petite anglaise

April 27, 2008


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:51 am

‘I’m going to miss you while you’re staying with mamie and papy‘. I snuggle into Tadpole’s back, trying to inhale and exhale in time with my daughter, willing my runaway heartbeat to slow.

At lunchtime I’ll collect Tadpole from the Centre de Loisirs, leap into a taxi, and deliver her into the waiting arms of Mr Frog’s mother at Gare de Lyon. She’ll trundle off with her wheelie suitcase for the second leg of her school holidays.

The panic attack began, inexplicably, on Tuesday morning and shows no signs of abating. My body has slipped free of its moorings, drifted out of my control. It’s a law unto itself. My mind races in pointless circles, skittering from worry to worry. I know my sense of perspective is warped. I know, from experience, that it’s a temporary state. In a few day’s time, when I’m back on an even keel, when I can sleep through the night, I’ll have trouble even remembering how this felt.

‘Don’t worry mummy,’ Tadpole says earnestly. ‘You’ll be with [The Boy].’ She grabs my hand and plants a tiny kiss on the inside of my wrist.

‘And mummy, si tu t’ennuies, and you don’t want to go in your office…’

‘Go TO my office.’ I’m pedantic about prepositions, even at 7.45 in the morning, mid panic attack.

‘If you don’t go to your office,’ Tadpole continues, ‘then, you can play with my toys if you want. You can build some things with my pink Lego, or watch one of my DVDs.’

The back of her pyjamas, where my face is touching them, are now damp. Thankfully Tadpole doesn’t notice.

‘But mummy,’ she says in the bossy voice she usually reserves for her collection of soft toys when she’s pretending to be la Maîtresse. ‘Please don’t forget you have to tidy them up again afterwards.’


  1. how cute! you were properly reminded to tidy up after play! :)

    whatever’s the matter, this lurker wish that you feel better soon, and everything in place. not wedding jitters i suppose?!

    Comment by odette — April 27, 2008 @ 11:08 am

  2. lol :D

    how sweet!

    It’s nice to have a child than knows one must tidy the toys after playing! :D

    Comment by Mae — April 27, 2008 @ 11:15 am

  3. A little role reversal. Tadpole certainly knows her priorities. ;-)

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — April 27, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

  4. *sobs*

    Comment by sooz — April 27, 2008 @ 4:29 pm

  5. they rule our worlds, don’t they? courage …

    Comment by Kimberlee — April 27, 2008 @ 4:42 pm

  6. Very cute :)

    Comment by Bugs — April 27, 2008 @ 5:37 pm

  7. Well trained. Good job!

    Comment by clarissa — April 27, 2008 @ 5:46 pm

  8. How absolutely lovely. Yes, I remember that feeling when a little one is going ‘on holiday’ without you.

    Comment by sablonneuse — April 27, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

  9. Seriously- don’t forget!

    Comment by girlwiththemask — April 27, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

  10. Moi, je voyais mes petites partir avec un certain soulagement car seule avec un job prenant, des trajets très longes et deux petites endiablées, j’étais souvent épuisée mais au bout de quelques minutes de calme, elles me manquaient très fort.

    Comment by marie-hélène — April 27, 2008 @ 8:49 pm

  11. I *hated* sending my son, then my children, to stay with their grandparents in the summertime when they were Tadpole’s age. It wasn’t part of my culture, but it is part of my husband’s family’s (if one can string along possessives). Just to say that many years on, the kids are just fine, and they get on wonderfully with all grandparents. But you miss them like crazy, at least some of the time.

    Compliments on the delightful phrase, “pedantic with prepositions”.

    Should well-wishers want to contribute to the honeymoon travel fund, is that an option?

    Comment by Alethea — April 27, 2008 @ 9:25 pm

  12. Thank you for a wonderful post, beautifully written!

    Forgive me for diverging from the topic, but I’m kind of shocked at the moment about the very personal and extremely unfair reviews on Amazon, especially the latest one. I honestly don’t get it! Who are these people?!

    Comment by Johanna — April 27, 2008 @ 9:45 pm

  13. I know this feeling so well. I am still married to their father, but all the children do go to spend time with their grandparents often. Sometimes quite far distances and for weeks at a time. I get happily fed up somedays with all of the hoopla in my house. Then the thought of being without them for any amount of time is enough to wrench my heart. What if I wanted to have a chat with them? Or show them something funny on the tv, ask about their day, kiss them goodnight. Oh hell I’m not helping am I? How about this? Try to take this as a small gift of time alone with your love. Spend some lazy mornings if possible at a cafe, run about naked at home,,,,,,,,,

    Comment by beaunejewels — April 27, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

  14. Makes me want a little girl ;)

    I have problems with anxiety, but I find “mindfulness” helps a lot. It’s like a mini meditation. Google it if you’re interested.

