It was different when they were little. Everything seemed so clear-cut. Don't eat sweets between meals. Stop hitting your sister. Clean out the hamster. You could dole it all out like a government website, secure in the knowledge that mother knows best.
But when they're teenagers, it's so much more complicated. I'm still desperate to protect them, to have my arms round them, but doling out words of wisdom doesn't seem to work any more.
Some advice is OK. Like, try eating a bit of dry toast if you've been sick. Or, take some money with you in case you miss the last bus. But most of the time, any practical advice I could offer is completely useless. Things change so fast.
'But when will you be back?' I shout after my 17-year-old as he disappears into the dark.
'I'll text you,' he calls back.
Oh, yes. Forgot about mobiles.
Sometimes you hand out advice only to think what rubbish it is.
'Do I really need travel insurance?' says my eldest, who's 19.
'Yes,' I say firmly.
'They never pay up,' he says.
And I stop, halfway through peeling a potato, and think, he's right. When has any claim I've ever made been successful? Travel insurance is just something you do before you go on holiday, like buying suntan lotion or cancelling the milk. It's habit, not wisdom.
The problem is that I don't feel much older than 18 myself. The years may have whipped by, but I'm still chewing my fingernails wondering if I've really got a clue. I have experience on my side, but it's my experience, not theirs. So I open my mouth to say, 'Wouldn't it be better if...?'and find myself thinking, 'But maybe it wouldn't...' And I clamp my mouth shut quickly, hoping no one's noticed.
I still hug them a lot. That way I still have my arms round them. But I don't need to say a word.