Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Misadventures in mothering

A while back, Andrea Gordon had a fun post talking about near misses and parenting calamaties, in the wake of all the Britney baby disasters. I didn't contribute anything to her post that day - although I could have. I might have written about the more than once that Tristan barrel-rolled down the stairs, or the time at nine months old he fell off a bench in a mall and landed on his head on the granite floor - remember that panicked phone call, Jojo?

I was grateful that I'm not a celebrity and didn't have an audience to broadcast my parenting foibles the other day - and yet, here I am, about to broadcast them to you. Because yesterday's utter panic is today's good blog fodder, right?

It was one of those blazingly hot days, and Simon had been completely resistant to the idea of a nap. I finally gave up and tossed both boys into the car and we went off to do a few errands which involved driving over a large part of the city. They managed to stay awake for the first leg of the trip, but by the time I arrived at my second destination, both were soundly asleep in the back seat.

I only had to run in and out. It was a tiny little shop and they were actually holding what I needed behind the counter - I would be five minutes at most. For the first time ever, I contemplated leaving the boys in the car, weighing the danger factor (practically none) and the panic factor should one of them wake up and find me not there (marginal, as both were snoring) versus the annoyance factor of waking both up, carting two sweaty, cranky preschoolers in with me for my one- minute errand, and facing the rest of the day with their slumber-interrupted crankiness.

I found a spot in the shade, debated for a long minute, and made the wrong choice. I figured I'd leave them in the car, and leave the car running so the air conditioning would stay on, but lock the doors and take my electronic remote key fob with me.

I ran in, concluded my transaction, and ran out again. The whole thing took maybe 180 seconds. I felt a little guilty, because I know better than to do something dumb like that, but it was a calculated risk and I told myself I would never do it again as I pushed the button to unlock the doors.

And nothing happened.

I pressed the button again, and a few more times for good measure. I tried the door, in case it miraculously unlocked itself in my absence, and tried to lift the back hatch. With desperation, I tried to use the remote on the back hatch, closing my eyes and wishing with all my heart to hear the familiar thunk of the trunk release when I pushed the button. Silence.

Did you see it coming? Did you know that if the engine is running, your electronic remote key fob doesn't work? Great safety feature, isn't it? Unless, of course, you have locked your sleeping preschoolers in the running car, that is.

All the air evaporated out of my lungs as I realized what I had done. I stood blinking stupidly at the boys in the back seat, imagining the phone conversation - oh god, look, there's the phone right there on the front seat where I left it - that I would have with Beloved, trying to explain this. I pictured police with slim jims called to unlock the doors and liberate my now-awake and terrified children. I envisioned child protective services becoming involved, and the media, too, because you always see the story about the person who leaves their dog in the mall parking lot in 30C heat, so surely to god they're going to run with the story of the dumb-ass mother who locks her babies in her car in 32C heat.

After a full minute of standing rooted in full-out panic, I realized I had another option. Tristan knows how to open the door. I tapped gently on the window near his lolling head, stage-whispering his name. Nothing. I thunked the glass, whapped the glass, pounded on the glass with all my might and bellowed his name, and he slept blissfully on. I finally - FINALLY! - managed to get his eyelids to flutter open, and he regarded me with unfocused confusion through the glass (I can only laugh to picture what my face must have looked like!) before trying to drift back to sleep. I thumped the window a few more times, and finally roused him enough to convince him to unlock his door.

My legs were rubbery by the time I dropped into the driver's seat and pulled out of the parking lot. A few deep breaths later, I could almost see the potential humour in the situation, but mostly I was grateful that outing my stupidity would be my choice, and not foisted upon me.

So, I've showed you mine. 'Fess up - what parenting misadventure made you grateful that the paparazzi weren't lurking in the bushes ready to broadcast the whole thing on Entertainment Tonight?