    Good luck


    Comment by tui — April 27, 2008 @ 11:25 pm

  15. Hmmm panic attacks…

    I used to have them when I was around 26 or so. I walked like half an hour or so, and in the middle of it I thought I’d collapse each moment. That was a horrible time – I was even afraid to sleep alone, so I avoided that at all cost.

    It went away after a while. I think I just changed my attitude to some “So what?” thinking. And once I accepted that each of us could die any moment, not only me, I didn’t panic anymore.

    Nowadays, I’m more afraid about our small one. The mind can play nasty on ourselves, can’t it?

    best wishes for you all, like always,

    Comment by wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) — April 28, 2008 @ 12:46 am

  16. @12 – frankly the last one doesn’t bother me at all as the person is reviewing me as a person and blogger and clearly hasn’t even read the book.

    I do think that this type of ‘review’ deserves to be blacklisted or tagged as unhelpful. It tells a potential reader nothing about the book and serves no purpose other than to be malicious.

    Comment by petite — April 28, 2008 @ 2:03 am

  17. The panic attacks will pass … you know they will. Hold onto all that’s precious in your life. That will give you strength.

    Comment by running thread — April 28, 2008 @ 3:25 am

  18. TROP DROLE!!! ta petite fille elle est trop trop trop trop trop trop trop trop mignonne!

    ‘mummy please dont forget to tidy up!’ Aw she’s too adorable.

    Comment by popo — April 28, 2008 @ 3:52 am

  19. It is so sweet of Tadpole ! It is really funny to see how kids like to “play the parent” from time to time. And sometimes also they might give you an unexpected reflection of yourself ! Well done for the tidying up of the toys, though !

    Comment by Delphine — April 28, 2008 @ 8:18 am

  20. I so hate those blasted panic attacks. My first one came out of no where on a sunny Friday afternoon after I had just had a lovely lunch with a very good friend. Nothing to be anxious about… but it hit me like a ton o’ bricks. Fortunately I know what they are now, and you’re right, they always abate eventually.

    Remember to BREATHE.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — April 28, 2008 @ 8:55 am

  21. Petite

    With regard to some of the negative Amazon reviews, one must bear in mind that some people who “review” the book have achieved very little and are bitter. You have achieved success and it is resented; they are envious. They feel a satisfaction and power in rubbishing your achievements. I am sure you recognise this too.

    Try to enjoy your quiet time with The Boy whilst Tadpole is on holiday. My daughter had little breaks with grandparents when she was small and it benefitted everyone!

    Comment by Jes — April 28, 2008 @ 9:07 am

  22. You probably have already seen a doctor to rule out any medical reasons for the panic attacks (if you haven’t yet, you should, as there is a long list of causes to eliminate, including apparently simple things like anaemia and Vit-B deficiencies, so a full check-up is recommended…)

    Speaking from experience, although the origins of panic attacks/ panic disorder may be emotional and only be resolved in therapy, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your physical vulnerability to them (tachycardia and all the other symptoms)…
    1) ditch the coffee machine (no matter how pretty it is) and wean yourself off coffee, tea and other caffeine-containing drinks (it’s hard at first but it can be done, or at least greatly reduced)
    2)be sure to get regular exercise on a daily or almost daily basis (not just a brisk walk, but to the point where you get the adrenalin going; a doctor once explained to me that if your body doesn’t get regular adrenalin rushes, the hormonal balance can be upset and then on an irregular basis involuntarily discharges a lot of adrenalin in one go, triggering an attack)
    3)regular sleep patterns (keeps the whole hormone factory in good working order)…
    4) regular eating patterns (ditto)- plenty of B-complex vitamins, good for keeping nerves in tow

    Panic attacks are no trivial matter and can be very disabling, but they can also be overcome….
    Hope you’re feeling better now!

    As for the reviews on Amazon, not only do some people not seem to have read the book, but they don’t seem familiar with your blog either. I can’t recall you ever describing an unhappy childhood…

    Comment by happyforyou — April 28, 2008 @ 9:29 am

  23. #22 Sensible comments, making a change from the more usual banal responses. But it’s not just panic attacks, is it? There are also the recurring episodes of feelings of low self-worth and low self-esteem and the recurrring roller coaster of peaks of elation and troughs of depression.

