Problem-solving on the hoof

Parenting is in large part about solving problems on a daily, even hourly, basis…


Mums are generally great at problem-solving and the longer you’re in this game the bigger the problem that can be thrown your way for you to find an immediate [if temporary] solution. At least that’s what I tell myself, although some problems these days are clearly insurmountable.

Take the other day. My partner dropped his car for an MOT the other day and took our son to school as I had a meeting. So far so good. In between daughter three had a driving lesson and daughter two was 21, but not surfacing for a happy birthday message. I had to record a podcast for 1.5 hours in the meantime. It was a bit of a dicey situation because people were tuning in from around the world, but two of the main speakers had not replied to any email for a month since they confirmed the timing. Luckily, they turned up in the end. Then daughter three came back. She disappeared upstairs.

My partner came home, dejected, clasping an MOT failure notice. Usually the mechanic announces the good news first and then the bad news.  The mechanic had told him that he needed to spend a thousand pounds to get his car through the MOT.  “What was the good news?” I asked. “There wasn’t any,” he said.  He was agitated that he needed to pay because he needed a car to get to work. Plus the following day I was in Cambridge and he had to drop and pick up children and go to the hospital. Living in the countryside is not ideal if you have no form of transport.

After the podcast I had an emergency meeting. Daughter three came downstairs dressed for an outing and perched on the sofa. She signalled that she needed to get to the station. I signalled back that I was in a meeting. Eventually I came out of the meeting and started driving her to the station. But I was already running late for the school run so I dropped her, in a gloom, at the nearest bus stop.

I got only son and on the way back negotiated with my mum to let us borrow her car. I caught up with some work and headed out at 7pm to my mum’s house an hour away with my partner, reflecting – and not for the first time – on how bad we are at buying second-hand cars that go the distance. Mainly because we have no option but to act quickly because everything will grind to a halt without a car. My partner is on the insurance of her car already so it seemed the ideal solution. We came home in convoy and I looked up the value of his car on We Buy Any Car. I have never had a car that was worth more than 50 pounds on We Buy Any Car so I was more interested in whether they could take it away.

We were back for an hour before daughter three texted to say she couldn’t get a train back from London. She arrived at the station around 11.30pm. That’s the third near midnight pick-up I’ve done in the last week. One day she will pass her driving test…The good news is that daughter two eventually answered the phone so I could wish her a happy 21st. She said she doesn’t like birthdays any more since her sister died. I know how she feels. 21 was a particularly hard one as she is now older than her older sister.

We fell asleep just after midnight only to wake up to a whole new set of potential logistics issues linked to trying to keep the whole show on the road. Happy International Women’s Day!

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