petite anglaise

April 7, 2009


Filed under: Tadpole rearing, Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 5:33 pm

I am shelling peas in the kitchen while listening to some vintage Aphex twin when I realise that Tadpole has gone disturbingly quiet.

‘Sweetie? What are you up to?’ I call, peering over the bar, from which vantage point I can see the whole of our open-plan apartment. Save the bathroom and toilet, that is. There is no sign of Tadpole, however, and I have a sudden, irrational vision of her drawing 3D pictures on the bathroom floor with a tube of toothpaste.

‘I’m doing a poo!’ shouts Tadpole. ‘Well… Actually, I’ve finished doing my poo, and now I’m reading the book about the bunny.’

The people who designed our apartment thoughtfully built in some shelf space above the toilet, and this hosts our extensive ‘toilet book’ collection. Highlights include our Larson collection, the foreign editions of ‘petite’, several tomes by Desproges and ‘the book about the bunny’, a.k.a. The Bumper Book of Bunny Suicides. Tadpole loves poring over this, even though I hope/feel sure that she doesn’t really understand a) why a bunny would want to commit suicide, and b) how he’s planning to go about it in many of the instances illustrated.

‘You don’t have to read that on the toilet, you know,’ I tell her, when she emerges, finally, a full ten minutes later. ‘You can borrow books from the toilet library. As long as you put them back afterwards…’

Which is why this morning, I found Tadpole with her head bent over a copy of fellow blogger Andre‘s If You’re Happy and You Know It‘ at the breakfast table. Indeed, not just looking at it, but reproducing several of the doodles herself with the help of a biro she’d pilfered from my handbag.


I do hope Andre approves.

March 25, 2009


Filed under: Tadpole rearing, Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 1:09 pm

I introduced the idea of a new addition to our family several months ago, long before I began taking folic acid or dispensed with taking ‘precautions’. Tadpole was predictably delighted at the prospect of having a little brother or sister to fuss over and urged me to ‘put a baby in my tummy’ as soon as possible.

‘Will Daddy come to live with us when we have a new baby?’ she asks me, between spoonfuls of cereal, a few days after our first discussion. ‘So he can help us to look after it?’

‘Um, no… I shouldn’t think so,’ I reply with a frown. I’m about to ask her why she would think such a thing, when realisation suddenly dawns. In Tadpole-logic, I realise, Mr Frog is the only possible daddy and therefore it stands to reason that he will father all my children. Hence the assumption that he will be sharing the responsibility for caring for the baby, which he can’t very well do if he is living 400m down the road.

I take a sip of coffee before embarking on my explanation. Best to test my theory first, I decide. So I begin with a tentative question. ‘When I have a baby,’ I begin, ‘who do you think the baby’s daddy will be?’

‘Daddy,’ Tadpole replies, her scornful tone making it abundantly clear that she considers my question a foolish one. I sigh and glance towards the bedroom, wondering whether The Boy can hear us. He could be awake – after all, he just snoozed the alarm not twice, but three times – but there is no way of knowing for sure, as he seems to be capable of banging his fist on the alarm clock in his sleep.

‘Honey,’ I say gently. ‘When Daddy and I made you, we were living in the same house. Now I’m living with Manuel. I’m married to Manuel. So this time it’s going to be different. The baby’s daddy won’t be your daddy. It will be Manuel.’

‘Oh,’ Tadpole replies. She falls silent, processing this new information, then gives me a smile and a nod, and spoons more cereal into her mouth.

‘So the baby will call Manuel ‘Daddy’, I continue, thinking it advisable to press the point home while I have Tadpole’s undivided attention. ‘But you’ll still call him Manuel. And you’ll call your daddy ‘Daddy’. Tadpole nods again, her mouth full.

A few weeks later, when the future baby has become less an abstract concept than a grape-sized mini-foetus swimming in nausea-inducing circles, we are discussing the Easter holidays, when Tadpole will stay with Mr Frog’s parents for a week, as per usual.

‘When the baby is born,’ Tadpole says, ‘It will come with me to stay at Mamie and Papy‘s house, won’t it? Because they will be the grandparents of the baby too.’

I smile and shake my head. This is going to be more complicated than I thought.

January 6, 2009

words of wisdom

Filed under: Tadpole rearing, Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 10:32 am

Tadpole and I hurry along the cobbled street, hand in hand, trying to avoid the patches of black ice that have formed overnight. An anxious glance at my watch reveals that it is 8.28, and I quicken my pace.