    Your child doesn’t yet have the stilted, adult vocabulary to say, “Mummy, I can see that you are ill and you should obtain appropriate, skilled professional support.” The words she uses are much more eloquent but mean the same thing.

    Possibly, as #22 suggests, you have already done so.
    If not, do take her advice.

    Comment by gonzales — April 28, 2008 @ 10:52 am

  24. Hope you are beginning to feel better, Petite. Happyforyou has written some sensible stuff. I’m sure you understand your own panic attacks by now but maybe you can take a few days off writing and just concentrate on exercise, relaxation and eating well. I’m sure you’ve made a list of all the arrangements for the wedding and ticked off everything you have achieved. It’s not surprising that your brain is in overdrive – you have so much going on in your life at the moment.
    And, yes, give up unhealthy things like coffee and reading Amazon reviews.

    Comment by Susie Vereker — April 28, 2008 @ 12:15 pm

  25. #23
    Gonzales, please do not attempt to use my comments, which are intended to be entirely supportive (speaking from my own experience), to further your own despicable agenda of sneering and jibing at the writer of this blog.
    My comments were not intended in a preachy, I-know-better-than-you way, so please don’t jump on them for your own dubious benefit.

    Honestly, I can’t understand why anyone who doesn’t like the blog or its writer’s personality keeps coming back and making such poisonous comments. Why be so judgmental of others?
    Maybe you yourself need some help?

    Comment by happyforyou — April 28, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

  26. re: #21 I’m not sure it helps to make assumptions about why people do what they do. IMHO, it’s best to take in whatever is helpful to one and let the rest go. If enough reviews say the same thing (positive or negative) then that is something worth considering and from which one might learn something of oneself or the world. Ignoring negatives in life is not always a productive or even realistic activity.

    Perhaps blogging about panic attacks does help, Petite, if as you say you can’t recall what all the fuss was about a few days later, your post can remind you that they are a sign that something/someone in your life needs attention. Not to put too fine a point on it but reading each of those negative reviews/comments, deciding objectively (if this is possible) what, if anything, you can learn from it, and then consciously dismissing the rest of the review might keep the bubble of nascent negativity from churning into panic attacks. Just a thought. YMMV.

    Comment by purple — April 28, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

  27. Bonjour Petite anglaise,

    I am working at Digitas France, A web/media agency, I am working for a Hotels brand and I would like to tell you about a proposal. Could you give me your e-mail or your phone.

    Thanks a lot,

    Best Regards


    Comment by Joce — April 28, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

  28. What a lovely post Catherine – again your BLOG has transported me back 30 years.

    My girls used to go and stay regularly with both sets of grandparents before and following my divorce from my spouse and the conversation between you and Tadpole and your physical and emotional reaction……well it makes me realise how near the surface my memories of their childhood remain.

    I think that when the child parents the mother it inevitably illustrates what sort of mother one is. We learnt a lot more in this post about you, Tadpole, your standards, how you empower her if she is feeling vulnerable and how much you love each other. Angela x

    Comment by ookymooky — April 28, 2008 @ 3:00 pm

  29. May we – pretty please with pink marzipan piggies on top -have more posts?! Like you in the not so faraway past, I am PAing in the corporate world – only in London – and have developped an addiction to your blog which I try to read somehow a little sneakily at work…you can imagine the sheer disappointment when the post remains the same for days on end whilst I have been caught checking it!;o)Obviously, bought and read the book hence now muchly looking forward to new episodes on the blog!

    Comment by gorgeousophie — April 28, 2008 @ 4:45 pm

  30. what a lovely post.

    Comment by pchenge — April 28, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

  31. Eh, you’ve been told! I can see your little one growing up to be a ‘guardien de la paix’ as they call coppers in France. She seems to be showing a very mature inclination towards all things ordered.

    Comment by Ariel — April 28, 2008 @ 8:02 pm

  32. #23 Plenty of writers dealing with depression, panick attacks, whatever! It means they are human, maybe somewhat more sensitive than people in general, but I always presumed that this is what makes them such good writers.

    But do tell, I’m a little bit interested, what exactly would you have prescribed for someone like… say… Virginia Woolf?

    Comment by Johanna — April 28, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

  33. Petite, that was quite an insight into the distress of a panic attack. Worrying thoughts are a curse to most of us. They don’t do any good and yet we can’t stop thinking them. And then the thoughts get our bodies into quite a state. Maybe try some self-help CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) in order to change your thought patterns. The idea is to banish those horrid worrying thoughts, but it takes discipline. Write out 50 blessings about your life. Simple having clean sheets to sleep on, clean air to breath, a roof over your head, the sweetest daughter etc. Each night before you go to sleep, or any time you feel like it, go through each one of your blessings. The blessing thoughts crowd out the worry thoughts and are calming.

