We’ve all been there. Those super awkward moments when we feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, and uneasy. Such situations are only heightened when experienced with total strangers. It’s one thing to, say, trip and fall on your face in a room full of people you know (been there), and quite another to be sitting at a dinner table with strangers and have your son talk about a teacher’s big boobs. Thank you, young Kevin Pearson. LOL
This Is Us leaned right into all things awkward and elephant in the room this week. Each scenario scripted in a way that allowed us to viscerally feel the tension of the circumstance, but also the joy of the release as uncomfortableness birthed new understanding. I don’t know about you, but I even felt my face flush and insides clench on a few occasions, followed by tears as my heart warmed to the gosh darn beauty of humanity finding its way.
[Warning: Season 4 Episode 7 spoilers ahead.]
The storyline about Jack and his jealousy/intimidation/insecurity about Randall’s newfound relationship with his teacher, Mr. Lawrence, stirs our insides in many ways. Last week we saw how the gap of unknowing is expanding between Jack and his limited understanding of what it means to be black and young Randall who is finding his way outside of his white family. I know for me as a mom, any time I feel I can’t relate to what one of my kids is going through, the disconnect is unsettling and I long to find my emotional way into their world. I can only imagine how deep this longing is for Jack now that his eyes are opening to Randall’s reality and how much Mr. Lawrence seems to be able to satisfy Randall’s lack.
This makes the awkwardness of Jack’s tepid interactions with Mr. Lawrence soul deep. The whole visit and exchange at the dinner table was wrought with unease—only to be exacerbated by Kevin’s snark and sarcasm in calling Mr. Lawrence a grown-up Randall, making boob references, and his brutal honesty about their boring dinosaur conversation. Gotta love kids for speaking without filters. They haven’t learned the discipline of keeping their thoughts in bubbles. I was in those red-faced situations with my young kids many times over the years. Priceless.
As for Jack’s actions in this week’s episode, my heart torqued for him. As parents, we want to be worthy of being our kid’s number one and the go-to person for all their needs. The reality is, our kids are much better off having a list of go-to’s in their lives. Other safe and trustworthy adults who are willing to walk alongside them and share their wisdom, knowledge, and insight. Our voices aren’t always enough to help them find their way. This Is Us brought this to light beautifully as Jack pushed past his fears and insecurity and extended an olive branch to the man who up to this point felt like a threat. All the feels…
I’m still cracking up today over the evening Randall and Beth shared with Malik and his family—this after lots of wet stuff poured from my eyes last night. This was awkwardness on another level. Watching Beth transform from open toes, open mind to guzzling wine in the pantry to curb the momma bear roaring inside her was classic. Then watching that bear bust its claws out at dinner was the kind of scene that would have had me crawling under the table. (Let’s not forget sweet little Annie who reminded everyone right out of the gate how weird it was that Malik had a baby. Again, no bubbles. LOL)
Why is Beth so relatable? 😂
Posted by This Is Us on Thursday, November 7, 2019
First, major props to the writers for having these two families “come together” to work through the issue of Malik & Deja skipping school and their desire to spend time with one another. That kind of intentional communication between strangers is what we need more of in this world. Not to mention how both sets of parents were willing to respect the wants of their kids enough to broach the uncomfortableness of talking face-to-face about a very unsettling and unique situation. How else do we move past our assumptions and limited perceptions? This scenario brought to light the very real truth that we tend to see things more as we are instead of as they really are.
Too often we see situations only on their surface, and then make judgments based on our own set of beliefs, experiences, learned behaviors, pain points, etc. But when we lean in and desire a better understanding, whole new worlds open up full of blessings and unexpected opportunities. The writers led us to this conclusion with a powerful tenderness as Malik’s dad, Darnell, removed his shirt to expose the full bounty of tattoos, saying to Randall and Beth, “You can choose to see me and only see my mistakes, or you can choose to see something different. Just like you can choose to see our son as a kid from North Philly, a teenage father, or you can choose to see a straight-A student, a sweet kid who loves to make his mother and daughter smile…” All the tears…
When it comes to raising teenagers, this full-hearted and open-minded approach is essential for us to meet our kids where they’re at. I’ll be honest in saying I didn’t always do a very good job at this when my kids were teens. Too often I operated from fear and made rash judgments thinking I was protecting them from harm. Who knows what blessings I may have smuggled from their young lives.
At the end of the day, the awkward moments of life are proof that we sometimes forget we are on the same team. We essentially want the same things in life: love, connection, understanding, acceptance. When any of these areas feel threatened or out of reach, we slip into uncomfortableness, causing us to get out of sync and “not behave our best” as both Jack, Randall, and Mr. Lawrence admitted to.
All any of us can do is our best and ask for grace when we miss the mark—extending the same grace to others. This is the beauty beneath our walk as connected spiritual beings living an imperfect human experience.