NOT okay. Not even slightly okay. Okay??

By Mir
December 14, 2004

Up until very recently, I had always thought–nay, assumed–that I had a firm understanding of human nature and the English language. These two things are not inherently related; no. But together, they would lend a person (say, me) the insight necessary to interact with others in a productive manner, or at least to grasp why people do and/or say the things that they do.

Today it’s time to confront the truth. Thirty-three years of life; thirty-one of those spent talking nearly non-stop. And the reality is that my language skills or my interpersonal skills or–most likely–both are so insufficient as to be laughable.

It’s a marvel I’ve been able to fake my way through civilization for this long, really. A testament to my fortitude in the face of adversity, you might say. Or, you might just point and laugh. And I would deserve it, so go ahead.

Do you know what the word “okay” means? You think so, huh? I snort in your general direction. I snort the snort of one who has been in your poor, clueless shoes, thought they knew, and became disabused of that notion and now feel superior to and sorry for those of you still living in denial. It’s a very meaningful snort, I assure you!

Like you, I used to believe that okay, or its handy shorter version, OK, means “Alrighty then!” or “sure thing!” or “Yes, we are in complete agreement!” That’s how I always used it, anyway. Poor daft me. Poor naive you.

Humility, thy name is Chickadee. *weep*

Have you met my lovely daughter? She is truly a captivating child. She has many fine and wonderful qualities, none of which I can detail for you at the moment, because I am too busy trying to stop this pulsating vein in my forehead from throbbing right out of my face, on account of my charming daughter has, of late, stopped arguing with me.

It’s true! Chickadee has stopped arguing with me. Which I’d always thought would be a wonderful thing. I dreamed of this day. Harmony would reign. Peace and love would flow. All would be idyllic. My dream did not include the part where my child would happily agree with everything I said and then proceed as if deaf and braindead. Go figure.

“Chickadee, it’s time to get up!”
“Chickadee, get dressed right now!”
“Chickadee, I mean it, get your butt into the bathroom this instant!!”

(This interaction is spread over twenty minutes or so, and at no time did the butt in question leave the bed.)

Everything I thought I understood about communication; gone in two little syllables.

And because I love and adore my child, and because I feel sanity escaping my grasp, I struggle to comprehend what is happening here. She’s telling me something; it’s up to me to decipher what.

My first few guesses were of the “words left unsaid” variety. The original meaning of okay remained intact, and I tried to fill in the blanks. Thus, in the first pass, the conversation above could be rendered thusly:

“Chickadee, it’s time to get up!”
“Okay! It certainly IS time to get up. But I do not care.”
“Chickadee, get dressed right now!”
“Okay! I will now think very hard about getting dressed.”
“Chickadee, I mean it, get your butt into the bathroom this instant!!”
“Okay! That’s an excellent suggestion, and one I shall consider. Later.”

It was plausible. But not quite right. My second pass was of the “evil incarnate” flavor. With shadings of deliberate malice, it came out more like this:

“Chickadee, it’s time to get up!”
“Okay! And by ‘get up,’ I assume you mean ‘work my black magic,’ which is already underway!”
“Chickadee, get dressed right now!”
“Okay! I am dressing myself in a cloak of Satan’s Spirit, and soon I shall drink your blood in triumph.”
“Chickadee, I mean it, get your butt into the bathroom this instant!!”
“Okay! The bathroom would be an excellent place to suck out your soul. I’ll be right there!”

That one had its appeal, but the bus has come and gone and I’m still alive. Moreover, I’ve found a variety of questionable items in her room, but no voodoo dolls or eye of newt or pentagrams, so probably I’m safe. For now.

Then I realized I’d been overlooking the obvious. She wasn’t saying okay, she was saying OK. So all I need to do is decipher the abbreviations!

“Chickadee, it’s time to get up!”
Oh Kiss (my ass)!”
“Chickadee, get dressed right now!”
Overly Kooky (mother, you make me laugh)!”
“Chickadee, I mean it, get your butt into the bathroom this instant!!”
Only Knights (could drag me from my bed).”

I’m still struggling with the translation, but I think I’m getting closer.

For some reason, after about the third time my head rotated a full 360 this morning, Chickadee felt it necessary to tell me that “today I am not going to bite my nails or grab my crotch at all!” And because I love her and believe in her and was so impressed by her commitment to modifying her behavior, I decided to reinforce her decision with the deepest care and support that I could muster.

“Okay, honey.”


  1. alektra

    Good luck. You are a trooper.

  2. Ben

    This is such a relief!

    I thought my kids were the only ones to play this game.

  3. Kristie

    Ha!! You crack me up!

    At least you get an “okay” out of yours. Mine just faces the wall. If she cannot see me, I must not be there, right?

  4. Peek

    Wait until they get older, as my step-sons are and “okay” is generally the response when Dad tells them to make sure they are studying. It’s the general blow-off to get him off the phone, as yours was to get you off her butt!

  5. coolbeans

    You know, in my house, I’m pretty sure that “OK” is really “FU”.

  6. Colleen

    ROFL! I think she and my daughter were separated at birth perhaps?

  7. jilbur

    “okay” simply means “magic phrase to utter when I want mommy to shut up.” there is, after all, no response to make to it. Elegant–brilliant–n’est-ce pas?

  8. Kym

    So did he call? :)

    Slap me. It’s ok.

    Dinara does the same thing. Was she separated at birth from ChickaDee?

    Is this considered passive behavior? Cause I’m thinking we are gonna be wishin’ for this when they are 14 and passive is traded in for mouthy.

  9. Carrie

    I probably shouldn’t say this here for fear of awaking my poor mother’s spirit and causing her head to turn a full 360 days (not that she’s dead, just on the other coast), but I used to do the EXACT same thing. It was just easier to agree than to argue. In fact, I still do it at times at work. I’ll agree with whatever insanity the department came up with (when I actually had a real job) and then do whatever I wanted. I guess I wasn’t much of a team player. I really hope Chickadee survives her childhood!

  10. Amy

    I won’t allow my kids to say “ok” anymore. I cruelly force them to say “yes, ma’am” instead. This does not improve their cooperation level ONE IOTA but it sounds pretty! And I take what I can get! :)

  11. Betsy

    Oh, I am so familiar with this. I’m even as we speak, experiencing this with Drama Mama, who will not stay in bed and settle down and go to sleep. Whenever I say anything to her, I hear, of course, ‘okay’ -and then I hear her little footsteps in the kitchen.

    Because, of course, she is intent on doing the thing you’ve ordered her NOT to do for fifty zillion times already – only she can’t quite wrap her brain around the concept that if she wants it and you don’t want her to want it – YOU WIN!

    Sigh. Up to redirect her once again.

  12. Jenny

    It doesn’t sound too bad compared to my angels habit of whining incessantly and stomping ferociously through the house…. It’s at times like these that I could easily choke her. If she weren’t so damn cute.

  13. Karen

    Oh my. This is what I have to look forward to, eh?


  14. Angie

    So, there is another 33 year old, overeducated and underappreciated mother of two out there… It’s good to knkow. I play the OK game with my son every morning. =o( He is presently awake (it’s 11:07) because he suddenly woke and and remembered something he needed to tell on his sister for… *sigh*

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