Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Soap, It's Not Just for Washing

My mother called me the other day to tell me that she really enjoyed the blog Things a Mama Says, but according to her I left off one big saying, "If I hear you say that again I'm gonna wash your mouth out with soap!"

I'm sure she resorted to this threat on occasion but don't recall her ever actually doing it. Andrew on the other hand can't make that claim - more on that later.

What prompted this input from Mom was my use of the "F" word in another blog. NO! Not that "F" word, even I have standards. No, I used the word


"fart," well to be precise, I actually said "brain-fart" but to her a fart is a fart is a fart. Oh my, I'm really going to get into trouble now!

For some reason Mother really finds this word extremely offensive. I tried to explain to her that it was just a silly word and I could have said a whole lot worse but she was having none of it. In fact, I think she actually threatened me with the soap again.  I guess now that I have used it five more times here I'm really in BIG trouble. On the plus side she lives too far away to follow through with her threat and even then I'm bigger, younger, and can run faster, so for now I think I'm safe.

I still don't have a problem with the word 
fart, but for those of you that do I apologize for burning your eyes. I would say that from now on I will refrain from its usage but ya know, I just can't make the promise 'cause it's really a grand word! How 'bout we make up a code word, something like FOOT, and then anytime I use my "f" word, you can substitute and read it as FOOT.

Let's try it out. I type "today I went to Kroger and couldn't remember what I went for, a complete brain-fart moment." And you read it as "today I went to Kroger and couldn't remember what I went for, a complete brain-foot moment." Now see, wasn't that easy?

Now that that's been cleared up let's back up and discuss the threat of washing one's mouth out with soap. Chances are if you're from my generation this was a threat you heard once or twice in your childhood. We were born back in the day when it was perfectly acceptable to threaten your child with bodily harm and no one batted an eye. Do it today and you might find yourself being reported to DFACS.

When it came to my own children I may have actually used this threat once or twice.

Ok, I confess - I did use this threat. But it was a last resort - promise! Here's the deal. Somewhere along the way Andrew gave somewhat objectionable names to people who frustrated him. Examples can be found in Dale's Kid's Journal entries:
8/23/1993 - Andrew's favorite derrogatory term: "Capper-dee-dee" as in "stop it you capper-dee-dee" 
We really have no idea where he came up with this one but it wasn't too bad, just a two-year-old trying to express himself. However, a month later things had gotten a little more personal
9/27/1993 Andrew's current favorite words are "pee-pee head" and "idiot" 
and then this
4-11-1994 I (Dale) took the boys to McDonalds last Saturday. On the playground a little boy was trying to climp onto one of the hamburgers that Andrew was on. He said, "Get down you little idiot!"
So, seven months later it was apparent that he had a favorite insult. Now, I would be remiss if I didn't own up that he learned the word "idiot" from me. I really didn't realize how often I used it until it started coming back at me. At the time we spent a fair amount of time in the car, driving too and from the daycare, and evidently I used the term frequently when referring to my fellow drivers. After several embarrassing moments caused by my precocious two-year-old insulting perfect strangers I learned pretty quick that (a) I needed to clean up my act and (b) it was time to bring out the old "I'm going to wash your mouth out with soap if you say that again."

It was also at this same time we were also dealing with another two-year-old problem. Whoever coined the phrase Terrible Twos sure knew what we were dealing with!

Andrew was in a classroom of five same-aged toddlers and apparently all of them had the propensity to BITE their fellow classmates. 
Every day when I picked him up it was the same story "today Andrew had to do timeout for biting" but then they'd go on to say "he wasn't the only one, they're all biting each other!" It was obvious that Ms Judy was frustrated and so were we because once we got him home whenever he got the chance he continued to play Hannibal Lechter on his brother and his parents!

I refused to try the common remedy of having the injured party return the bite. As a young child my aunt forced me to bite my month-older cousin Ricky. While I've long since forgotten the exact circumstances of the bite I'll never forget being severally grossed out and traumatized by the whole incident and swore I'd never resort to in with my own children. Desperate for a solution we turned to our pediatrician for suggestions on how to handle it. His answer, "he's biting out of frustration that he doesn't know how to handle whatever is going on. If he wants to bite, let him .... but have him bite a bar of soap."

