I do most of my mothering on a wing and a prayer. Only come evening do I forage the fridge in hopes of stray proteins for supper. Homework is a high-speed frenzy over breakfast bowls and my tartan sofa rug has had to stand in for most fancy-dress costumes required by school.
I have, however, always been braced for puberty. Patience and humour were to be my guides. I would extract the Usborne book with the frightening diagrams that I'd hidden behind my archive of Gardener's World and talk my daughter through feminine biology. I would shop companionably with her for her first bra and I would defuse adolescent tantrums with a kiss.
Now, though, our once quiet vicarage is bedevilled by puberty and I have lost control. The Vicar watches papal masses at top volume on Youtube to drown out the shouting beyond his study door. Fights are needlessly picked, recriminations slung up and down the stairs and the sulks can cloud an entire afternoon. Yes, my behaviour has deteriorated dismayingly since my ten-year-old entered adolescence!
I can turn a single insubordination into a bloodbath and brood mutinously over a pubescent slight. I expel my daughter ruthlessly from my room when she grates on me and emit dark threats when she won't bend to my will.
'I think Mum's tired!' whisper the children, scurrying to safety as I shriek at their disordered bedrooms. My daughter looks at me pityingly. 'We need to be patient,' she tells her brother. 'This happens to mums when they get old.'