By now my mother is probably reaching for the phone to call me and suggest that we let Ally do her own thing for a set period of time and then just take the food away from her so she learns to eat at dinner or go hungry. That's perfectly sound advice, but I also dislike the inevitable meltdown at bedtime when Ally bursts into tears and pitifully announces that she's hungry. Reminding Ally that she wouldn't be hungry if she'd just eaten her dinner when we asked her to doesn't improve the situation. She's howling with indignation too loudly to hear me anyways.
Anyhoo, after Ally had gotten out of her chair to run around the table for the upteenth time in the middle of dinner last night, we threatened her with having to go to bed without watching any TV unless she got back in her seat immediately. Ally, standing beside her chair, tapped into all the theatrical drama she could muster in her soul and prostrated herself over the chair while cherubically saying in her sweet voice, "Oh dammit."
In the ensuing silence, I tried to keep a straight face by hiding behind my napkin while Steve looked like he wanted to slide under the table. Both Steve and I took a deep breath and asked Ally to get back into her chair, which she did. We then explained to her that this was not a nice thing to say and we didn't want to hear her say it again. Ally nodded solemnly and began to eat the rest of her dinner.
Steve then confessed that Ally's expanded vocabulary was a result of the trip to the dump that the two of them made yesterday afternoon. We take our trash down the road to the local solid waste disposal site. Apparently the lid to one of the trash cans on the trailer kept blowing off as they were driving. Steve would pull over on the side of the road, retrieve the lid and resecure it, only to lose it again a minute later. After the third time this happened, "dammit" had made an indelible mark in Ally's mind.
Steve and I have always made a point of not watching inappropriate television shows or movies in front of Ally so that she isn't unnecessarily exposed to swearing or mature subject matters. I've tried to temper my own vocabulary by using "frack" and "carp" instead of the more traditional swear words, but I'm no saint and there have been times that I've said something in front of Ally that I immediately regretted. She's heard more than I care to admit in songs on the radio, but at least we don't listen to songs with exploitative or violent content. Childhood is short enough, and I want to do all I can to keep her innocence before exposing her to the harsher aspects of life. I just hope to get her to her next birthday before we have to deal with jokes about boogers and farts.
I suppose this is right of passage for young children. I must confess that I did something similar when I was about her age. My dad and grandfather had taken me fishing with them and the tackle box was inadvertently lost over the side of the boat. As you might expect, a few choice words were said. Apparently I waited until we got home again before I started singing, "Dammit dammit dammit dammit!" all over the house for my mother and grandmother.
I'm not thrilled to hear my little girl swear, but I can't deny that I'm somewhat impressed with Ally's use of the words in an appropriate context rather than just parrot them like I did at her age. I'm glad we didn't react too strongly to Ally's little outburst, thereby making the words all that more attractive to her like the forbidden fruit. She's smart and observant and I suspect we'll be having some more in-depth discussions with her about age-appropriate behavior and vocabulary soon enough. But mostly I'm relieved that Ally got it from Steve, as I was dead certain that I would be the guilty party sooner or later.