There are lots of things about parenting in the past that wouldn’t pass muster today: like handing out sweets that looked like cigarettes for children to ‘smoke’; or serving spam fritters with Smash like it was an actual meal rather than a dietary outrage. But they also had some genuinely useful skills that are lost to modern parents.
So instead of worrying about whether my children have eaten all of their five-a-day, maybe I should give a little bit of time to re-learning some of the more useful things parents of the past could do.
The skills I’m thinking of reviving include:
- Sewing – It’s so dull that after the first term of sewing name tags into my children’s clothes I bought a permanent marker pen. Same effect, but your index finger doesn’t end up red raw. My mother, on the other hand, could create an entire capsule wardrobe from an off-cut of old fabric. For my first school dance (because proms hadn’t been invented in those days), we went to a shop, chose a pattern, picked a fabric and my mum made my dress. Not only that, but she actually seemed to enjoy it. Weird.
- Fixing stuff – The only thing I’ve ever really tried to fix is my husband and, to be honest, I think the problem may be me, not him. My parents, however, could fix nearly everything. Broken toilet cistern? Banging noise under the car bonnet? Dangerous sounding hum when you turn the light on? The older generation knows how to fix all that stuff. And they pretty much wrote the manual on boring basics like bleeding the radiator and re-wiring a plug. Although, in fairness, they can’t work the smart TV, so I feel like I might be winning that one…
- Growing and cooking – Our parent’s generation grew up without the luxury of dial-a-pizza, or ready-made meals, and so had to do it all themselves. As a result, my mum can somehow make a tasty meal out of whatever sad remains are lurking unloved at the bottom of the fridge. Not only that, but when I was little, a lot of what she cooked was stuff she’d actually grown in our back garden. I would starve to death if I couldn’t book my supermarket delivery online, but older people know how to grow what they need. They will totally survive the apocalypse.
I know it sounds a bit Amish, but these are cool skills to have. Our parents knew how to make the most of what they had without depleting our planet. They didn’t need to sort their rubbish into different bins for recycling, because they weren’t throwing away plastic packaging every time they cooked supper. The very same people who call you up to fix their internet connection, were busily protecting the world’s natural resources before anyone pointed out that we needed to. Respect.
So if you put aside their propensity for feeding us sugary death-sweets and their worrying disregard for health and safety, our parents actually have some ninja survival skills. I don’t need to be able to do everything they could do, but if I could just get the toilet to flush after my children have broken it, who knows what other dizzying heights I might achieve…