Charlotte Philby's Parental Leave: 'Everything was fine,' says my mother during a curt telephone debrief

A mother's weekly dispatch from the pre-school frontline

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The kids have been to stay with my mum, to give us time to pack up the house. Time which was, in reality, spent excitedly knocking back a large bottle of Baileys before lying amid empty cardboard boxes and reels of bubble wrap, groaning, but not in a fun way.

"Everything was fine," my mum concedes during a surprisingly curt telephone debrief the day after the children's return. "Oh?" I say, surprised by the absence of accompanying anecdotes about my offspring's various achievements, or in-depth analysis of their toilet habits. There is no regaling of the moment on the Heath when she was accidentally mistaken for their mother – "at my age!" – nor so much of a whiff of the one-year-old's preternatural affinity for bird-watching.

"No, everything was fine," she barks, before launching, skull-first, into the subtext of the conversation: "Well, actually, yesterday morning I woke up at 5.30am to the sound of your son crying, whereupon your daughter asked me, with some animation, why my face was so squashed and whether it was because I was so very old," she continues.

"Well that's just absurd," I reply, "you're clearly very..." But she is momentarily deaf to external sounds: "So then she asked if I was going to die soon on account of being so very old, to which I responded that I wasn't intending on dying immediately, no, if it was all the same to her..."

I sigh: "Well, mum, she probably asked you that because you mean so much to her. You know she loves you very much, I'm sure she was relieved to get it off her chest; how did she respond?" There is a large sniff: "She said, 'Well, if you do die, at least I'll still have Grandma Fleur'."