In January, Mimi turned three. Way before the actual event, she had been telling people she was three, and loudly corrected by Benji (“You’re not three! You’re two!” Mimi turns to mum for confirmation that she is indeed three).

Finally, the official day arrived. It was a bittersweet moment.

I had spent the past two weeks in India looking after Mimi almost singlehandedly and we were a team. But the moment our taxi turned into our drive and she spotted our helpers, she leapt into the arms of her beloved Tita and Mummy was completely forgotten.

She rejected me wholly and completely, and in case there was any doubt, she would loudly tell me: “I don’t want you. I want Tita.”

It hurt. It really did. I have never been possessive of my kids, and I accept that my choice to go out to work means that they will become more attached to our helpers, and probably love them more. But I’ve never been shunned in this way, quite the opposite, and after our bonding in India, it was a painful rip.

The final straw was when she said: “I don’t want anyone at my birthday. Only Tita.”

I cried. My heart broke a little and I had to make a concerted effort to take a step back and distance. Because the more she saw me looking at her like a dopey spaniel, the more she’d shriek “nooo” and run away.

We hadn’t really planned anything for her birthday (not that that’s a big surprise to regular blog readers). Before the India trip, we had thought we could celebrate there, but in the whirlwind it never happened. And when we got back, we were exhausted and I was sick.

We ended up going back to the indoor playroom which we had had Benji’s little birthday treat back, and frankly Mimi’s two-year-old birthday. I was too tired to even invite a couple of their friends from the building. But Mimi had fun, we went for lunch to Pizza Hut which went down a treat and then in the evening, we cut a cake, a hastily bought and not super finessed one, but with kids, garish is good. Mimi didn’t love the taste of the cake – that girl lacks a sweet tooth which will hold her in good stead in adolescence – but she loved the plastic princess figurines on it as we had known she would.

Over the past year, Mimi has turned more girly. She likes pink alas, and girly stuff and frequently would say “girls and girls” when she wants to do something with me. She is still a determined little miss, who will not back down if she really wants something or is tired or hungry, but she has mellowed a tad and is conciliatory on occasion, especially with Benji. She loves animals as much as ever. She also loves doing craft. Her curls show no sign of abating.

I have been reading a lot about mothers and daughters over the past months for my research, and I can see that special bond with my little girl. After a few days of Tita, she is back to normal, following me around and wanting to copy me.

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