We are living through crazy times right now. We are all trying to get our heads and hearts around a new normal. For some of us that new normal is easier to adjust to than others. As I scroll through my social media feeds the disparity is apparent. Yet, from what I have seen there is little discussion happening about this.
Now, if you follow me on Twitter then you might know some of my political thoughts. I’m a bit more vocal there about my beliefs. I try to keep my blog a bit more balanced. I want everyone to feel welcomed here. I believe that regardless of our beliefs and values, all parents want the best for their littles. I believe that even if we don’t agree on much, we can find common ground in the things we want to give and do with our children. Because of all of that, I do my best to remain as neutral as my heart allows me to be when writing on the site.
Today though, I’m throwing that out the window a bit. I think that this new normal is an incubation period. I think that we are on the brink of change. And we, as a people, need to decide what that change will be. Will we use this experience to grow? Or will we use this experience to continue to value money and status over individuals?
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about privilege during this isolation period. I’ve been expressing gratitude for my own. I want this to be a subtle nudge to get you to identify your privilege. A lot of times, when someone is told that they have privilege they feel attacked. I’m not here to attack anyone and I don’t think that pointing out privilege is an attack.
I’ve done a few interviews about distance learning during this time and compared to many other families I know that we are having a privileged experience. We have wifi at home, JustaBXgirl has her own laptop and was a bit familiar with using it prior to being asked to use it for school work. Her teachers compiled packets for students and handpicked books to send home for each child. They meet with the students regularly through video chat. Also, JustaBXgirl was already performing above grade level so the change hasn’t made a huge difference to her learning ability. We also have always done additional learning at home so during this shift we have just increased what we normally have done. None of that is said as a brag. It is all a statement of our privilege through what has been a difficult transition for many.
Our Department of Education said that they were going to do their best to supply all students in need with devices and internet to ensure that they could participate in Distance Learning. That has not happened. I know a number of families that haven’t even been able to complete the request form for the devices much less receive them. As for the internet, I know families that have called the number given and been told that they would have to pay $100 for equipment. These families don’t have $100 to spend. If they did, more than likely they would already have internet service. Let us use this time to acknowledge that the internet is no longer a luxury. All children deserve to have the same level of education and support.
Education is only one aspect of privilege that can be seen during this process. I’ve finally begun seeing some discussion on the digital divide. The idea that many homes don’t have the resources to level the playing field. I recently read a really good article (wish I would have saved the link to share here). It talked about how we are currently expecting everyone to welcome the world into their homes via video chats. We expect everyone to just be open and willing to jump on video calls for classes and meetings without thinking of the mental cost.
Here is a place where my home lacks privilege. Living in a one-bedroom, old tenement building means that planning where to log-in to video chats can be a challenge. Do I chat from my bed? Do I chat with toys behind me? I should share that about eighty percent of my apartment has toys in the background? Do I chat with cardboard boxes and other items waiting to be transported to my storage unit? Or do I log into the chat with cracked walls that haven’t been fixed or painted in years? For us, it’s mainly an aesthetic issue. JustaBXgirl has set herself up a little nook to do her online distance learning from. We add a little lamp and it is a space that brings her comfort and joy on and offline. For others, the problem is bigger. Our children and their adults live in homes with numerous family members. Getting everyone to stay out of the background and keep the noise levels down can be a challenge far greater than mastering a new skill the teacher is presenting.
The number of challenges facing families during this time continue to grow. I have only highlighted a few. We can discuss how being a stay at home parent allows privilege as opposed to parents trying to balance their own workload with their children’s and even possibly sharing a device. How about those still needing to work outside the home? How about the families struggling financially? How about trying to keep littles happy indoors when they lack a backyard or real play area at home? Do we want to even open the can of worms on how this social experiment is working for special needs families?
I never say that one type of parent has it harder or easier than another. I have my own baggage to carry as I am sure you do. I wrote this post because I wake up every day and count my blessings. We have a home. We have our health. We have food and we have each other. Yet, through acknowledging all that I have I am still aware of the shortcomings I face daily. I’m betting at times you feel those places as well. The places where you feel like you just don’t measure up to someone else. The times when you sigh and wish for what you think someone else has. In those moments I want you to reflect on the places that you have. I want you to take a moment to acknowledge your privilege in this pandemic. I also want you to reach out to someone that could use your help. Even if that help comes simply by sending a message saying, I see you and I support you. And if there’s anything that I can do to support you please feel free to reach out.