If I had a dollar for every time my kids said, “Mom, that’s so awkward!” I could fund universal childcare for us all. Since they’re teenagers now, I can look back over the years and see how awkward has evolved. Cuz while the exclamation is the same… what provokes it has changed.
Me dating is no longer awkward (it totally once was) but me talking to them about them dating? SO much awkward. And yet, we have a template. Tackling the awkward head on is what our relationship is built on. At each stage, of both their development and my own, there is “teh awkward” that we have to face, discuss, own and in some ways obliterate.
I want to stress that one families’ awkward can be another families’ easy and yet another families’ straight up traumatic. The matrix of our history and current situation create the framework that our awkward defines itself within. What’s easy for you to talk about off the cuff with your kids may be something that I would need to do with the help of a coach to discuss. It’s all relative.
Having on open and ongoing age-appropriate conversation about sexuality with your kids is crucial to their wellbeing and safety. One way they know it’s an important aspect of their lives is that we are willing to face down the awkward. My strategy has always been to own the awkward. Call it out, claim it. And then do the damn thing anyway. Sometimes I’m the only one with the bubbly gut over a situation. Other times, I’m totally non-plussed by a subject while their ears are turning red. Either way, I have to say, “This awkward and this is how we’re gonna get through it.”
In my house, we’ve been talking a lot about gender and the cost of not conforming to the binary. And I’m grateful that, for my teens, it’s not an awkward topic. They can see that it’s fucking tragic that kids get kicked out of their homes for being trans, or get beaten and abused, or commit suicide. We’re talking about how to be supportive to any of their friends who come out as trans or who don’t identify with the gender binary. What’s awkward for me is that I have to be honest with them and say, “Yep parents are abusive to their own kids because of gender.” That shit sucks. Informing your children about the cruelty other children experience is fucking awkward. And necessary. And tragic. And scary.
Being real with your kids about child abuse kinda makes talking about periods and how babies are made no big deal, right? Easy peasy. Talking with your kids about sexual assault? AWKWARD. But if you’re going to teach them about consent (…and you’re going to teach them about consent, right?) you have to include that part of it.
What I really want to impart upon you, fellow Awkwardian, is that talking to your kids about their sexual health, or gender, or consent or pornography is going to be awkward and you get to do it anyway. As parents we are constantly modeling behaviors; how we handle awkward topics and conversations is most likely how they will handle awkward topics and conversations. And we’re also who they compare other people’s reaction to awkward situations to. Consider yourself the Royal Ambassador to Awkwardlandia.