Embracing the awkward conversation

Starting sometime in middle school, I began to understand the idea of social awkwardness (didn’t we all?).  There are a few people (you know them when you see them) who have reached adulthood and have yet to grasp the idea. My husband always jokes that he wishes he could be one of them because they always seem oblivious.

I don’t miss the 80’s hair-style, too-big teeth kind of awkward.  But what I wish I had more of growing up was the kind of awkwardness that comes by being vulnerable with someone else.  Awkwardness that comes from initiating or being confronted with a hard conversation, from confessing a wrong, from listening while someone shares the intimate details of her heart and realizing you have no idea what to say.  If I had practiced it more then, maybe it would be easier for me now.

Instead, I grew up more with what author Debbie Irving describes as a “culture of niceness”:

“I adored my parents…but did I connect to them deeply?  Did I really know what was in their hearts and souls?  Did I know their fears or shames in a way that would allow me to be supportive, a way that would allow me to feel less fearful or repulsed by my own?  In all honesty I have to say no.  I did not know my parents or my aunts and uncles or any of my parents’ friends in this way…  Our relationships were not the kind in which unfettered conversation leads to greater common understanding and deep personal connection.”  (p. 169, Waking up White)

How well do we know our children?  How well do they know us?

Over the years, my relationship with my kids has grown deeper, and it’s primarily due to my husband who wears his emotions on his sleeve and lovingly insists on others doing the same.  Early in our marriage, I would internalize all of my feelings and thoughts until Greg pulled them out of me.  It was exhausting.  Now we have family times of confession that are still so hard for me because I am admitting my weakness and failure before my husband and kids and God.  But so good because the people I love most are there to encourage me and forgive me.  Other times, like on birthdays, we go around the table sharing what we love most about the birthday girl/boy and then look them in the eyes and tell them we love them.  It’s usually a bit of a weep-fest, but such a good awkward for both the giver and recipient of this blessing.

One conversation that is probably one of the most awkward to have as as a parent is about sex.  Many of our friends have made it an event when their daughter or son turns 12 or 13 to have a weekend away and explain about their changing bodies and sex.  My daughter is 12 but because the logistics involved in having to tell all of them separately, I decided just to tell all 5 of them at once on a quick trip we had to the beach this summer.   It was half read-aloud, half-conversation as I read a book called Before I was Born and paused for questions, comments, and giggles.  A few moments of awkwardness and that was it.  After the conversation my oldest exclaimed, “Now everything makes total sense!”  Everything…?  I am now free to have as many small conversations as I please whenever the topic comes up based on that one awkward conversation.

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In order to live an abundant life with regards to our relationships, we must let our guard down.  If we do not have intentional, meaningful conversations now, then we are more than likely setting our children up for relationship struggles in the future.  We have a small window of time with our children when their natural curiosity allows for vulnerability and lots of questions.  If we don’t make a habit of being vulnerable before one another and engaging in difficult conversations with grace, then our children will learn to find the answers to life’s questions elsewhere.

Think about where the bulk of your communication takes place on a daily basis.  Social Media?  Text?  E-mail?  Phone?  Face to face?  The farther our communication gets from face to face, the more superficial our relationships will become.  The tragedy is that so many people spend much more time engaging in these superficial relationships than in the real ones right in front of them.

Our relationship patterns will be the ones that our children inherit.  Let’s develop good habits that foster deep relationships.  Let’s allow our kids to watch us experience the hurt of walking with someone who is grieving.  Let’s praise them in public and watch them wrestle with the mixed emotions of embarrassment and pride.  Let’s be quick to confess when we have wronged them so they feel ok doing the same for us.

Here’s to lots of beautifully awkward moments in the days, months, and years to come!

Have an awkward moment story that led to a more meaningful relationship?  Please share!  Click here to read about one particularly awkward conversation that lead to one of my most meaningful friendships.

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