Here’s the Thing About TikTok


In this weird new locked-down world, we’re all doing things we never imagined. I’m not leaving the house unless I’m in face masks and gloves. I stalk store websites for toilet paper. And here’s the biggest shock: I joined Tik Tok. I’m not alone here. A mass of middle-aged moms like me have downloaded the app during this Coronavirus-crisis. 

Before you roll your eyes, let me tell you — this app I thought was only for kids has given me a chance to connect with my teenager in ways we never have before. 

What’s TikTok? 

It’s an app known for viral dance challenges, short-form skits, comedy, and lip-sync shorts. At first glance, it is ruled by the younger demographic. Yes, I have concerns about cyber safety with so many young users on a platform. But if you sit and scroll, you see creativity and production value that makes me jealous. I didn’t have access to this when I was a teenager. 

In full transparency, we’ve had an account from the beginning, just to stalk our daughter’s posts and comments, but we never posted any videos.  

And then we were all told to stay home.  We were still making our goofy Facebook and YouTube videos, but we didn’t have to rush off to carpool or basketball practice in the afternoons. In the times I would normally be stressing about getting dinner on the table and helping with homework, we had this slow, empty part of our day. 

That’s when my 13-year-old daughter asked, “Do you want to learn a Tik Tok dance?”

I looked around the room. 

“Ummm . . . me? You want ME?”

I felt like I got picked first for teams in gym class (which definitely never, ever happened). 

So here’s how TikTok has helped us connect with our teen in new ways:

#1 She’s the teacher.

As parents, we’re always teaching, telling, and coaching. Rarely do our kids get to be the teachers. Last week my girl opened the app on my phone. She showed me how to find new dances, how to learn them in slow motion, how to search for music and audio.  There is a power in being able to share your knowledge on a subject, especially when you’re teaching your parents. It gave her a boost of confidence to be the expert.

#2 We’re laughing. A lot.

Though we’ve always had a good relationship, it’s not like it’s all unicorns spewing rainbows. I feel like I spent most of my pre-quarantine days reminding her of things. “Remember, practice tonight then the play this weekend. Don’t forget your water bottle! Did you pack lunch?” 

In this slow, weird time for the world, we’ve looked for ways to laugh. I have one guaranteed way to pee your pants with laughter: Get your teenager to teach you one of the viral TikTok dances, record it, then watch yourself. It’s horrifying and hilarious.

#3 We’re working together on a project.

Penn and I usually come up with the ideas for the goofy videos we post on Facebook and YouTube. The kids like to be involved, but we don’t ever interrupt their lives to participate. Lola is a great athlete and plays sports on her school teams every day after school. When she’s done,  she is diligent with her homework. Then it’s a rush for dinner, more homework, and bed. We’ve been getting questions recently, “Is Lola okay? Does she not want to be in your videos?” It was quite the opposite. She wants to be involved, but we would never pull her from a practice so she can have a role in a silly video.

When it comes to TikTok, the ideas are hers. We are following her lead and learning together. Between picking the audio, learning the moves, practicing and posting — it’s a fun project we can work on together. Is it good? No. Well, Lola is a bright spot but Penn and I are cringey and terrible.

I asked Lola what she thought about her middle-aged parents invading the app she loves. She told me, “I think it’s cool. You don’t really know what you’re doing, but that’s okay.”

I think in 13-year-old speak that means she likes the time we’re spending together, or that’s what I will keep telling myself.

Find us on TikTok: @theholdernessfamily. Be prepared to laugh at us.