Me: Wash your hands, please.
Me: Because they're dirty.
Ally: But why? Why are they dirty?
Me: Probably because you've been picking up acorns, petting the dog, playing in the mulch at school, eaten spaghetti with your fingers, and you just went to the potty.
Me (pausing to consider any number of explanations I could use here to explain why we wash our hands when they're dirty, but then I cop out with the eternal answer): Because I said so, that's why.
The "Why?" questions are perfectly normal for a bright toddler who is 1) inquisitive about her world, and 2) always on the lookout for a new stalling technique. Unfortunately, Ally would rather ask someone else "Why?" than have someone ask her the same question. Last week I packed a couple of frozen fish sticks in her lunch, thinking it would be a change of pace from the repetitive cycle of frozen chicken nuggets/cheese sticks/hard boiled eggs/yogurt that we seem to have locked ourselves into lately. (Ally will not eat a sandwich for lunch at her daycare center, but I'll save this topic for another post at another time.) That night I noticed that her teacher wrote "Would not eat fish sticks" on Ally's daily report sheet.
Me: Ally, I thought you liked the fish sticks.
Ally (cheerfully): I do. I do like fish sticks!
Me: Why didn't you eat them at lunch today?
Ally: I did eat them.
Me: You ate the fish sticks at lunch today? Your report sheet says you didn't eat them.
Ally (looking at her shoes): Uh huh.
Me: Do you like the fish sticks?
Me: But why didn't you eat them at lunch today?
Ally: But I didn't eat them today.
Me: I know you didn't. Why don't you like them?
Ally: But I didn't eat them.
Me: Yes, honey, I know you didn't eat them. Why didn't you eat them?
Ally (looking at me innocently): Because I didn't eat them!
I gave up on the conversation as soon as I realized we'd gone into some sort of "Yes, we have no bananas today" routine. In college I had an instructor who went off on a 30 minute rant about the evils of circular logic in lecture one day. Apparently our class did not do as well on his midterm as he had expected and by the end of the class period he was nearly pleading us to use our brain cells in a linear, logical manner. Now, thanks to Ally and the fish sticks, I truly recognize the frustration he must have felt while grading those exams. I could have told Ally "Not eating the fish sticks is not an answer, you're just repeating my question!", but I simply didn't want to hear her ask "Why?" in return.