Personally speaking

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One of the advantages of having your children young is that - so the notion goes - when they are off your hands, and off to college, you are still sprightly enough to do all the things that those who had better contraceptive arrangements than you did pre-parenthood. I will be 40 when my son is 18. (The ultimate sanction in the coming years: let's have a joint 18th and 40th birthday party - your friends and mine all together. Great fun!

Think again.

If universities go ahead with charging top-up fees to students, childhood will go on till the age of 25, at least. No prizes for guessing whose doorstep some of the consequences will land on. Correct, amigo. Good old Mum and Dad.

I had it all mapped out: one has already left home, one is heading that way. Here I am: fortyish, multiskilled, a woman who has chucked out her chintz and has just enough grey to look interesting, with some ravishing subordinate whose crush on me I am dealing with. Caring, yet professional, that's me.

Now I'm seeing fortyish as haggard and worn out from taking on extra work to keep the kids afloat financially.

When I think of all those years doing Early Learning jigsaws to give them a good start, I could weep. Might as well have bought the sex 'n' violence death gun and had more time to watch Sons and Daughters (remember that?) in peace. All that investment in them, then wallop.

Why don't the parents of university students up and down the land rerun May 1968? Dust off those revolutionary placards and break out the comfy shoes. I wish. Many middle-class parents seem to take a perverse pride in how dependent their (adult) children are on them.

"Well, Jacinta had to pay off her student loan, and the only job offer she had was a McJob, so she's home for a while - after all, she's only 26; plenty of time to fly the coop."

Just when you thought it was safe to have howling, screeching, swing- from-the-chandeliers sex, it's back to "do you think they're asleep yet?"

Kids: the Return. Coming soon, to a semi-detached near youn