Top parenting skills: from filtering to finding small pieces of plastic

Lego bricks


Despite the fact that there is no shortage of news around, a large part of today’s newspapers seem to be full of what is basically opinion. I have no problem with the idea that, in a complex world, analysis is important. But analysis and opinion can be very different things. Women are often the focus of opinion pieces which are usually written by other women. They often contain vitriolic side swipes and generalisations which show a level of self-loathing that is fairly depressing. One column on Sunday, sparked by Andrea Leadsom’s foolish comments, talked about working mums “luxuriating in our insufferable martyrdom”, for instance. Why are we so obsessed with judging each other and ourselves and why do other people’s opinions of us matter?

I have decided to impose a ban on reading such articles any more on the grounds that it just doesn’t serve any useful purpose and that men just don’t have to put up with this kind of stuff.

So instead, in the spirit of the weekend’s reports, I’m going to focus on the top 10 skills I have gained as a parent over the last 16 years. I have asked my children for suggestions. They were hard pushed to come up with any. So here are mine:

1. The ability to find small pieces of plastic in record time. A skill which should not be underestimated.

2. The ability to be precisely three minutes late to every event and to presage every outing with “We’ve got two minutes and 35 seconds to get to…”

3. The ability to put all my children off politics for life by boring them with post referendum updates.

4.  The ability to make socks disappear so that there is never even one matching pair available.

5. The ability to adapt a sheet into all manner of costumes down the ages, from the Romans to the Tudors with just the addition of a judiciously placed belt.

6. The ability to sleep in almost any circumstances eg in the cot and to extricate myself from said cot without waking up the baby, even when this involves having to freeze in mid exit with one leg in the air when the baby sighs.

7. The ability to “filter” [according to daughter one, this is something I am a world class expert in].

8. The ability to be patient up to the point of erupting like Vesuvius, eg, over car/sofa seating policy.

9. The ability to embarrass my children by crying at inappropriate times, eg, the end of High School Musical 3 [it felt like the end of an era…]

10. The ability to exploit the skills and talents of my children for my own advantage, eg, fixing computers/phones, giving hand massages, etc.┬áThe latter skill has been very useful in the last few days. During an attempt to do number one on the list, I did my back in on Sunday and daughter two kindly agreed to give me a massage. It was slightly more vigorous than anticipated, but it has helped a bit, even though daughter two refused to let me lie on her bed for fear that I would contaminate it with my feet [only son – currently on a four-night sleepover in our room complete with lamp and teddy – had left a trail of yellow food colouring through the kitchen which I had accidentally stepped into and which refuses to come off]. As a result, I had to lie on the floor to have the massage and daughter two had to literally drag me up, undoing some of her careful work. Swings and roundabouts, as they say.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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