What to do when you lock your keys in the car…with your infant inside

1. Don’t Panic.

While parenting has been full of surprises, one of the biggest surprises for me has been how relaxed I am as a mom. As someone who has been told by a psychiatrist that I have “quite a high baseline anxiety”, I take this as a serious win. Sure, I’ve thought about how we’ll raise our kids and what techniques we’ll use, but never have I thought “I’m not a good mom”. Usually I think about all the people who have kids in the world, and I come to the conclusion of ‘if they can do it, surely I can too’. Not exactly a Mother of the Year speech, but it’s important for me to always keep things in perspective. This past Monday was truly the first time I thought “Calli, you really fucked this one up”.

Recently I have decided to make a serious effort in becoming more active. Monday morning I was determined to start the week off right. I fed Cormac breakfast and loaded him in the car. We rolled in to the health club parking lot and I dropped Cormac off at the childcare room. The director is amazing there so I never worry when I leave him with Miss Jill. Cormac crawled after all the other kids, never looking back. In true Calli fashion, I was about two minutes late to the Body Pump class-so I rushed in and got settled. After a great workout- I was able to take a nice long shower without hearing a screaming baby in the background or worrying the shower would wake Cormac up from a nap. What a rare and relaxing occurrence.

It wasn’t even noon and I was feeling pretty great about my day. I had been quite productive and was about to do some grocery shopping before heading home. I picked up Cormac from his day care and walked out in to the beautiful, sun-filled, 60 degree day. I opened up the back van door and threw my keys up in to the passenger seat. Cormac didn’t even fuss when I buckled him in to his seat [a miracle in itself].

I should say that we bought a mini-van about two weeks ago. I LOVE IT. I always thought I would be an SUV mom, but seriously- mini-vans are amazing. If you don’t believe me, you really need to try one out. It changed my life. Anyways, it’s important to note that while I love my new family friendly vehicle, it does not have keyless entry and keyless start like my old [and also loved] little Versa.

I used the cool little button to have the van door slide shut, and walked around the van and to the driver’s door. Locked. “Rats,” I thought. I’ll have to walk around and open his door back up to get the keys. I walked back around and tugged on the door. My heart dropped in to my stomach. After checking every entry point, I looked inside and locked eyes with Cormac, who smiled his cute little 6-toothed smile at me. Such an innocent, unknowing smile.

Locking myself out of my car is no new occurrence for me. My super awesome ’93 LeBaron convertible from high school was victim to this careless act at least once a month. I became quite talented at pushing down the window from the outside and sticking my [then considerably smaller] arm through to unlock the door. It didn’t seem like this would be the best idea with my new van. Instead, I saw a pesticide flag in the lawn nearby, and decided to take a stab at sticking it through the window and trying to unlock the door that way. FYI- don’t try it. I failed- and got a few funny looks from the cars leaving the parking lot.

Starting to panic a bit more, I decided to run inside to call AAA. Surely with our premium membership they would be able to help. I did what no mother wants to do- and left Cormac in the parking lot. At least I knew no one would be able to steal him… since he was locked in. I was able to call AAA and go through the 235342 prompts before they allow you to talk to a representative. Finally I was placed on hold, and the voice on the other end of the line said “A customer service representative should be with you in 10 minutes.” The initial feeling of panic was nothing compared to this feeling. Tears started streaming down my face and I hung up. Holding myself together, I called the non-emergency police line and told the nice lady on the line that I locked my keys in my car-with my infant son inside. She sent over an officer immediately. Total time indoors on the phone: about 5 minutes.

I swear, when you start crying, you go from being invisible to people coming out of the woodwork to help you out. The staff overheard my conversation and were nothing but nice. I was able to regain all composure by the time I made it back out to the van. One lady walked outside and waited with me until the police officer came. By the way, when we got back to the van- Cormac was sound asleep with his lovey- Goobie the gnome.

It took a total of 45 minutes, a towing company, and a 60 dollar bill (which will be reimbursed by AAA) to get me back in to the van. Cormac slept the entire time. Exhausted, I sat in the front seat and debated whether or not to just go home and skip the groceries. Part of me worried I would lock Cormac in the car by accident again (what would the chances be of that?!).

It seemed clear that before doing anything else, I needed to go through the Starbucks drive-thru and get a super sugary drink. and two cake pops. Trust me- this will ALWAYS make you feel better. It’s best to get one birthday cake and one chocolate- for appropriate variety.

While eating, I thought about how terrible of a mom I was and what would have happened if it was a super hot summer day. I thought about all the people who helped during my crisis and how genuinely friendly they all were. I realized something that I had heard before, but I had never truly felt. In the midst of a highly charged emotional event- I did exactly what I needed to in order to keep my son [and myself] safe. My reaction was what it needed to be in the moment- despite a few tears running down my cheeks.

In an unexpected moment of self-love [and a sugar- high], I put on my big girl pants and drove straight to the grocery store.

As a mom, I will make many mistakes. I will never be able to be perfect, and I will never be able to shield my kids from bad things in life. I don’t want to shield them. I want to teach them what to do when things go wrong. I want to teach them that when they do something, it may have consequences they did not intend. I want them to know how to deal with bad situations and take them in stride. My trip to HyVee was Cormac’s first lesson.

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