The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Hey kids, don’t stick your tongues in there, m’kay?


As part of a new series we’ll call The Best of The Bearded Iris, the following is my most popular post of 2013 (originally published January 9, 2013). 

Happy New Year, friends. Stay warm today! 


Damn. Parenting is hard.

Every day is a veritable obstacle course of responsibilities and decisions.

And just when you feel like you’ve gotten one part of parenting down because nobody got a cavity this year or burned down the house with their new chemistry set, something else goes horribly wrong. It’s the Murphy’s Law of Parenting. 

Like that time I finally decided to let my baby “cry it out” for the first time, only to discover he had a raging fever.

Or the time I chose to purposely stretch out my toddler’s immunization schedule and as a result he contracted the worst case of Chicken Pox my pediatrician had seen in twenty years.

Let’s face it, you just can’t put your kid in a bubble and protect them from every danger out there.

But at least I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that my kids weren’t being exposed to BPA in their water bottles! That’s right, I finally plunked down the big bucks on fancy-schmancy stainless steel water bottles for all three of my children so they wouldn’t have to hydrate themselves with substandard plastic water bottles full of petrochemical-based carcinogens.

Only, the joke is on me, because according to the news recently, even those water bottles are putting my children at risk…of accidental death or dismemberment!

Can’t a mother get a break?

When water bottles kill by The Bearded Iris

No no, these stainless steel water bottles aren’t filled with radioactive isotopes or microorganisms that spontaneously combust.


Apparently our little darlings are sticking their tongues in those small-mouthed stainless steel bottles and their tongues are getting stuck, which can lead to tongue amputation or accidental suffocation.

Honest to Pete. I could not make it up if I tried.

Jeff Rossen of NBC’s Today Show did a special report about this very thing. And no, “it’s not a joke,” says Rossen.

The special report even included an animated graphic to help us fully comprehend the inherent danger of stainless steel water bottles:

Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 10.22.51 AM

Thanks, NBC.

No, that’s not a red Christmas bulb, or a ripened jalapeño pepper, or my dog’s red rocket stuck in that water bottle of doom; it’s little Mary Kate’s tongue and it is vacuum sealed into that metal sarcophagus tighter than I’m packed into my pre-holiday mom jeans right now. And due to the child’s swelling tongue, the vacuum effect, and the noose-like metal threading inside the bottle’s opening, there is no way to just yank out Junior’s tongue without causing severe, possibly even permanent damage to it.

Good God, y’all. Is nothing safe?

It took a team of emergency room doctors over three hours of high-risk surgery to remove Mary Kate’s tongue from her water bottle, and then she was in the ICU for three days. She’s fine today, thank God. But her warning to other kids? “Don’t thtick your tongue in there. Itth a really big rithk.”

I’m glad she’s okay. And I’m guessing her adorable lisp is just an age-related thing and not the result of trauma.

But all joking aside: what’s a parent to do?

I thought I was doing a pretty good job with most of my parenting. I’ve taught my kids about stranger danger and Good Touch/Bad Touch and washing hands after going to the bathroom. They know not to stick a fork in the toaster, or chalk up their nose, or chewed gum down their pants (anymore). They know how to dial 9-1-1, do the Heimlich, and avoid venomous caterpillars. But in all my thirteen years of parenting, I never once thought to tell my kids to not stick their tongues into their metal water bottles.

And you’d think it would have crossed my mind, particularly since Bucket Head went through that sniffing and licking phase a couple years back.

bucket head licks a piñata

(Bless his heart.)

Which has me thinking…

Maybe it’s time we all sat our kids down for a heart to heart about where they should not stick their tongues. Because clearly, unlike other instinctive things like breathing, blinking, and sticking black olives on all their fingers, human children clearly do not automatically know what they should and should not lick.

Most famous case in point:

50 Things Kids Shouldn't Lick by The Bearded Iris

Infamous scene from A Christmas Story.

Folks, you may want to print this list out and laminate it so you can refer to it often and help your young children memorize it.

