A friend recently sent me an article from the June 29, 2013 Boston Globe about a New Hampshire woman who was accused of forcing her two young children to drink bleach. He knew my story (as do most of my friends) and sent it to me so we could reminisce about the good old days. He couldn’t believe I had yet to write about the bleach incident. I couldn’t believe it either. I have never stayed away from writing blogs about my unique parenting of either the kids or the dog. It must have been an oversight, and I suppose it’s time to come clean.
We were a family of early adopters when it came to new technology and gadgets. We also got a little too excited by “As Seen on TV” products. We bought the Cello Sealer, the Slice O Matic and Orange Clean. So when my son found the SodaStream on line about eight years ago, well before it became a must-have device in suburban kitchens, we did not hesitate. I was sick of carrying bottles of Poland Springs from the grocery store, and the thought of a personal carbonator brought back fond memories of dinners out at Pumpernicks with my grandparents in Miami Beach, where a thick, blue bottled carbonator was a fixture at every table .
We loved our SodaStream. The way we showed it off, we actually might have been partially responsible for most of the early sales (though I have a feeling they won’t be looking to give us a commission after this article). Our household went through a lot of fizzy water. We loved the noise of the gas being forced into the container. We loved the convenience of not carrying bottles from the grocery. We loved that we were being earth friendly. We even ordered extra bottles so we could keep a few filled with cold water in the refrigerator, ready to be pumped up and fizzed fresh. Everything was going so well (much better than the Cello Sealer).
It was out of character that I noticed that the SodaStream bottles were getting a little gross, and that I set off to disinfect them, according to manufacturer’s instructions, with water and bleach. I have never been the tidy one in the house. Mike is the one who knows where everything is, who fluffs the pillows and the cushions, who complains about my piles, who notices the dirt. But this time it was me. I lined six SodaStream bottles up in the mudroom sink, filled them up about a quarter of the way with bleach, the rest with warm water. I put the caps on the bottles, and let them soak overnight. Or maybe I left them in the sink for a day or two. I choose not to remember.
I never noticed that the bottles were gone from the sink. I never gave them a second thought. But Mike saw filled water bottles with caps on them out of place in the mudroom when they belonged in the refrigerator, and he did his thing. It did not cross his mind that I would have initiated a cleaning project.
The call came on my cell phone: “Mom, I think I drank bleach!” Eddie croaked, his throat parched. As soon as he said it, I knew what happened. He had come home from school, made a B-line for the fridge and chugged the bleach water right from the bottle. Sure it smelled a little funny, but the smell didn’t register until he had gulped about half a bottle (once again proving the teenage brain is not fully developed).
Poison control, the ambulance, the emergency room. See what can happen when you let your family members drink from the bottle? It is not a lot of fun to be told by an EMT (incorrectly), “Lady, your son could die,” and have to explain that to your spouse on the cell as you are rushing to the closest hospital. Turns out, you don’t really hurt yourself by drinking a little bleach water, but I don’t advise it–it may cause a severe aversion to laundry.
The hospital interviewed my son privately to ask if his parents had forced him to drink bleach, if he had drunk bleach on purpose (to get away from his parents), or to find out if there was any deeper meaning to his drinking bleach. When they realized the kid was just about the happiest kid on the planet and his parents were just stupid, they let us all go home.
I blame my husband for the incident, and he blames me, but we are able to do so with a smile, because everything turned out ok. Our son survived and thrived, graduated college, eventually moved out of the house and is happily managing on his own (though laundry is not his forte).
We know that no no one was really at fault here, that sometimes a series of horrible miscommunications ends up in a disaster. But I often think about the blame game, and whether Mike and I could ever have gotten over this incident if things had not turned out so well. We were just plain old lucky I didn’t clean the bottles with Drano.