Charlotte Philby's Parental Leave: I take some pride in my daughter's newfound zest for evil

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

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The Independent Online

The three-year-old has turned. Into what, I'm not quite sure – but whatever it is, I need someone to blame. "It's Horrid Henry," my mother announces, while ogling my daughter's school report with a look of bafflement: "I can't see any reference to her creative achievements?"

Then, swiftly returning to the matter of the fictional devilish overlord, whispers "She is obsessed with him! The other day I caught her throttling a stuffed pig she'd renamed Perfect Peter".

I take, I admit, some pride in my daughter's newfound zest for evil. I have long felt uneasy with her apparent well-behaved-ness.

Yet the descent into behavioural anarchy has been swift and devastating, ranging from stickering the baby's face while he is asleep so that he looks like a passer-out at a particularly lame rave, to completely irrational lying, with word reaching me, via several teachers, that "daddy has two girlfriends and a tattoo of Topsy and Tim".

There's also the theft. Although, as one who was once held hostage in the back room of a pharmacy on Holloway Road as a teenager until I relinquished the purple mascara I had pocketed, I fear that the gene pool might have rendered her a less-than-accomplished pickpocket. (Confirmed as I recently watched her go to elaborate lengths to pinch a jar of almonds from the shelf and hide them in the wine rack.)

"In any case, be grateful it's not your fault," my dear mother concedes. Just then, the three-year-old runs into the room, her face flushed with excitement: "Mummy, the baby's doing the f*****g crying!".