” Only I didn’t say ‘Fudge’. I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the ‘F-dash-dash-dash’ word!” This scene from a christmas classic, A Christmas Story, is funny to laugh at now, but was not so funny to a child in the 40’s. As the movie demonstrates, an explicative once earned you a date with a bar of soap. The connection is not hard to draw; If you curse, then you have a dirty mouth. Dirty mouths, like anything else dirty, must be washed with soap. Ralphie, like I’m sure many other children of older America, got well acquainted with bars across the board. “Over the years I got to be quite a connossieur of soap. Though my personal preference was for Lux, I found that Palmolive had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor – heavy, but with a touch of mellow smoothness. Life Buoy, on the other hand … Yuk!”
The scene from A Christmas Story was not out of the usual, and though it is not a method commonly used today, it did not spark a nation-wide controversy. However, a recent video in the news has us looking back to Ralphie and reevaluating what exactly is the thin line between discipline and child abuse.
A mother in Anchorage, Alaska has modified the old soap in the mouth method to a matter that is quite a bit more burning. First shown on Dr. Phil, and now available on YouTube, Jessica Beagley is taped by another one of her children, pouring hot sauce into her son’s mouth and forcing him to hold it. Although she argues this is no difference than washing a child’s mouth out with soap, many others disagree. Among those are municipal prosecutor Cynthia Franklin, who is charging Beagley with child abuse. In addition to the hot sauce, Beagely also forces her son into cold showers, which is not covered as unreasonable discipline. Hot sauce, on the other hand, falls under scalding and burning which is considered unreasonable discipline. I’d say so.
While the mother argues that the punishment is on the same level as soap, her lawyer argues that there would be no case if the tape had not shown on Dr. Phil. News flash: National television does that sometimes. The whole case seems to be at a moot point. The tape was shown, authorities got involved, and charges are being pressed. I’m sure there are a great deal of mothers standing behind Sarah Palin’s neighbor, but I can’t imagine a single situation, not involving a game of truth or dare, that could merit hot sauce.
To add more to the story, the mother is being investigated by Russian authorities as well, as she and her husband adopted their son featured in the video and his twin brother from Russia when the boys were five. Way to earn respect for the U.S. from all the other countries that already think we’re worthless. And another twist in the story, Beagley’s husband, Gary Beagley, is a police officer in Anchorage. As a fellow Wife Behind the Badge, I’m ashamed.
Generally, I have more sarcastic side-notes to offer. But tonight as I stare at the mother’s plea, not guilty, I don’t have much to offer. And maybe within the next week, I’ll have to listen to my husband talk about responding to a call of child abuse. As much as it breaks my heart, I can’t fix it.