One Small Thing – Compassion for People Who Say Thoughtless Things to Home Edders During Small Talk

The ‘I guess things aren’t that different for you’ comments have become a joke in our house, we have heard them so many times. Some of the grandparents have said it, neighbours have said it, friends with school kids have said it. It has become the ‘go to’ statement when making small talk with us, and has been since the lockdown started.

I always try to answer honestly and say that this is not what home education normally looks like – my kids miss their friends, same as anyone else. They can’t go to their groups and classes. They miss the library and going to the craft shops and the pet shop. They miss going swimming.

Afterwards I have been left frustrated, and at times offended. Is that what they think of us? That our normal lives are shut in? That the kids never get to see anyone anyway so this won’t bother them?

Other times I just want to sigh and roll me eyes.

But of course, that’s not what they mean at all! I’ve just been so taken over by trying to get us through this bit, to really thinking about what the people are actually trying to say.

Mostly ‘it must be easier for you!’ means thank goodness you don’t have to suddenly do all your teaching online. Thank goodness you don’t have to wrangle multiple children into video conference based classes, or complete multiple sets of assigned work, like homework but on steroids, and every day.

Thank goodness you are used to being with your children for long periods of time. Thank goodness you know them well, and are already experienced in learned alongside them. You are not trying to work out how to do that, alongside the practical and psychological stresses we are all struggling with.

And in that sense, yes, they are right.

Those things are easier, because we do know how to do them.

(It doesn’t feel easier, when everyone feels much more likely to get upset or angry over small things (which are really huge things, that can’t be fixed right now.) When as the parent you are juggling far more complicated food shopping environments, your family’s complicated digital-based social lives, which tie up all the electronics, and therefore gobble up all your opportunities to get any other work done. Get everyone physically moving outside, when a lot of our usual options aren’t allowed.)

My answer to ‘I guess things aren’t that different for you’ has changed – I still point out that my kids miss their friends, and all the stuff we did outside of the house is either gone, or now digital only, but, yeah, I’m glad that I’m not juggling assigned school work on top of everything else.

Because I am grateful. And realising that helped me let go of the anger and defensiveness I was holding on to.

You can find the other parts to the One Small Thing series here.

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