Reflecting on awkward social moments
My father is the kind of man who has never met a stranger, and his gregarious nature made visits to the grocery store very interesting growing up. Cooking was his favorite pastime so he would often go three to four times a day. My sisters and I often went with him to the store, and I remember each visit being a bit of an adventure.
My father walked very quickly, so he was usually way ahead of any of the rest of us at the store. Because of this, he would often yell across the aisles. Once he yelled, “Did one of you girls need tampons?” He was an aisle or two over, and I’m pretty sure the whole store heard.
These moments were mortifying for a young teenager, but I did eventually get used to his loud and boisterous behavior. Sometimes people thought my dad was pretty comical. Other times, they stared and were dismayed by his social demeanor. It may not have been easy, but adopting a “life is short” mentality really helped me navigate these moments. In the end I knew it wasn’t worth getting too worked up about my dad’s behavior.
I share this story about my father because it’s relatable. You might even recognize some of the awkward social moments of my childhood reflected in moments from your everyday life. It helps to know that you’re not alone.
Have you had experiences like any of the ones below?
Examples of awkward social moments:
- Your son or daughter approaches other families at the zoo and starts listing the characteristics of a red rock crab.
Your child walks up to other families at restaurants and asks them questions about their food choices.
- Your preschooler asks people who are clearly not pregnant (men included!) whether they are with child.
- Instead of saying, “How are you?” or, “Hi,” your child starts conversations with strangers by asking them specific questions about niche interests or information. For example, “What’s your favorite Pokémon character?” or “Which terminal gate at the Denver National Airport is your favorite?”
Questions like these can certainly lead to awkward social moments. Kids with autism are so unbelievably honest, and, with the right perspective, their honesty can be endearing and fun.
Over the years, kids with autism have told me I am far too old to take dance classes, asked why my nose is so big, and told me I should not wear glasses. Honest interactions like these remind me not to take like (or myself) quite so seriously.
Here’s another story you might relate to …
“I need fries now!”
When my son was two, we were having dinner at a burger joint, and he started complaining loudly that he “needed fries now!” Eventually, a couple brought us their order of fries. They said they got way too many and were not going to finish them. It was a little awkward, but it was also really nice and kind. We took the fries, and I proceeded to let my toddler eat a stranger’s food in a restaurant.
Keep in mind, this was before COVID.
Overcoming awkward social moments
What can you do to overcome potentially embarrassing moments? Take a breath, apologize if you think it might be appreciated, and move on. If you are able to step back and get a little perspective, awkward moments can be the makings of a funny story or a cute memory.
If you find yourself feeling more frustrated than entertained, don’t worry — many kids with ASD (and plenty without) have the ability to work on their sensitivity and improve the appropriateness of their conversation topics.
Kids on the Spectrum bring a refreshing amount of honesty and straightforwardness to their interactions. It can be really nice, but it’s also not always easy. I would love to work with you and your family if you want support learning to cope with these moments. Just reach out for a free discovery session.
Dr. Anna Kroncke
We’re Here to Help
Schedule a free 20-min Discovery Session to start getting support for your family’s unique path and learn more about our coaching and consultation options.