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

"I know I'm not a boy but maybe when I'm older...?" my daughter asks hopefully as we weave through the playground gates. It's 9.04am and I find myself dodging a raging tide of umbrella spokes and micro-scooters.

For the fourth morning this week, we are late. I have become that parent, perpetually flustered and overcompensating, with an enormous grin and lipstick on my teeth. "Don't worry," the nearly-four-year-old's key worker nods as we fall through the door, her eyes a mixture of pity and morbid curiosity.

Outside, my phone rings. "Hi darling," I answer, briskly marching towards the playground gates before doing a U-turn to collect the baby and buggy from where I have left them at the nursery door. Aware of the teacher staring at me from behind the glass, I turn and flash more teeth. "I'M WATCHING YOU," her eyes scream out.

With a shiver, I turn, my ears attuning to my husband's silence at the end of the phone. "How do the kids seem to you?" I ask. Fine, he says. "That's because you're a man," I say. "There's something playing on her mind. Can you have a word when you get home?"

Eight hours later, my husband emerges from the bathroom, ashen-faced. "How did it go?" She's fine, he grins. "What did she say?" Nothing, he says, slinking into the bedroom. The nearly-four-year-old pokes her head from behind the bathroom door: "Mummy, I really want a willy. You never let me have a willy but one day I will have my own willy because soon it will be Christmas."