(Smile) Like You Mean It

Attention Webster’s, we have a new “bad” word up for review. Please update your definition accordingly; file it under synonyms for “nonsense” and also under discourse related to “I’m sorry.” This word has recently been banned from my house; well, at least from the standard set of replies held within the vocabulary range of my children anyway. It is a new form of profanity, born of hypocrisy and indicative of a vague awareness coupled with a non-committal agreement of terms.

What is the word? Considering my arsenal of profanic expressions it’s safe to assume it’s not an actual “bad” word. Good call, on your list of things to do today you can already check off “make reasonable deductions and draw logical conclusions.” Phew. Hard work.  The word, drumroll please. . . is


Bluck. Add that word to the list of things with which I have a negative association and to which I am working on my response.

Why? I mean, isn’t that a fairly universal word with majoritively positive associations and connotations? Sure. Sure it is. Or. . .  not.

What does “okay” really mean? In my house (and life), apparently, it means very little. To help you understand this, consider the following exchanges

Exhibit A:

8:15 a.m.

Me to Rory, my 5 (almost 6) year old son: “Rory, please get dressed.”

Rory: “Okay.”

8:20 a.m. 

Me to Rory, who has his pajama shirt off and sprawled across the bedroom floor. . . just like he is:

I asked you to get dressed. Get off the floor please.”

Rory: “Okay.

8:25 a.m.

Me to Rory, who is now fully engaged in his favorite morning activity of . . . naked lego time. Pajamas are crumpled up on the floor, underpants and all. Captain Distracted is busy engineering new modes of linking block transportation):  “Rory. GET.DRESSED.NOW.Please.”

Rory: “Okay.”

8:30 a.m.

Me to Rory, who is now wearing pants and a stocking hat, but no shirt, socks or shoes, working the Jersey shore (winter edition) apparently: “Seriously kid. We are leaving this house in five minutes. PUTYOURCLOTHESONRIGHTNOW.

Rory: “Okay.”

8:34 a.m.

Me, standing arms crossed, staring down Rory, who is, still shirtless, and looking up guiltily from the pile of legos at his feet: “We are walking out of the house little boy – 60 seconds.

Rory: Silence. no movement. Avoiding eye contact. Long dramatic pause . . . “Okay.

Exhibit B:

Me to Madison, my eight year old, who is reading on the floor: “Maddi, please put your book away and make your bed.

Madison: “Okay

5 minutes later

Me to Madison, who is still reading and also still on the floor “Madison. Bed. Make it please.”

Madison: “Okay, sorry

5 minutes later

Me to Madison, who is still reading but has moved from the floor to the ladder of her bunk bed “Madison. Put the book down and make your bed please.”

Madison: “Okay

3 minutes later

Me to Madison, who is now engaged in literary bliss under the covers of the bed fort she has managed to create with one hand. “Madison. I think it will work better if you aren’t IN the bed while you make it. It might also help if you PUTTHEBOOKDOWN.”

Madison: “Okay. Sorry

1 minute later

Me, standing in the doorway, arms crossed (this is my favorite place in the house, apparently) to Madison, who has the book down . . . on her pillow with her butt up in the air as she reads it, child’s pose style. “Mad-i-son. Please give me the book. We are not doing yoga reading right now. Make your bed.

Madison: “Okay. Sorry Mommy

Exhibit C:

Madison and Rory to me, who is currently seated in the cockpit of Air Traffic Control (yeah, so, my kitchen table), finishing a keynote presentation for my lecture the next morning “Mom, we are ready for our story now.

Me: “Okay

5 minutes later

Madison and Rory to me, who is still at the table, still typing, and still not done with that presentation : “Mom, we have our book picked out . . .

Me: “Okay

8 minutes later

Madison and Rory to me, who looks remarkably exactly the same as she did five minutes ago, ass still glued to the dining chair, fingers still in rapid fire mode: “Mom. . . are you um. . .  going to read to us tonight?

