2007 @ 3:14 pm

  22. The aliens will abandon your daughter’s body somewhere between her 15th and 16th year, if you are lucky… if not you may be battling the aliens longer.
    My daughter is now in her late 30’s and only has very rare attacks these days – lol!!! Just kidding – she’s been fine for 20 years now.

    Comment by Janet Gordon — October 16, 2007 @ 3:20 pm

  23. Petite is back!!! We’ve missed you..

    Comment by David in London — October 16, 2007 @ 3:28 pm

  24. the period of non-posting was worth getting to read this. you still have your touch, petite. glad to hear the aliens have returned tadpole.

    was i the only one who read the title, thought about the infrequent posts, thought of tadpole, and gasped? i’m glad you mentioned the situation up front, because for a second there, i thought you had been posting less because someone had abducted her.

    Comment by franko — October 16, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

  25. If it starts again, then get down on the floor and give her a tantrum that beats hers!

    Comment by elly parker — October 16, 2007 @ 3:42 pm

  26. She’s a Daddy’s girl, this week, then ? They all are, sometimes.

    Nowhere near as often as we Dads would like, though.

    Comment by Roads — October 16, 2007 @ 6:06 pm

  27. Ouf, quel plaisir que l’on t’ait rendu ta petite fille.
    Sinon, pour la corrélation entre la qualité du parent et sa taille, j’ai connu. Je suis un petit format et, une année, mon aînée m’a dit que “pour noël elle aimerait avoir une grosse maman”.

    Comment by marie-hélène — October 16, 2007 @ 7:26 pm

  28. My eight year old son told me last year “I do love you Mummy, it’s just that Daddy is more fun” – bless!

    Comment by Serendipity — October 16, 2007 @ 7:31 pm

  29. forgive my ignorance, but what does bêtises mean?

    sounds like my behaviour sometimes….and i’m 22!

    Comment by -'b. — October 16, 2007 @ 7:47 pm

  30. Punishing you for your holiday, c’est tout.

    Comment by helensparkles — October 16, 2007 @ 7:47 pm

  31. Ah dear, it hurts doesn’t it? Glad she’s back to normal. She was obviously working through something in her head, but will you ever know what it was? Doubtful…

    Comment by Karma — October 16, 2007 @ 8:29 pm

  32. Kids, what can one say–they are whimsical little critters re their emotions–could les beaux parents be part of the problem? As was said above: 10 yrs from now you’ll see a really hellacious alien critter called a teenager–those are the times that really try parents souls to the limit. Trust me: been there, done that, never ever want to go thru that again :-) BTW how’s the editing going? With the little alien in your midst that couldn’t have been the best time to go thru that too.
    So hugs and a smile from Seattle

    Comment by Beau — October 16, 2007 @ 10:15 pm

  33. When my son started school at age 5, he turned in to an angry emotional mess. He would start with me as soon as I picked him up. I thought poor thing he is so tired. After about a month I had enough and let him know that with the very next fit he would be homeschooled. Guess what? Not another fit. I feel your pain. Great post.

    Comment by Nancy — October 16, 2007 @ 10:28 pm

  34. When my 4 year old is abducted we usually discover right at the end that there was an undiagnosed ear infection that didn’t seem to manifest any other obvious symptoms. I think when they don’t feel good (or possibly when resentful of changes, too) they just have no other way of expressing their fear/anger/hurt/frustration. But that moment the angel is once again peering up at you is pure gold.

    Comment by ASympatheticMommy — October 16, 2007 @ 10:45 pm

  35. Oh what fun we have to come.

    Comment by Jonathan — October 16, 2007 @ 11:00 pm

  36. Oh yes, the aliens have been round here as well. Sounds like it might have been a ‘punishment’, perhaps for your holiday.

    I get similar, if I ever have the temerity not to be on tap 24/7, though the idea of two weeks away in the company of someone you love is currently unimaginable bliss for me.

    Comment by Paola — October 16, 2007 @ 11:20 pm

  37. You know, we all love you quite a lot.

    Since she has the insight to realize she was behaving badly, I would have asked if she knows why she did so….

    Comment by ~Tim — October 17, 2007 @ 3:47 am

  38. Living with children is like living with small crazy people. You go through all the stuff, they grow up and become interesting people……….and then they leave home!

    There is no justice.

    Comment by Jeanette harris — October 17, 2007 @ 3:59 am

  39. Living with children is like living with small crazy people. You go through all the stuff, they grow up and become interesting people……….and then they leave home!

    There is no justice.