Kids, never ever stick your tongues in, on, or near the following objects:

  1. metal water bottles
  2. soda can openings
  3. frozen lamp posts
  4. 9-volt batteries
  5. ceiling fans
  6. escalator treads
  7. closing elevator doors
  8. electric carving knives
  9. garbage disposals
  10. food processors
  11. belt sanders
  12. circular saws
  13. electrical outlets
  14. speed boat propellers
  15. vehicle exhaust pipes
  16. dog anuses
  17. bathtub drains
  18. swimming pool filtration holes
  19. garden hoses
  20. laundry vents
  21. the wiggling ‘flashlight’ your mom keeps in her nightstand drawer
  22. cars’ cigarette lighters
  23. culinary torches used for caramelizing flan
  24. the spiral binding on your school notebooks
  25. curling irons
  26. toilet plungers
  27. subway hand rails
  28. grocery cart handles or wheels
  29. fishing reels
  30. vacuum cleaner attachments
  31. DVD players
  32. handheld gaming devices
  33. your dad’s nose hair trimmer
  34. the rusty toilet auger hanging in the garage
  35. hermit crab shells
  36. welding equipment
  37. public restroom floors
  38. used feminine hygiene receptacles
  39. ATM machines
  40. bear traps
  41. electric cattle fences
  42. lawn mower blades
  43. weed whackers
  44. pottery wheels
  45. waffle irons
  46. drill presses
  47. firework displays
  48. petting zoo exhibits
  49. cigar cutters
  50. hypodermic needle collection bins

Just you wait, at the rate our society is heading, this list could make me famous in the medical community, like the Bristol Stool Chart of Children’s Tongue Preservation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my kids are in the driveway inventing new riding toys. Let’s hope I can persuade them to keep their tongues out of the wheels.

danger seeking kids at the bearded iris



  1. #21 really deserves its own separate public service announcement. The safest thing to do is to invest in a small safe to house it.

  2. I saw this segment on the Today Show too. I couldn’t believe it. Okay, yes I could. I was thinking about writing about it, but I was still reeling from Al Roker’s unfortunate visit to the White House. I’m glad I went with the Al story, because I couldn’t have said it better than you have here. Your list is for the ages. There’s gonna be a run on laminate, let me tell you. Dog anuses. HaHa. We have three dogs. That one is very helpful! 😉

  3. My son went through a phase where he licked ant hills…well, one day we went to visit my mom and my son started licking the ant hills at her house and she let out a scream of “NO!” The previous day she had put ant powder all over the driveway to get rid of all the ants. The following day, my son came down with a fever and I rushed him to the doctor afraid it was a side effect of ingesting ant poison! When I told the doctor I was afraid my son was poisoned with ant poison from licking ant hills I was given “The Stare and The Raised Eyebrow.” Apparently, you can’t run a fever from poisoning according to her so I had just given up my bad parenting of letting my son lick ant hills for nothing!

  4. Once again you have provided a public service – laughter. Thanks! Ellen

  5. Are you kidding me? My god. We’re thisclose to just having to lock our kids in empty rooms with padded walls and call it a day. Except, you know, they might suffocate on the padding or hit their head on the floor or the padding might contain lead. Ugh.

  6. Awww mom…but 9 volt batteries are so much fun 😉

  7. No 9V batteries? Really? Because my husband has been trying for YEARS to get our kids to lick one of those. Unfortunately for him, we have girls, so they haven’t show any interest yet.

  8. I think I peed on myself when I got to the dog anus part!

  9. This post just brought back a memory of when I was young and my parents took us to some festival downtown and a man was carried away on a stretcher and when I asked what happened someone said he choked on his tongue so I bit down on mine for days so that I would swallow it. Thanks for the repressed memories :).

  10. Hahahaha this is the best list ever. Seriously! x

  11. Just came across your site on the Circle of Mom’s top 25 funny moms. Gotta say, you had me laughing out loud with this post! I even snorted when I saw your kids’ new ride…that’s totally something my kids would do! Thanks for the giggles :)

  12. Loved this one so much I just read it again. I have never, and will never, erase from my brain that image of a tongue stuck in the bottle.

    After a long, mind-rotting break from school, I’m thinking I should print your list for my kids. I’ll post it next to their chore chart.

  13. Having a full-on “I hate parenting” kind of day, and this last graphic made me snort so hard, I am thinking maybe I’ll survive. And thanks for the list–very helpful :)

  14. This is a really, really good list. I vacillate between being alarmed that my children might get their tongues stuck in water bottles like this and trying to do it myself.

  15. I never heard this news story. Thank you for instilling more paranoia into my life.

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