Charlotte Philby's Parental Leave: My daughter's hair is stuck to her temple in a dishevelled bun, and she is moaning quietly

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

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The Independent Online

6.35am. At this point it's just me and the baby. I'm flicking through photos of someone I've never met before on Facebook while absent-mindedly humming the theme tune to Cloud Babies, when I hear the creaking of floorboards from the three-year-old's room.

I breathe deeply... We had friends over last night and drink was drunk in such a way that I must have imagined myself to be someone quite different. Someone with the option of laying in a dark room quietly sweating Captain Morgan until 4pm, perhaps; rather than someone for whom mornings start at 5.15am and involve an endless stream of sentences ("But WHY do some children have lots of things and some children don't have lots of things?... ").

Today, though, something is different. The short distance from her doorway to the top of the stairs seems to be taking an awfully long time. The first creak on the step is an elongated groan. "Hello?" I call towards the staircase. There is no answer, just the sound of a second foot descending, very slowly. Finally, a noise by the door and then a face, smeared with black – the remnants of yesterday's face-painting session carried out around the same time the kids were consuming their third chocolate egg of the day, taken from the stash I'd hidden at Easter in moments of better-judged parenting.

Now my daughter's hair is stuck to her temple in a dishevelled bun, and she is moaning quietly. The pink wrapper of a mini chocolate egg glistening behind her ear. "Hello, darling," I say, "did you sleep well?" She stares back at me, throws a look of disgust, and then turns back towards the stairs, moaning: "Why are you still talking, mummy?"