Tadpole is chattering nineteen to the dozen about the coming day at school. ‘We’re going to do a travail que j’aDORE,’ she says, making me rather nostalgic for a time when I could feel such simple, strong emotions (and also for a time when ‘work’ consisted of doing a spot of colouring in without straying over the lines). ‘The maîtresse has made some sheets with a 2009 on,’ Tadpole continues, ‘and inside every number there’s the beginning of a pattern. And we have to take a different coloured pen for each number, and continue the pattern, and then at the bottom it’s written ‘Bonne Année!’ with a big point d’exclamation, and we have to copy it, to practise how to do writing on a line, and then…’

Meanwhile, I am making a to-do list in my head. I need to edit at least three chapters before dinnertime. I must pop by the pharmacy to pick up my folic acid. It’s market day on boulevard de Belleville, and I compile a mental shopping list (peppers, mushrooms, clementines, kiwi fruit (Tadpole’s favourite), bananas and broccoli). I ought to try and finalise some tentative plans for our coming weekend in Yorkshire, assuming the black ice and minus double figure temperatures expected in Paris later this week don’t ground our plane and scupper our plans altogether. I need to fix the dodgy starter sparky thing on the gas hobs and get a battery for the torch so that if I manage to trip the fusebox again, like I did yesterday, I don’t end up running around in the dark looking for matches while Tadpole attempts to eat her dinner in the dark, with predictably messy results. I need to give UK bank details to my agents, because if they take it into their heads to send any advance money over to me in France at the current exchange rate, I think I will cry.

‘MUMMY!’ shouts Tadpole, her eyes flashing with anger. ‘You’re not LIST-EN-ING to me, are you?’

‘I am!’ I protest, untruthfully. ‘You were saying how much you were looking forward to working on your 2009 picture! It sounded great. I was listening and thinking at the same time.’

‘No you weren’t,’ says Tadpole firmly. ‘You only listened to the beginning. You’re not IN-TER-EST-ED Mummy. You don’t really CARE about my 2009…’

I curse the day Tadpole became so scarily perceptive. There’s no pulling the wool over her eyes any more. Whereas I can still fool The Boy – punctuating his lengthy, blow by blow accounts of poker games with a few strategic ‘mmm’s’ or the occasional ‘mouais‘ without him seeming any the wiser – Tadpole has an uncanny talent for knowing precisely when and why my attention has strayed and pulls me up on it, every single time.

And that’s not all. ‘When you say “Mmm” it doesn’t mean “no” or “yes” or anything,’ she explained to me the other day. ‘It just means you’re not really listening. And when you say “we’ll see”, you really mean “no”.’

‘And how about when I say we’ll do something later?’ I enquire, wondering if my arsenal is now completely empty.

‘Well,’ says Tadpole, furrowing her brow. ‘Later is more difficult. It can means lots of things. Sometimes it means “in a little while”. Sometimes it means “the day after the next day”.’ She pauses, and for a moment I think I may just have got away with this one.

‘But usually,’ she adds sagely, ‘if you say we’ll do something later, you mean never.’

November 28, 2007


Filed under: Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 12:03 pm

While Tadpole splashes merrily in the bath, her legs pressed together into her best impression of a mermaid’s tail, I decide to get changed. I take my MILF status very seriously, which means my cotton underwear must make way for something a little more transparent and titillating before the Boy returns home from work.

I remove my jeans and underwear, frowning at Tadpole, who appears to find my nudity a cause for hilarity.

“What on earth is so funny?” I ask, my cheeks reddening a little.

“I just laughing at your bottom,” Tadpole explains, between giggles. “It’s so big. And FAT. Like a whale.” Tadpole holds up a turquoise whale to illustrate her point – it’s one of the anti-slip shapes which adhere to the bottom of our bathtub – and traces the curve of its back with her index finger.

“A whale?” I splutter, both amused and horrified. “My bottom is like a whale?”

“Yes, like a whale,” Tadpole confirms. “Or a mountain.” She ponders for a moment, evidently searching for another simile. “Mummy…?”


“How do you say in English the bosse of a camel?”

November 15, 2007


Filed under: misc, Tadpole rearing, Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 1:45 pm

To say that Tadpole rarely shares insights about her secret life in the moyenne section of our local maternelle would be something of an understatement. Invariably, on the way home from school, we have a conversation which goes something like this.

Me: “So, what did you do today?”

Tadpole: “Just some things.”

Me: “What did you have for lunch?”

Tadpole: “I can’t remember. But you can look on the computer, mummy, can’t you…?”

Which is why I was rather taken by surprise when she randomly launched into a playground anecdote over dinner yesterday evening. An anecdote which concerned a boy who was in her class last year. I am still at a loss to understand what caused the memory to surface just then.

“Mummy?” says Tadpole between mouthfuls of canneloni (from which I have scraped all trace of bechamel sauce, at her behest). “When I was three years old and I was in the other class at school…” – she holds up three fingers in case I need help understanding the concept – “…one day I did go in the playground with Youssouf while the other children were doing music.”