    Comment by Jeanette harris — October 17, 2007 @ 3:59 am

  40. Mine is now thirteen, and in an evil mood 90% of the time. Enjoy the young years now! (cant wait for the book)

    Comment by Tola — October 17, 2007 @ 5:47 am

  41. It is amazing how kids – who we love so dearly – can really just drive you to drink. And then they pull you right back from the edge. How is that possible?

    Comment by Steve — October 17, 2007 @ 5:56 am

  42. She was angry at you for leaving her for two weeks! I got this reaction from my 5 year old when I went to visit a friend out of town for a few days.

    Comment by Elizabeth — October 17, 2007 @ 6:16 am

  43. @29 bêtises means silly things

    Welcome back Petite

    Comment by becky — October 17, 2007 @ 9:25 am

  44. They twist you round their little finger. They wrench at your heartstrings. Then they decide that you are The Most Awful Person in the World and your self-esteem hits rock bottom. Your so called parenting skills fly out of the window and it seems as if the whole world is glaring at you. The Terrible Two’s are bad enough, but when they have been abducted by aliens it cannot get any worse. It does, but it doesn’t last as long and you can reason with them, just about.

    Comment by Clare — October 17, 2007 @ 9:32 am

  45. So pleased you are back P. We have missed you.

    This is a delightful period in the PA blog, because none of it will be in the book :D

    Oh – unless you are working on Volume II :-O

    Comment by oxo — October 17, 2007 @ 9:44 am

  46. I don’t really subscribe to the “angry about my holiday” theory, simply because Tadpole didn’t know I was going anywhere with the Boy. As far as she was concerned, daddy dropped her off for two weeks with her grandparents (she loves staying there and never shows any sign of missing either of us – can’t even be bothered to come to the phone if we call her). She’d stayed there earlier in the school holidays and been absolutely fine when she got back …

    Comment by petite — October 17, 2007 @ 10:25 am

  47. I just came across your blog the other day on a blog search for Paris as we are moving there (from Marrakech) in a couple of weeks – I will definitely be back and congratulations on a) the book and b) your daughter returning to normal!


    Comment by Sarah in Marrakech (but soon Paris!) — October 17, 2007 @ 12:59 pm

  48. The four year old aliens are possibly kinder than the teenage ones though…..
    Kids do hate change though. Mine have always hated the beginning of the school year….

    Comment by Sally Lomax — October 17, 2007 @ 1:05 pm

  49. This really shows how important it is that you and Mr. Frog still have a cooperative relationship where Tadpole is concerned. Imagine if you had not been able to compare notes or if he was the manipulative type… One shudders to think!

    Comment by purple — October 17, 2007 @ 1:51 pm

  50. ah – that’s it. The Aliens got my Alicia the moment she turned 2 ;o)

    Comment by Wendy in Herault — October 17, 2007 @ 2:18 pm

  51. My husband and I took a week-long tropical vacation in March. The children (aged 6 and 2), who had been angelic in our absence, rotted to their wee cores upon our return. I have a friend who refers to this as ‘re-entry’…once they’re back in the mummy/daddy atmosphere it’s their job to make you atone for your absence. Apparently the formula is two days of tantrum for every day you spent apart. There were days when I thought we wouldn’t survive. But will we go again next year? Hell yes!

    Comment by Lynne — October 17, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

  52. I’m glad to hear little Tadpole is back to normal once again… That must have been a tough period for you! I bet she’ll soon see that you don’t have to be “big” like daddy to be extra special for her! You’re her mummy after all…

    Comment by Alice — October 17, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

  53. I suspect that Tadpole’s rentrée into a new class, with a new teacher & new classmates had more to do with her ‘abduction’ than anything you’ve done (or not done), Petite. She was probably working hard all day to keep her anxiety, fear & frustration bottled up. With you, she could let it all out by being naughty and angry, because she knew, no matter what she said or did, you would still love her.

    Comment by Peg — October 17, 2007 @ 5:56 pm

  54. Didn’t you have any ‘helpful’ Parisian old ladies telling you how you should deal with it, or making other unwanted comments? If not, you were lucky. I just had une vieille at the bus stop tell my 5 year old (another abductee), “You are a leetull monsturr” and that “Maman needs to smack you verrreee ‘ard”.
    Of course it’s only now I’m home that I can think of what I SHOULD have said to her…

    Comment by Suziboo — October 17, 2007 @ 6:16 pm

  55. And I thought you were just caught up in the Rugby ;-)

    Comment by Jeremy — October 17, 2007 @ 6:16 pm

  56. It is some the aliens would call ‘Growing Up’.

    Comment by Jean-Luc Picard — October 17, 2007 @ 8:24 pm

  57. School is tough and stressful at that age. My 6-year old had a period like that, and it turned out her best-friend had dumped her for someone else in the class. She took out all her hurt and frustration on us at home. Only by talking to the canteen staff (great insiders) did I realize what had been going on. Of course, there was nothing I could do about it. It passed as it always does, but now I realize even more that life’s little upsets outside the home tend to get dragged home and thrashed out, whether we are aware of them or not!