Yes, you heard that right. My pediatrician recommended having my two-year old bite a bar of soap. While somewhat shocked we decided it was worth a try. At this point he was calling everyone idiot and biting anyone who crossed him. We figured if someone reported us we would plead insanity from being in parental distress due to a tyrannical toddler. At this point, what did we have to lose (other than our children and personal freedom)?

We decided it would be best to try the punishment at home before mentioning it to his teacher. It was a weekend and it didn't take long before our two kids got into a ruckus. Big brother was in tears because little brother had clamped down on his hand. We took Andrew aside and for the umpteenth time went through the old "biting is wrong, don't do it" spiel and then we added "if you bite brother again you're going to have to bite a bar of soap too." Then we pulled out a clean bar of soap and showed it to him. We let him touch and smell it and once again said "if you bite your brother you also have to bite the bar of soap."

Now for some kids just the smell of the soap alone would deter them from further offenses. Not our Andrew. Even at an early age he was always pushing the limits to see just how far he could go and he wasn't about to let a little threat of soap stop him from tormenting his brother. It wasn't too much longer before Ian was once again in tears from a bite on the arm.

Out came the soap.

At this point Andrew knew we meant business and commenced to screaming and kicking, fighting off the evil parents. What he didn't count on was the fact that once he started screaming it created the perfect opportunity to pop in a bar of soap in his mouth. Followed with a quick but gentle application of pressure to the chin and we were insured of a contact between teeth and soap.

I can't begin to describe the look on the child's face ... a mix of disbelief and disgust, followed by lots of spitting, wails for water, and giant alligator tears. (I can't believe I'm admitting all this on the internet. Do you think the statue of limitations has run out for being reported for child abuse? Do you think Andrew might follow up with his own version of Mommy Dearest?). But you know what? It proved quite effective! I'm not saying that he immediately stopped biting but he tapered off pretty quick.

Every morning we would remind him that biting people led to biting soap, and he would shudder and remember. We also moved him up to the three-year old room, partially to get him away from the other vampires but we also felt interaction with older kids might help curtail the biting. Whichever it was, we finally crossed over from the biting stage and we all lived to tell the tale.

I also have to tell you that the whole process had a profound affect on big brother. While Ian never had to bite the soap for biting we did alter the threat and use "if you talk like that I'm gonna make you bite soap" on him and his brother in their 'formative' years. Traumatized by witnessing his brother's ordeal it was enough to keep his language acceptable and as for Andrew, well .... it worked for him too.

Don't get me wrong. I know my children aren't angels and freely admit that throughout the years we've had some gnashing of teeth as they've grown and tested the waters. But overall they were good boys, who've grown into good men, who make their mama proud.

And, as far as I know neither uses bad words and the biting has definitely stopped.


  1. Many thoughts on this...(ok I have a lot of thoughts on a lot of stuff but I digress.)

    #1. My brother did some biting for awhile (I think it's a boy thing) I believe it stopped after mom bit him back. I think he bit me, mom bit him. It seemed to work.

    #2. I think we each had to do the soap in the mouth thing at least once but not too many times.

    #3. My mother also doesn't really like the word fart or crap or anything like that but I do notice as she has gotten older her language has gotten saltier and even she will occasionally say crap or c___.

    #4. I'd like to use "pee pee head" to describe some people I know...

  2. I'm a little bit behind on my blog reading, Sherri, but this post is priceless. My question is how do you get away with this? My kids would KILL me if I revealed any of the dirty little secrets from their childhoods... ;-)

  3. Oh, and I agree with Queen of Dishes, and am considering adding "pee pee head" to my working vocabulary. Not when I am with my piano students, of course.

  4. @Pam - the boys have given up, they know nothing is sacred with me :)

    @Janet - no Beth says crap!

    and, it's unanimous, "pee pee head" is the best insult from here on out!