Every generation has a phrase that is used exclusively to exasperate their parents. It answers parental questions on a technicality, saying something while saying nothing.
During my own lifetime — as an annoying kid, annoying college student, annoying young adult and annoyed parent — there’s been several of these slang terms in common usage that not only don’t answer a specific parental question but are an overused response to a variety of them.
Travel down memory lane with me and use any of these responses ...
I’m so sure!
Don’t go there.
... to answer any of these questions:
“You call this room clean?”
“Is that what you’re wearing?”
“Is this a D on your report card?”
“Are you sure this is what you want to do?”
The current frustrating response from my teenagers has only two words, but combined they make my jaw clench and ignite my combative spirit.
“It’s below freezing; don’t you need more than a hoodie to go to the bus?” I asked my youngest son. My goal was to tell him that he needed a coat, but I was attempting to phrase it like putting one on was his idea.
I should have known that was coming, I hear it a lot.
“Wow! Your room is a mess!”
“Shouldn’t you go to bed?”
“Don’t you have homework?”
You get the idea.
He’s 13 — 13-year-old kids throw attitude often and, just like kids before him with their own slang phrases, his “It’s fine” comes with a heavy dose.
I liken 13-year-old attitude to the idea that baby scorpions’ sting is more dangerous than the sting of grown scorpions — kids’ hurl the annoying venom with wild abandon for a reaction but are unconcerned with what that reaction is.
I will admit that trying to tell him how wrong he’s been is ineffective.
No! It’s not fine! It’s cold!
It’s not fine, it’s an unhealthy diet!
It’s not fine, your primary job is school and good grades.
It’s really not fine; it’s not your house. When you pay the bills, you can have a messy room.
Now — in either a very wise or totally defeated way — I resort to a parentally sarcastic, mostly ineffective but curiously satisfying:
“You do know what I’m going to do when you come to me sick, hungry, or overtired, right? Walk away and tell you, ‘it’s fiiiiine.’”
Did you know that baby and adult scorpions’ sting has the same amount of venom? It’s true.
But there’s a derivation of it’s fine that shouldn’t get a snappy, attitude-filled and immature parental reaction: I’m fine.
I’m fine is a whole other story.
I’m fine is the yellow light of responses.
“It’s fine” from a 13-year-old means that they are determined to make their own decisions; “I’m fine” from the same kid could mean that they really are fine, but often? I’m fine means exactly the opposite.
How are you doing?
I’m fine. (No, I’m not fine by a long shot, but I can handle it. Probably.)
Do you have homework?
I’m fine. (No, I have a lot, don’t understand any of it and am so overwhelmed that I’m shutting down.)
Do you need some help?
I’m fine. (No, I need a lot of help. Look at my eyes, can’t you see that I’m not fine? I don’t know what kind of help to ask for; I’m very, very far away from fine.)
There is a phrase that is used by every generation, from kid thru adult, that should make us all pause and listen. No sarcasm. No avoidance. No defiance.
When we hear “I’m fine,” the only attitude we should have is a caring one.
Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland. She co-hosts two history-based podcasts, The History Chicks and The Recappery. To listen to them or read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.