Charlotte Philby's Parental Leave: 'There is a love bite on your neck,' my husband notes, unconcerned

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

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The Independent Online

There is a love bite on my neck. Purple and mottled and perfectly formed, just where the muscle curves down towards my shoulder. Ordinarily I wouldn't mention it, but tomorrow is my first day back in the office after six months' maternity leave, and much as I'd hoped something might deflect attention away from my lingering inability to construct a sentence, I was also hoping it might not be a glowing hickey inches from my chin.

"There is a love bite on your neck," my husband notes as he slumps on the sofa, hours later. "I know," I reply, because I've already noticed. "Where did it come from?" He says it in the sort of voice you might use if you were enquiring after the origin of a bag of parsnips you'd just discovered in the fridge; I'm about to broach the subject of his apparent lack of concern when the room is suddenly stormed by the three year old, clutching one of those portable online banking pin machines in one hand, and a toy monkey in the other. "I'm sending an eye-mail so don't talk to me, OK? Hello, yuh? Here eat this, it's not yukky you naughty little girl, it's nice, EAT IT."

Inside, my mind is whirring: where did it come from? How could it be? I must remember to stay calm. No one will even notice.

I'm about to speak when I find myself distracted by the familiar sensation of warm saliva collecting on my neck, accompanied by a mild pinch. I look down; the baby is gazing back adoringly at me, his own human teething ring. Just then, my daughter looks up: "Mummy, why is your neck red?".