Charlotte Philby's Parental Leave: 'I find myself hostage to three children - one of whom I'm not even legally obliged to like'

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

We're having a sleepover. The idea, when first presented by our daughter, seemed delightful – evoking mental images of Malory Towers and hop-scotch. Two hours in and reality has hit hard, as I find myself hostage now to three children – one of whom I'm not even legally obliged to like – in a siege situation involving Hula Hoops, endless whingeing, and (quite suddenly) a graphic conversation about how babies are born.

It started innocuously enough, on the sofa in front of A Turtle's Tale. By this point it is 18.41 and already the girls have grown weary of each other's company. Having narrowly avoided all-out war over whether a particular hue of Crayola is purple or indigo, I resort to putting on the longest film I can find.

Somehow, their attention is still not fully consumed – two scenes in and the girls are competitively groping my belly. "Is it really true that babies come out of your fanny?" the friend asks, her eyes fixed an inch from my face. "Because how do babies come out of something SO SMALL?!" she continues, lunging towards my skirt as my daughter's face turns pale.

"Well," I say, "for most mummies yes, that is true, and actually the human body is very clever – it expands and then goes back again. But actually I have to have an operation which means the baby will come out of my tummy." The girls exchange unimpressed glances. "You're just joking," the friend tuts. "No," I say, turning to my first-born: "Look, you can see the scar…" She stares for a moment and then wails: "But I wanted to come out of your fanny!"