Parents as problem solvers

Parenting is one long series of problem solving…

woman with empty purses


Problem solving is an undervalued parenting skill. Yet it is what parents do – or attempt to do – on a daily basis. And if problems cannot be solved entirely, parents are also adept at trying to find temporary fixes or creative ways to circumnavigate them.

From childcare to finding that small fluffy thing that x can’t sleep without to getting certain warring parties to work towards a truce, parenting is about solutions that just about work, for now. Sometimes – rarely – parents are able to step back and impose some form of ‘vision’ and they may well be towards an unconscious one in their head. And it’s not just the vision called bedtime.

The past week has seen a varied set of problems thrown before our family – last weekend my partner came down with flu, the car broke down, the laptop wouldn’t come on, daughter two had GCSE mocks, etc, etc. The task for the week was to work through said challenges and engineer solutions, where appropriate. Unfortunately, things got worse before they got better. By Tuesday, both parents had gone down with the flu or bad cold-like symptoms. Plus one child. The liveliest child didn’t. This is where delegation might have come in handy, but daughter two was locked away studying and daughter one was out. It was down to tag team work between sick parents.

The car was another big challenge. It went into the garage on Monday. By mid-week we were told it would cost a small fortune to fix it. Cue argument between sick parents who didn’t really have the energy for an argument. One thought we should bite the bullet and pay because he simply wanted to solve the problem now and stay in bed. The other thought we needed to think more long term. The car has various other problems, including the fact that the P-filter light has been coming on for the last six months and has yet to disappear. The brake pads were going. Previous experience suggested cars go into a death slide at a certain point in their lifetime and our car is fairly old now.

The garage said it would buy the car, depending on the price. “What price would you pay?” I asked. “Well, it’s not for me to tell you that. You are the seller,” said the man at the garage. I have absolutely no idea what it is worth and he knows that. I’ve been on in the past and none of our previous cars has been worth more than 50 quid. I tried Auto Trader. It came up with a price. I discounted the repair bill. At the back of my mind I remembered telling the garage man about the brake pads and the other problems with the car. I feared we could get into minus sums.

I looked up used cars on the internet and found one nearby that was more or less the same monthly price as we paid for the last one. I booked an appointment to see it. My mum brought her car over to lend us for the week. Things were looking up despite my partner’s gloom. “If we don’t get onto these problems as they come up, we will drown in problems,” I reasoned. Onwards and upwards to the next challenge.

By Friday I was motoring, in every sense. I was out at meetings all day, but planned to be back for later in the afternoon to do an interview. I had not reckoned with the Friday night traffic. I ended up in a car park doing the interview in the semi-darkness as people pushed past with their trolleys. Interview done, I headed home to the sick people – daughter one had succumbed by this point.

Fortunately, with resources all these problems are minor, but each one of them could be major in the absence of money, friends, family, an extra parent…Each one could have a chain impact.  For too many parents, problems, even seemingly small ones, have no easy solution. They require problem-solving at a much higher level, with input from both government and society. Yet we are wasting time, potentially years of time, on Brexit instead of fixing them.


Comments [2]

  • marianne says:

    I’m pleased you decided to get a ‘new’ car. Our washing machine has been broken for a week, awaiting new parts in the post so my husband can mend it. I am amazed at how much extra free time I have had, since not being able to do the washing. When I run out of pants I am just going to not wear any. And if you don’t spill stuff down your front I discover that a single blouse can easily last 5 days without undue smelliness. I am refusing to handwash anything on principle.

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