    Comment by Amanda — October 17, 2007 @ 9:43 pm

  58. oh yes, been there and just come out of another ‘start of school year’ phase. In fact I went on a great day to see the dinosaurs at the NHM with lunch in Peter Jones and general train/taxi/tube/ treats at the weekend. My abducted one is 5 and a half, rising twenty five. We had such a good day alone together (away from close two younger brothers) and it feels as if she has been returned. Temporarily. What a huge relief. Girls are so intense! My son refused to come saying “it’s such a long way home from London mummy” (an hour…). I admired his lethagy.

    Comment by lou — October 17, 2007 @ 10:49 pm

  59. Petite,

    I am so pleased to read that you have survived a bout of body-snatching.

    Just another 997 to go before, officially, it is no longer your responsibilty, as if that will ever stop you.

    Anyway, welcome back, and please, you have zillions of “seen it all & done it all” to unload on. After all, a troubled shared and all that….

    Comment by Tom — October 18, 2007 @ 12:50 am

  60. Oh just wait until she gets PMS….. LOL!

    Comment by linda from jersey (that's new jersey USA) — October 18, 2007 @ 4:39 am

  61. I’m glad she’s back. I to go thru this with my son after he’s been with his dad. It’s never easy and all I want to do is sit and cry. However, I know deep down he does love me.

    He settles after a while, but it’s the first inital jolt that rips thru your heart like a hot steak.

    Again, so glad she’s back!!

    Comment by Darla — October 18, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

  62. Petite – enjoy it, even the shit bits because take it from me and no doubt all your readers with chidlren over 12 – throwing a baby wobble is nothing compared to a phone call from the school wanting to ‘discuss’ your teenager. The 3 year old and the 5 year old are a walk in the park…

    Comment by Welsh Cake — October 18, 2007 @ 5:17 pm

  63. Whoa. I’m a bit late catching up and I just realized that there’s an alternative cover for the US edition of your book.

    As a designer, I must say this cover is a LOT more appropriate, engaging, and descriptive than the other. While the ever-present Eiffel Tower can be annoying for me sometimes, in this case, it serves a purpose. You may not appreciate those high-heels, but trust me, the silhouette illustration of you is fierce and working it.

    I absolutely LOVE this cover! Do you think it really makes the UK cover look generic? :ol

    Props to the US for turning out such an awesome design.

    Comment by Eclat in Paris — October 18, 2007 @ 7:40 pm

  64. oh you’ve had your first round with the body snatcher. Welcome to parenthood. I think they’re about 40 before they develop immunity to the alien virus.

    Comment by sparrow — October 18, 2007 @ 8:15 pm

  65. The thing to remember in these situations, as my Mum told me, is the seven magical words, “It is a phase, it will pass”

    Of course, there is no guarantee that the next one will be better, just different – & just as you were beginning to develop a shell to enable you to survive this one!

    Still, there are enough of the ‘better’ phases to get you through. Then, as someone has pointed out, they leave home. Ours return occasionally, but NEVER with dirty washing. Yay, something evidently went in.

    If you really want their understanding you have to wait for Grandmere status.

    Comment by Sharon — October 19, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  66. Welcome back Tadpole!

    Comment by clarissa — October 19, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

  67. Found daught in tears the other day, reason given that she’s confused : she knows she loves me but also wants to kill me. I managed to refrain from saying ‘likewise’!

    Comment by j — October 19, 2007 @ 8:33 pm

  68. Don’t get too excited – she’s bound to be abducted from time to time…

    Comment by Bridges — October 19, 2007 @ 9:49 pm

  69. je partage l’avis de Sugar007. Il s’agit d’une punition qu’elle vous inflige, de l’avoir délaissé si longtemps au profit de The Boy. C’est assez classique. Pas d’inquiétude à avoir. Simplement manifester beaucoup d’intérêt pour son petit monde.
    j’aime baucoup votre blog même si j’ai parfois des difficultés à comprendre. Je me croyais meilleur en anglais !! Bon courage et à bientot.

    Comment by philippe — October 19, 2007 @ 10:46 pm

  70. Brace yourself, the aliens will be back with a vengeance on or around puberty.

    Comment by corine — October 20, 2007 @ 1:00 am

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