    A blessing is that Tadpole is a tidy girl (which you have taught her.

    Lindsey Violet

    Comment by lindseyviolet — April 28, 2008 @ 11:15 pm

  34. Johanna: please don’t bring Virginia up when Petite is feeling fragile. Stones in the pockets and all that.
    Depression and panic seems to be part of the after effects of getting published. I hope it fades soon.

    Comment by Pat — April 28, 2008 @ 11:28 pm

  35. My Dear Petite

    Please read “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Your problems will be solved.

    Comment by Roberta — April 29, 2008 @ 7:35 am

  36. @Alethea…

    It hadn’t occurred to me to broadcast it, but you can find it here.

    And yes, I realise you can see The Boy’s name. But he can’t really understand why I keep that under wraps anyhow.

    Comment by petite — April 29, 2008 @ 8:53 am

  37. Many of us have been there so just hang on. It will pass.

    Comment by franglais tyke — April 29, 2008 @ 10:17 am

  38. You are lucky to have a child whom you can share fondly moments. I would like to have a child as well. Enjoy the time you spend with her.One day she will be an adult.

    P.S:Je suis désolée pour mon anglais car je suis française.

    Comment by Lylou — April 29, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

  39. how cute ! always a pleasure to read stories about Tadpole :) I remember a little girl at the beach, she arrives running “y’a un imbecile qui m’a claboussee” (instead of Eclaboussee)

    Comment by elsa — April 29, 2008 @ 4:06 pm

  40. I hope you’ll feel better again soon. You know there’s help available to learn you how to deal with panic attacks better. I used to have them too. It doesn’t totally get rid of the anxiety, but it gives you tools to handle it better – you won’t feel completely out of control anymore.

    Comment by Marjolein — April 29, 2008 @ 6:13 pm

  41. Pink Lego. Cool!

    Comment by Damian — April 29, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  42. Oh dear, things can be interpreted so weirdly. I thought this was a brilliant post, really well described, and not at all weird that you should be feeling sad and panicky at your daughter going away. Lovely Tadpole is just being sensible about her toys!

    Comment by Marianne — April 29, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

  43. Not having second thoughts, are we?

    You have nothing to worry about, everything will be fine. You are surrounded by people who love you and care for you. The panic attacks sound like your mind’s way of dealing with the new future you are creating for yourself.

    As the storm cleared and the sun came up, all was calm, and the world seemed such a wonderful place.

    Comment by Steve... — April 29, 2008 @ 7:52 pm

  44. A beautiful moment between mother and daughter. I feel for you.

    Comment by ExpatKat — April 29, 2008 @ 10:09 pm

  45. Well, you have really started something by using the phrase “panic attack”. I read it and just thought you meant the natural unease you feel when you know you are going to be parted from your child, did I get it wrong?

    I think I enjoy the comments more than your actual blog (no offence, I find it amusing and entertaining to see how people read into your words. You really do have an impact on people whether positive or negative. You have stirred people up and it is fun to watch the ripples.

    Comment by karen — April 30, 2008 @ 10:10 am

  46. A beautiful post. This reminded me of my niece, another lovely strong-willed little girl. It also reminds me of her mother, my sister, what you are going through. My little niece loves a sleep-over at my place, and my sister obliges ’cause her bebe loves it so much, but she (my sister) suffers anxiety in doing so. C’est normale.

    Comment by onadrought — April 30, 2008 @ 10:25 am

  47. good god it is the bunny ears hottie! ;)

    Comment by jacqui — April 30, 2008 @ 2:10 pm

  48. Must have been scary, getting panic attacks like that. It seems strange, as things seem very good for you at the mo…?
    Hope they don’t happen again anyway.

    Comment by Babycakes — April 30, 2008 @ 8:28 pm

  49. WOW……..isn’t it amazing what people pick up from your BLOG Catherine and what they home in on. When I read your words it reminded me of the closeness, the intense emotions, the comfort, I felt when cuddling up to my small children – when I was happy and relaxed or sometimes when I was feeling low.

    I noted you mentioned suffering panic attacks but that wasn’t important because it’s NORMAL. Anyone, and not just the sensitive and emotional personalities amongst us, who is experiencing big change in their life whether it be a new job, relationship, bereavement, a birth, a divorce or breakdown of a relationship, the illness of a loved one or self, a forthcoming marriage, or like me facing an adult child emigrating to the other side of the world, is vulnerable to an emotional reaction and may suffer panic attacks. When the balance is restored they go away.

