Charlotte Philby's Parental Leave: 'Mummy your tummy is so small! How did I get in there?'

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

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The Independent Online

"Mummy, how do people make people?" 5.57am. I am stirred from my slumber to find the nearly-four-year-old peering over the bed. Her fingers lightly pulling at the skin around my eye, which is met by the glare of the head-torch we forgot to take camping.

"Please go away," I dribble. She doesn't move. As my eyes adjust to the penetrating yellow-white haze I see her face, forehead squashed downwards by the weight of the headband so that her eyes have become slits, her ears forced, Pob-like, into two horizontal ledges at either side of her face.

"But you said I was in your tummy but your tummy is so small!" she gasps, lurching closer. At these last five words I am overcome by a sudden surge of love. You're right, I say, managing a smile. It is small, very very small. "It's not VERY small, silly mummy," she scoffs. "It is quite big but I am SO big. How did I get in there?"

Well, I say, accidentally elbowing my husband between the eyes, to no avail. WELL, I say, louder this time, you see, darling, do you know what a tadpole is? "A tadpole? What's a tadpole?" It's a.... well, I suppose it's not quite like that... It's more like, you know, sweetheart, when a man and a woman love each other very much sometimes they...

"I KNOW!" she suddenly shouts, presumably attempting to widen her eyes which, in the current physiognomical circumstances, has a curious impact on her nose, and subsequently on her speech. "MERBE it's whun the torf-fairy curmes she murks a BIG hole in your marf and then she puts a burby in it. IS THAT IT?"