Teens Gotta Talk … So I’m Letting Them School Me

family photo

Chillaxin’ at the dinner table with my husband, two teens and a tween goes something like this in these Corona Times:

“Dude! These meatballs, though. They hit different.”

“10 outta 10. Would eat again.”

“Dopest dinner we’ve had all week, bruh.”

And me, the English major, former newspaper copy editor and all around grammar police officer? I don’t even flinch.

In the months since my kids’ lives turned on a dime from overflowing with sports and friends and fun to teaching themselves Calculus in their bedrooms, having only the five of us to hang with, I have officially stashed any requirement of complete sentences, fully formed words or a rich vocabulary on the back shelf alongside the lunchboxes.

’Cause the world is whack right now. Who am I to throw shade?

Parents of elementary school kids might be surrendering screen time restrictions. In my house, it’s diction and grammar that are out like a light.

And you know what? YOLO.

I’ve decided, in this moment, it’s my turn to be schooled. I’ll take this Pyrrhic gift of unexpected family time and I’ll use it to let them connect me with a sliver of what they’re missing. I can’t allow them be with their friends, but I can at least unleash them to talk like teens (or a PG-rated version of teen-speak).

Some nights that means scrolling through semi-inappropriate memes or checking out YouTube videos of this noob excitedly Flex Taping his self-destroyed life back together. That’s lit.

I can listen to hours of Hamilton lyrics belted at the tops of lungs. I can keep my eyes from rolling as my guys sarcastically pretend they are vlogging their every move: “Hi everbody! Happy Virtual Tuesday! Remember to Like and Subscribe!”

I can even follow my teens down the rabbit hole of Burger King Foot Lettuce. (Google it.) Or let them sweep me into the dance moves of TikTok.

For real, me taking a few steps into their world is making us all a little less salty. I’m stumbling through a whole new language and they’re shook that I’m even trying.

When I get a word or phrase wrong, they cringe. Big Yikes. And laugh at me.

When I get it right. Big Dubs. They cheer me on.

“What a bop, Mom!”

I’m not fire quite yet. But I’m not as weak-sauce as I was before coronavirus trapped us all under one roof.

No cap.

And if the experts’ predictions are right, I’ve got — sadly — mad time to keep practicing.

My small nod to my teens helps me vibe with them rather than be annoyed by them.

Which we all need a little more of now. Am I right?

So, while some may be checking out all the COVID-19-spun words Merriam-Webster is adding to their pages, my new lingo comes with a connection I never expected to make. My teens have opened a door into their lives. I’d be cray cray not to walk through it.

What I meant was: Aight. Imma head out. I got some cramming to do before we’re all spilling the tea at dinner. Yet again.

This essay first appeared on the website Grown & Flown.

Published by christinanifong

A writer of stories. About kale and turnips. Seeds and dirt. And, you know, life. Find essays, recipes and writing samples at christinanifong.com