Me: “Okay

5 seconds after that

Me: “Wait, what? Am I going to read? Yeah. Okay. Just a second.

10 minutes later

Madison and Rory to each other (not to me because I am . . . yep, still at the table, three slides closer to being done with the presentation but light years away from wanting to stop working and spin yarns about the Gingerbread Baby and his friends): “pew, pew pew. Rat-atat-tat-tat-tat. Boom! Crash! In-COMING!”

Me, head snapping up in response to the battle noises: “Hey you guys. Why are you playing legos? It’s storytime. Aren’t you supposed to be on the couch waiting for me?”

Kids: “Okay

If you haven’t already done so, please insert guilty face picture of me here. The one that realizes she has failed, for the present moment, in at least the following:

1- Time management of workload and mom duties

2- Following through

3- Matching words with action

(oh, and 4- getting my kids to be a little speedier on the whole point A (directions) to point B (task completion) deal. That stands to benefit from a little effort as well).

So, what’s the moral of this story? Other than providing comedic relief and hopefully making you all feel slightly more human and a whole lot more put together by comparison, the point is, that your mom/teacher/grandma/pastor/neighbor/coach/friend was right- actions speak louder than words.

I’m gonna bust out a little tough love right now. Fair warning. It’s that kind of Tuesday and I’m feeling like it’s time to drop it on you (and me). Sidenote –  I’m well aware that once I do this, the universe is going to go ahead and put this lesson on a repeat track, Billboard Top 40 style. #canthardlywait

Basically, “sorry” doesn’t mean shit and neither does “okay.” That’s a bunch of bull, at least at face value anyway. What does matter are your behaviors. Showing sorry. Showing understanding.  Doing what you say you’re going to do. If you say “okay,” then some forward motion in correspondence is appreciated. It you are sorry, then stop doing the thing that caused the pain or problem. Words only mean something when backed by action. No action, no trust. No trust, no relationship, on any level, with anyone.

Saying “sorry” doesn’t dismiss what you did. Your remorse is of little interest or consequence to others sans modification in conduct. A response of “okay” does not indicate a shift in activity. Don’t waste your (and others) time and energy saying you agree if you don’t actually plan to do anything; just be honest.

For kids, simply teaching them a different response pattern is beneficial. Don’t end your own requests to them with “okay” either- that indicates that you are asking their permission- and you’re not. Rather than having them give a blanket “uh, huh,” “okay,” or “yeah,” try “do you understand?” or have them restate back to you what they are going to do. Then follow through and make sure they do it. Note to self- refer to this paragraph, often.

For adults and as the role model in this situation- don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. For example, if you don’t agree with someone perhaps you could say something like “I see,” “interesting point,” or “that’s nice.”  If you did something you know was wrong and/or don’t intend to actually make amendments or prevent yourself from repeating it because, well, the ROI at this point just isn’t “worth it” to you, then why apologize? What are you actually sorry for? Try acknowledging what you did/said/created, without making an exception, and with total culpability. Darling, just fucking own it.

Gulp. Sounds a little scary doesn’t it? But it’s actually quite freeing, true story people. Wouldn’t you rather be clear about what you do and don’t intend to do than to overcommit, overpromise and underdeliver? I know I would.

Thus in summary, if I may be so blunt,  life is full of opportunities to rationalize, make excuses and justify your behavior. So what? Knock that shit off, quit apologizing for yourself and the handling of your transactions and do something different already. Or don’t. It’s your choice and the consequences are yours to manage. Either change your behavior or change your vocabulary,  okay?

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One thought on “(Smile) Like You Mean It

  1. kd says:

    I’ll never forget when our girls were about three (maybe) and yours said… “No-kay”, and how we thought that was so funny, and where did that come from, and how could a pre-schooler be so whitty??? Now… It isn’t so funny, huh?! Now that they’re eight, and sassy, and rascally. 🙂 Love reading your posts!

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