It all comes back to A Christmas Story, if you want to know the truth. It's possible that within A Christmas Story lies the answers to the meaning of life, the Universe, and everything, but at the very least, it is the mile marker on the Highway of Life that I use to locate my position in the cosmos.
At different times, I have experienced almost everything that happens in that movie except for getting to see first-hand the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window. I have lived the life of almost every character in that movie except for maybe Scut Farkus (and then I can't say with any degree of certainty that I've never been a bully in one way or another). I have been disappointed by mail-order decoder rings; and I've laid in the snow like a slug, that being my only defense; and I'm sure as hell that in the heat of battle I have woven a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging out in space.
So I've been Ralphie (still am, most of the time), and I've been The Old Man (still am, some of the time), and I've been Randy (still am, when it suits me) -- I've even been Flick with my tongue stuck to the metaphorical flagpole more times than it is probably dignified to admit to, but there you go -- and now I've gone for the superfecta by becoming Mrs. Parker and giving my kid soap poisoning.
Yes, that's right: I had to wash my kid's mouth out with soap.
I am not particularly proud of this particular bit of discipline, but it is what it is. Definitely not my proudest moment as a parent. The good news is that it wasn't because of cussing, at least not yet -- I'll have to cross that particular Bridge Too Far when we get there, I suppose. But in a way, this issue was worse, because it turns out that one of the multitude of bad habits that my kid has picked up from her friends in school is spitting when she gets angry.
Not the "good" kind of spitting, either. This is not the spitting for distance and accuracy that my friend the former Marine taught me how to do when I graduated from high school, being able to spit an empty Coke can off a picnic bench at 50 paces, the kind that ended up landing me a part in West Side Story when I was in college. This is nasty, feral-llama type spitting, and I absolutely won't stand for it. To me, spitting on someone is the most disrespectful thing you can possibly do, a Jerry-Springer-style dis, dirtier even than uttering the F-dash-dash-dash word. It's gross and filthy and Not Allowed, not ever.
I warned her, of course. When I last got a report of this behavior from her teacher, I told her that the next time it happened, I was going to wash her mouth out with soap. I even threatened to go out and buy a bar of Lifebuoy especially for the occasion, because there is no sense in doing punishment if it's going to be half-assed. I almost didn't make it through, when the school's director heard me referencing A Christmas Story and barely suppressed her laughter. But that was weeks ago, and it hadn't happened again, until Tuesday.
In the heat of the moment, I had to go with Dove Gentle Exfoliating, because that's what we had in the house. I told her: don't bite down, and don't lick the soap, and you'll be okay, but it would be gross, and anway, I said this would happen, and so this was what I had to do. She cried and fought and whipped herself into a right frenzy, as you might have expected. But she was a trooper, and she did her time (ten seconds, and it will go up by ten seconds every time we have to do it again, which I hope it never does), and I really want to believe that she has been rehabilitated, although I suppose we'll see, won't we? Even Ralphie became quite a connoisseur of soap, didn't he?
And, just like Mrs. Parker, I did take a taste afterwards. Soap is ... not tasty. So I hope we never need to do this again.