I IS for Independence and Interference but most often I is for I as in I, me, myself.

Adolescents are designed to be self-centred. The ego has landed. Don't look upon it as a character failing, more a survival technique. They are after all trying to move away from their family emotionally and intellectually - even if this is at a time when they are incapable of finding their own football boots and can't even get up in the morning without their mothers screaming at them every two minutes.

Somehow they've got to grow up.

They yearn for independence. And such is their self-centredness that it never dawns on them that you might occasionally yearn for it too.

The trouble is that independence means different things to you both.

To you it might mean a time when they can get themselves up in the morning.

To them it's when they can stay out all night

To you it might mean when they can get themselves to a friend's without needing a lift.

To them it's when they can set off round the world with barely a backward glance.

Just occasionally, it can mean the same thing to you both. You will notice that it is parents who live miles from reliable public transport who are keenest to teach their 17-year-olds to drive. Especially if they have a wide and active social life.

When Senior Son was six, he got me one of those car stickers that said "Mum's Taxi Service". And I thought it quite amusing. Believe me, by the time he got to 16, the joke had long worn off.

I encouraged them to get on their bikes, use buses, trains, anything, which meant they could get to places under their own steam. They gained a lot of practical experience - is it any coincidence that Smaller Son went from China to Norway through Mongolia, Siberia and Finland, entirely by public transport last summer? Or that they both flip off to foreign football matches at the whiff of a cheap flight and an obscure airport?

And while they were being independent, I could sit at home with a book and a glass of wine. Which is, of course, what mothers are meant to do.

When you think about it, the whole aim of being a parent is to make yourself redundant, to get yourself in that happy position where your children don't need you any more. For some mothers, this is apparently a source of great sadness. I am amazed.

It's why I tried - not always successfully - to teach the boys about washing machines and grill pans, about soap powders and shopping. Let them at least be independent for the practical things.

Other matters are trickier. From the time they choose their GCSE options you have to let them make their own choices - it's their lives, their exams. Jobs, universities, girlfriends - you can help, advise , suggest but then there comes a time to keep your lip buttoned and let them get on with it.

At some point, they have to take responsibility for their own lives - and they'll never do it if you keep butting in.

And the joy of it is that it works both ways.

"The greatest gift a mother can give her sons is independence" I would say as I was swanning off out for an evening.

"And tonight this means you're making your own supper."

I think that's called practical parenting.