It's only awkward if you make it awkward

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has heard this before. I always thought it was a cop-out to actually admitting some situations can indeed be downright socially uncomfortable without 'making' it so. Walking out of the ladies room with toilet paper stuck to your dress- that's awkward. Barging in on a couple during a dispute where obvious truths you were not meant to hear were exposed- that's awkward. Some situations are just plain uncomfortable- no doubt about it.

I feel the people most familiar with these feelings of discomfort are often from very dysfunctional families themselves. Growing up in such circles there were always question you'd never ask- people you never talked to- people you always talked to but didn't know why you HAD to- etc. etc. Growing up I stumbled upon a lot of things I didn't want to know. Someone from my dad's family was messed up enough to keep the actual rope my great grandpa hung himself with- people at reunions were actually former KKK members so obviously it wasn't 'just me' who noticed when they shunned me and my sisters (one of whom is black). Stumbling across my dad talking to his attorney about appearing in court when I was twelve- finding out I had a half brother my dad never cared once to see or find out about- knowing I had a half sibling I whose name I didn't even know. That was awkward. Finding out my mom was married before my dad but never mentioned whom or why it ended- that was awkward. Questions were discouraged. If things were brought up in public my parents would answer me and I knew this. But behind closed doors, never, not once would anything be answered straight up.

Transitioning to dealing with the N's- I relied heavily on my own family for reason and support. This was a mistake. I relied on our pastor for advice. This was a mistake too. I really do feel for people going through downright horrible in law or n-parent situations who are starting to see the faults in their own parent's style of raising them- and have no idea where to turn or what to do about it.

This is a problem many, many face in dealing with abuse- after years of suppression  by their own families or by others close to them. It is SO hard for a victim to 1. recognize abuse for what it is and 2. know what in the world to do about it. From childhood we are told to ignore bullies, but be friendly to everyone. Make friends with loners and forgive those mean kids who trash our toys and give them a second chance. Giving someone grace (well- literally in my case) meant foregoing the important emotional boundary of personal justification. Go give your sister the toy she threw a fit for even though she ruined your last one. It seems those kinds of sentences pop out of the mouths of way too many parents making an effort to raise socially acceptable children, passive children, children who are the nice kids and who will make nice servants someday.

While good in moderation, this kind of teaching raises adults who are told 'don't make it awkward'- as if somehow their self-worth might compromise another's personal comfort. The kinds of people who are told to shove their emotions and go along with plans to help so-and-so who needs fishing out of their latest predicament.

There needs to be a balance. Kids need to learn that standing up to a bully isn't mean to the bully. In fact it's MORE harmful to the bully to let them get away with their actions time and time again. Sometime's it's kind to say no to people for their own good. I feel that's exactly why so many of us have trouble pinpointing the problem when it's always US. Doubting ourselves when we feel used or devalued instead of doubting the other's actions that are making us feel this way.

I always think that a family with nothing to hide hides nothing. In light of never making an awkward conversation with our son I plan on discussing things as they happen in age-appropriate language. I really hope to raise a mature, confident, caring young person who is able to recognize BS for what it actually is. Who knows they don't see grandma and grandpa for a reason (if we even refer to them by such pet names!). Who are free to question that but trust our judgement that adults can be bullies too and it's ok to have family members who are not actual family instead. I hope he can recognize abuse and misuse of others enough to stand up to it from an early age. Basically I have high hopes for this kid. When in doubt I think I'll just tell the truth and do exactly what my parents never did- encourage open, honest and loving communication instead of picking a cover-up to work instead. I think together we both know how not to raise a kid enough to know HOW to raise one.


  1. Love this. Too many people think their kids don't deserve the respect of honesty. The house I was raised in was that way, though neither of my parents were particularly intellectual. As angry as I am at them, once I got how not necessarily bright they were, I realize how much more angry I would be if they had been. I applaud you and your hopes for your kid.


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