Forget ma-ma and da-da.
Small kids who just get a handle on speaking love the word Okay. This tiny word is easy to say and makes kids feel big. Early on, parents prompt their kids in how to use it.
Parent: We’re going inside to eat lunch. Okay?
Parent: When this show is over, it’s time for bed. Okay?
As kids grow older, the world becomes a little more complex. But, like a favorite toy or stuffed animal, Okay remains the comfortable go-to word.
Parent: Kitty doesn’t like getting in the bathtub, okay?
Like a craftsman, with repetition, a child refines their Okay-artistry; giving it many colors and flavors.
When said with a rushed, low monotone and a long Y-sound, they create annoyed indifference.
Parent: Can you turn the lights off when you’re done?
Some Okays have a “my-game-isn’t-over-and-you-are-ruining-my-score” feel to them.
Parent: Your homework needs to be done before you go out to play.
Kid: . . . okay . . . (Said blankly, as if their avatar were speaking.)
It’s not until the teenage years, though, that Okay officially qualifies as a multipurpose language. Identifying subtleties and phrasing is crucial in understanding the teenager’s true intent.
The Abbreviated Okay:
Parent: Can you take your backpack upstairs?
True meaning: I will forget whatever you just said as soon as I leave the area in question.
The Repeaters Okay:
Parent: You said you would empty the dishwasher.
Kid: Okay, okay!
True meaning: I didn’t think you really thought I meant it when I said okay, but OK!
The Clipped-Off Okay:
Parent: I asked you to turn the TV off.
True meaning: Stop! How can I ignore you, if you keep talking to me?
The Fully-Loaded Okay:
Body language is essential here: they scrooble the eyebrows, slowly shake the head, and put heavy emphasis on the question mark. Warning to users: depending on the parent, this can have risks.
Parent: You need to be home by 10 o’clock.
True meaning: Why must I share this planet with you?
Eventually, Okay becomes such a deeply engrained response that saying it precedes the actual thought process. These cases are easy to identify, however, because the teenager quickly calls a time out.
Parent: Can you help me wash the car this weekend?
Kid: Okay. Wait. No, wait. Okay . . . wait.
Truly accomplished OK-ers create a new word by combining it with a follow-up phrase.
Hearing that, you understand that the agreement will never happen, but as a busy parent you let it go because you really don’t have time for the whole homicide-investigation-thing.
Sorry – got to go. More later. Okay?