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The power of dish soap

From the Farm

September 9, 2011
By Kerry Hoffman ( , The Journal

There I was, standing in the aisle at Hy-Vee, inhaling the aroma from a dish soap bottle like it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I squeezed the 16-ounce, flower-labeled bottle to release the aroma into the air.

I believe I squeezed it at least 27 times.

Article Photos

Kerry Hoffman

Had I known the scent would make me feel better, I would have been standing in the dish-soap aisle a long time ago.

As I took in several deep breaths, I finally realized what a complete dope I must look like. I smiled, giggled at myself and put the bottle of soap into my cart. I wasn't going to pass on soap that makes me giggle.

Why I hadn't noticed the affect of the soap earlier is beyond me. I always smell dish soap before I purchase a colorful bottle.

Some days, if there were an associated smell for my emotions, I am sure I would put a bottle of soap that smells like crap in my cart.

We can't be happy all the time.

You see, last night I went to bed feeling like the worst mother in the world. I felt more evil than Joan Crawford standing in the doorway with a hanger in her hand in the movie "Mommie Dearest."

More diabolical than Cruella de Vil imagining a coat designed from 101 Dalmatian puppies.

More evil than Sharon Stone's character in Basic Instinct - now that's evil. I have never, ever felt like boiling a pet rabbit. Although, I must confess I did think about making African goose stew several years ago.

The whole reason for senselessly sniffing the dish soap had everything to do with being a mother of two young boys.

How come nobody told me it was going to be this difficult.

It doesn't really matter what our boys did, or didn't do, that made me appreciate the soap, but they were naughty. What matters is that I had to dig down deep in my gut to come up with a consequence that was befitting the problem created.

Yes, I did holler at our boys. I frequently do when they deserve it. There's no gentle-negotiating during problem solving around here when more secure consequences are needed.

I took away the computer, X-Box and worst of all, no more staying up later than Steve and I. (That's really not that late, considering we go to bed at 8:30 p.m.)

Later, as I lay in bed thinking about my day, I felt like I was totally screwing up our boys. I felt like I was condemning them to a life behind bars. I was, after all, convinced that they were absolutely positive I was the winner of the "Worlds' Worst Mother Award."

"My mom is so mean she takes away the computer!"

It's hard to be a parent. It's hard to stick to our guns when dishing out a punishment. No matter how far that lower lip sticks out or how fast the tears run, we need to stick to the consequences.

It's hard to keep convincing ourselves that, in the long run, our children will turn out to be better people because of the emotional roller coaster we put them through as children. It's not the steepest roller coaster in the world, but it sure goes up and down a bunch.

Later, when Russell came in to give me a good-night hug, we could still sense the stress in each other.

He asked me what was still bothering me.

"You know, I never learned how to be a good mom, and sometimes I just feel like I am totally screwing up. I feel like I am turning you into bad little men."

Russell didn't say a word. He remained lying on my chest and looked at me.

He had tears in his eyes again.

"I'm so sorry," I said.

"I'm sorry too," he said. "I love you."

It was like I breathed in a full breath of Dawn soothing purple dish soap.

The next morning, as I stood over the sink full of dirty dishes, the smell of the pure-white bubbling dish soap put a smile on my face and a pulled giggle from my heart.

That dish soap has a special place in my cupboard, for special occasions.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at



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