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Motherhood surprises no one warns you aboutShe only turned nine in July. But she went from cute to contrary in 0 to 60 seconds – right after the final candle on her birthday cake was blown out.

And those candles are still sitting – charred on top – in the kitchen drawer hugging the bottle opener, Indian take-away menu, toothpicks and spare light bulbs. Those candles are a reminder of the last birthday when my little girl was still ‘little’. But no, I don’t keep them for that reason. God no. They’ve still got plenty of flames in them, yet more burning presentations to deliver, more spit to soak up. I’ve kept them because it’s practicality over sentimentality. Maybe there’s just a tiny iota of sentiment. I do feel it nudge me some times when I open that kitchen drawer. But that’s between me and the cat. Me, sentimental – with a pre-teen in the house? Pfft.

So there was no warning: no gradual hints that the pre-teen character was emerging. No time to prepare my wits or tactics. No time to nail down the 100 year old wooden stairs so they could withhold the constant stomping and thundering during periods of strops. No time to place buffers around the bedroom door to protect the doorframe after each slam. No earplugs to drown out the daily arguments over ownership of the TV remote control.

In between the house teetering on its foundations, and adjusting to the cat’s longer than usual leaves of absenteeism, there are occasions of sanity. It gives me enough time to prep and plan, like nail down those stairs and hide the TV remote control. And learn more about this new character in the home.

While sometimes there are not enough tissues in the house to mop up the tears caused by tumultuous friendships and surfacing hormones, there’s always a hug, ear and reassurance. The hug, ear and reassurance aren’t called on as often as they once were. But they’ll always be there for as long as I will.

Perhaps it’s time to throw out the used cake candles and accept the little girl’s growing into a new phase in her life.  Perhaps it’s time to pull out the big guns and sink a big, explosive ice fountain into the next birthday cake.

But right now it’s time for that glass of wine.

It’s not that bad, really.