Chillaxin’ at the dinner table with my husband, two teens and a tween goes something like this these days:
“Dude! These meatballs, though. They hit different.”
“10 outta 10. Would eat again.”
“Dopest dinner we’ve had all week, bro.”
And me, the English major, former newspaper copy editor and all around grammar police officer? I don’t even flinch.
I not longer require complete sentences
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.
I’m stepping into their world, linguistically at least
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 this virus trapped us all under one roof.
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 new,outbreak-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.
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Christina Nifong is a freelance writer living in Roanoke, Va., with a decades-long career profiling interesting people, places and ideas. These days, magazine features and personal essays are her bread and butter. Find more of what she writes and sign up for her email newsletter, Nourishing Stories, at christinanifong.com