“Mmhm?” I repy, stabbing several green beans onto her fork, because for some reason, even though Tadpole is perfectly capable of feeding herself, she generally loses the will to eat after approximately five mouthfuls in the evenings and I have to step unwillingly into the breach.

“And I did ask Youssouf ‘tu es mon amoureux?‘ and he said ‘oui‘ and we did hold hands for a little while,” Tadpole continues.

I like the word ‘amoureux‘. The Boy often uses it when introducing me to a friend of his for the first time. I like to think of it as a combination of ‘beloved’ and ‘lover’ – literally it means ‘the person I’m in love with’. It’s so much nicer than ‘ma copine‘ (too impersonal, it could designate any female friend) or ‘ma petite copine‘ (even if I am used to answering to the name ‘petite‘). What the term ‘amoureux‘ implies to a four-year-old though, I’m far from sure.

“Is Youssouf still your amoureux now?” I enquire, setting down the fork for a moment.

“No. He did have the nez coulé and it wasn’t very nice,” Tadpole explains with a grimace. I freeze. Just how close did my daughter get to that runny nose of his?

“And, um, do you have an amoureux now?”

“I play with Dinah now,” Tadpole replies. “And Youssouf, he plays with Hicham.” This, I surmise, could mean one of two things. That their short-lived relationship was so traumatic that it drove both of them into the arms of a same-sex partner, or that amoureux, to Tadpole, simply means ‘best friend’.

“So, who is mummy’s amoureux?” I ask, keen to test my theory immediately.

“You have two,” says Tadpole, with a triumphant smile that means she is convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt she knows the correct answer. “Daddy… And Meg.”

I heave a sigh of relief.

November 6, 2007

princess shoes

Filed under: on the road, Tadpole rearing, Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 11:58 pm

It is a week in which I’ve already made two Paris-London-Paris trips on the Eurostar, complete with identical on-board meals of hachis parmentier and a very bland slice of bakewell tart on both Sunday and Wednesday evenings, and adjusted my watch five times (albeit a little slow on the uptake the day that daylight saving time was adopted, having completely forgotten).

On Thursday, Tadpole and I board a flight to Leeds. I pore over the in-flight magazine, wondering what my collection of loose change can buy us for lunch. I would appear to have exactly £7.70. Just enough to procure one “junior snack pack” and a still mineral water (for her) plus one packet of mini-cheddars and a coffee/kitkat combo (for me). Not the most nutritious meal, with not a hint of the requisite five servings of fruit or vegetables, but we’ve had worse. I wedge the magazine into the seat pocket in front of me and settle back in my seat, closing my eyes for a moment, waiting for the attendants to reach us.

Tadpole is studying the laminated safety card with fierce intent.


“Mhm?” I mumble, without opening my eyes.

“Why does a cross sometimes mean a kiss but sometimes it means ‘no, you CAN’T do THAT’? Those two things are not the same at ALL, are they?”

“I suppose you’re right,” I say, opening my eyes and leaning forwards to rummage in my handbag for moleskine and a pencil, nostils flaring. I smell a blog post in the making: Tadpole appears to be on fine form today. “So… what does it say that we’re not allowed to do, on the card?”

“It says no cigarette,” says Tadpole primly. “But that’s alright because me and you, we don’t fume any cigarette, do we?” I shake my head. “And it says no telephone…” she pauses and looks at me accusingly. “Why did you bring your telephone, mummy? It’s not allowed, it says it here!”

“Ah, I’m allowed to bring it, you see, but I am supposed to switch it off…” I fumble in my handbag once more and re-read my last message from the Boy, for the nth time, before complying.

“Why are those people going on a toboggan?” Tadpole wonders aloud, pointing at the picture of a landing at sea – I love the fact that there is a proper French word for this: “amerissage” which somehow makes it sound like something utterly banal and routine, and not at all like an exceptional emergency occurrence – in which several people are calmly gliding down an inflatable slide, minus their baggage and shoes. I decide not to evoke the possibility of planes falling unexpectedly out of the sky and mumble something implausible about people using slides when there aren’t any spare sets of stairs handy at the airport, instead. No sense in worrying her. Flying has hitherto been as natural to Tadpole as taking a taxi, and I wouldn’t want to change that. Pointing at the next picture, I lure her eyes away before she has time to register that the runway is blue and slightly squiggly.

“What do you think this one means?” I say, tapping my finger against a picture of an unfeasibly high stilletto shoe with a bold black cross through it.

“No princess shoes,” Tadpole replies with unshakable certainty.

Chortling, I reach for my pencil.

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