    Reading some of the negative posts confirms that there are some very warped characters in the world of the Internet who seem to haunt BLOGS and forums solely to post pernicious comments. Humphrey Lyttleton died last Friday and on the BBC website Have Your Say the same old saddos posted sarcastic and cruel comments just as they did when George Melly died last year. Sadly even in the gentle world of Petite Anglaise you have your share. Ignore them, they must live miserable joyless lives……not like our’s hey Catherine.

    Comment by ookymooky — May 2, 2008 @ 5:48 am

  50. Sweet!

    Reminds me of when our two (now well grown & flown) used to go stay with their Grandparents.

    “Don’t you miss them?” People would ask.

    “Like a hole in the head!” I’d reply – leaving them to decide whether I meant my eyes, ears or a additionally inserted one!

    The things I got done in the time available!

    Other times we’d let them go singly. Then have quality one to one time with each. That was good too.

    Comment by Sharon — May 2, 2008 @ 1:14 pm

  51. I second you, “ookymooky”. I panic all the time. :) It’s just my personality… I do not need to be medically treated for it as I am perfectly healthy. What I saw in Catherine’s post is how deeply she loves her baby girl. It’s natural to feel emotional and a bit afraid, or panicky, about our children being so far away from us for a period of time. That’s such a beautiful motherly instinct, so completely natural. It’s so sad that people are so quick to seek medical help to “numb” them, to keep them from being human.

    Comment by Nataliya — May 2, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

  52. Delurking (at last) to say thank you for such a beautiful post – like a couple of other people have said, I didn’t pick up on occasional fits of panic as being a bad/strange thing. Your posts are always moving or funny or lovely, and this was all three – thank you for sharing such exquisite pieces of your life with Tadpole and The Boy.

    Comment by Eloise — May 2, 2008 @ 6:18 pm

  53. Hi,

    Finally was able to get your book, here in South Africa, and as everyone else, read it in one sitting!

    Really enjoyed it, but was disappointed when it ended, I had the feeling it needed to be at least 20 chapters longer… have an easy to read writing style, one just does not want it to end.

    Congratulations on a book well written.

    Don’t stop ever.

    Comment by susan — May 3, 2008 @ 11:31 am

  54. So cute! It must be heart breaking! Hope you are well, give my love to Paris, hope to be back there soon, missy

    Comment by missy — May 3, 2008 @ 11:41 am

  55. Bossy had her first panic attack very recently while on a 10,000 mile Road Trip to meet her online blog community. It happened while driving the desolate sections of America’s western states, and it was devastating and reverberated for days after.

    Then Bossy met a psychologist in her California travels who told her that her panic attack had created Neuro Pathways and Bossy needed to *quickly* work to re-route her tendency to revisit this panic, or risk being stuck in the same record groove.

    Bossy accomplished this re-routing by imagining her best self, her unworried self, and what that self would look like to others, and pretending those others were right there with Bossy noticing and admiring how unworried she was, and lo and behold the panic dissipated and the Neuro Pathways, over the next week, disappeared.

    Bossy wishes you the best.

    Comment by BOSSY — May 3, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

  56. Thanks Nataliya.

    I posted earlier on this topic and it was the loving relationship between mother and daughter that delighted me but when I returned a few days later several people had responded to the references to panic attacks. I really do believe it’s down to the glass half full or glass half empty syndrome. My glass is always brimming and I see Catherine’s glass is full too. Whereas the people who home in on what they see as negative are holding glasses that are always underfilled – poor things.

    I agree with you, it’s a personality thing. I’m a worrier and if I get really anxious I get what feels like a lump in my chest or I pick away at my fingers or I find it hard to sleep. My mother was a worrier and I remember her telling me that her GP had said, “Mrs C, you worry and if you haven’t anything to worry about, then you worry about that!” I think Catherine and Tadpole have a really lovely relationship because they are sensitive of each other’s needs and emotions and are open with each other.

    Comment by ookymooky — May 3, 2008 @ 9:24 pm

  57. You could always try knitting Petite. The effect is a bit like yoga but you end up with something you can wear when you’re finally feeling calmer.

    Comment by Lucy — May 4, 2008 @ 10:52 am

  58. I used to get those as well, but since I have been going to a hypnotherapist I can control my feelings much more easily. I still get anxious but somehow things seem manageable and I come out on top.
    All the best

    Comment by fabienne — May 6, 2008 @ 9:19 pm

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