Either “OK” or “Thank You”

My five-year-old can’t stop saying the f-word.

It just happened. I didn’t teach it to her. Her mom didn’t either. But again and again—and every Saturday without fail—she wants to know, in a voice tinged with concern, “What are we going to do today for fun?”

Kids have a corner on the market of fun, you know. It’s basically enigmatic to most adults. Perhaps the new definition should go something like this: fun [fuhn]: noun; an esoteric concept, embedded deep in the mind of a child, which they cannot adequately communicate.

As a dad, I consider myself both an advocate and agent of my children’s happiness. I want them to be happy, and I want to lead them in things that are, well, fun (whatever that is). But the problem is that, at least lately, I’ve not hit the target. Sub-par activities are greeted with grumbling, and the actual “fun” activities are brushed off with entitlement—all of which has led to a new rule in our house:

  • when you hear instructions you don’t like, you respond, “OK.”
  • when you hear instructions you do like, you respond, “Thank you.”

Those are really the only two options.

You can ask questions later. I’m good with questions. No issue there. But for the first response, it’s either “OK” or “thank you.” Counter-offers are not accepted. We don’t do negotiations. It’s “OK” or it’s “thank you.” Capiche?

More Than Manners

There’s good reason for this. It’s not merely a matter of manners. The words mean less than the habit of the heart I hope is formed by their use—the habit of trust and gratitude. Those are the antidotes to grumbling and entitlement. We only grumble because we don’t trust the Providence of our circumstances (Exodus 16:7).

So behind “OK” is the wondrous resolve to accept reality not as chaotic happenstance, but as motions put in action by someone who loves me—by a dad who is both an advocate and agent of his children’s happiness. And then behind “thank you” is the eye-opening bewilderment that I have received good for which I have neither paid nor earned—good from a dad who, at his own cost, delights in the smile of his children. See, kids, it’s either “OK” or “thank you.” Don’t you get it? Don’t you know that I love you? Don’t you know we don’t have to do anything?

And then there’s that moment when, in the face of your disgruntled piglets, you see your own heart before God. Oh, Father. I get it. I see what you did there.

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Jonathan Parnell
Jonathan Parnell (@Jonathanparnell) is a content strategist at desiringGod.org. He and his wife, Melissa, live in the Twin Cities with their three children and counting. He grew up in a rural community just outside of Raleigh, NC and studied at The College of Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC and Bethlehem Seminary in Minneapolis. An aspiring pastor and writer, Jonathan hopes to plant a church in the Twin Cities and give his life to helping people see the glory of Jesus.