When my daughter was around 2 years old I accidentally locked her in the car. We had just arrived at my father’s house and I got out of the car, locked the doors, shut my door, went to open her door and realized what I had done. The keys were still in the car. It was my first car with automatic locks and child locks. I live in Florida. It was 100 degrees outside and would be much hotter in that car, in the sun, in a very short period of time. I looked at her locked in the car and locked into her car seat. I asked her to try and “push the red button to get out of your car seat, ” something she otherwise was never allowed to do. She tried. She tried so hard to push the red button that took her seatbelt off but she couldn’t. She was turning red. I ran to my dad’s front door. It was locked. He wasn’t home yet. I ran back to the car. I looked at her. She started to cry. I looked around to try and find something to smash the window with. I couldn’t find anything. Down the road I could see construction workers building a house. I ran. I ran faster than I have ever run. I screamed at one of them to give me a hammer because I locked my baby in the car. One of them gave me a hammer. I ran back to the car. She looked purple and was covered in sweat. The construction worker had been running behind me telling me not to break the window. That there had to be another way. Then to not break it so it would smash on her if I did. I smashed the front driver’s side window, reached in, unlocked the doors, and climbed in the back to get her. There was glass EVERYWHERE. I have no idea what happened to the man because he was gone. My daughter was burning hot. My dad’s house was locked. I considered breaking his window but the window I tried was actually unlocked. I pulled the screen out and climbed in the window holding my daughter and called her Doctor. I did everything her Doctor told me to do for the next hour and my daughter ended up being fine. Back then I had no cell phone. After that we hid a spare key! After that I had an emergency pay as you go cell phone. After my daughter was cooled off and I realized my dad wasn’t coming home, I took her back out to the car to drive to my mom’s house. A neighbor was cleaning up the glass. There was so much glass. Shattered in a million pieces all in the car, all outside of the car. She was very kind to help clean up as much of the mess as she could. I don’t remember how much it cost to fix the window or what we did in the mean time to keep the rain out of the car. I do remember seeing my daughter in that hot car and knowing that breaking the window was my only option.
As parents, we make mistakes. We can’t always be perfect. We accidentally lock our child in the car. Bad things will happen that are out of our control but as a parent, the way we react will help our child process and grow. Looking back, I wasted time. I put my daughter in a dangerous situation and then asked her to get herself out of it. I put a lot of pressure on her to unlock a seatbelt she was never allowed to touch. That wasn’t her job. Yes, it would have been easier if she could have but it wasn’t her responsibility. She needed to be saved. I needed to save her. The broken glass, the money it cost to fix it, and everything after didn’t matter. What mattered is that in that moment, when my daughter needed me, NOTHING ELSE MATTEREED. I used this experience along the way in my parenting. When there was an event, a challenge, a fear, a scary situation, we faced it. We didn’t worry about tomorrow. We didn’t worry about any broken glass. We worried about, was she ok.
She called us when she was 16 years old. She was driving our tank of a volvo station wagon to highschool and pulled into a parking spot scratching another car. She was very upset. Do you know what we asked her first? Are you ok. She was upset but physically she was ok. So we guided her to go into the front office and take some deep breaths and then talk to the guidance counselor about who owned the car. But first she needed to calm down and realize everything would be ok. Ended up it was a football players car. He said it was so dirty and scratched up that he wouldn’t have ever noticed anyway. But she did the right thing. And she knew that after that, we didn’t care about the car. We cared about her and if she was ok. She always knew that we cared most about if she was ok. She has always known that above and beyond anything else we want her to feel safe. We want her to know she has us to help her through any situation and she will not go through it alone. And if she isn’t ok, we will help her get through it. Break some glass if need be. But we will get through it.
I wanted someone to save me many times. If only someone would have taken a hammer and broken the glass and reached in and pulled me out.
Parenting is difficult. Are we doing the right thing. How do we do the right thing. Is that the wrong thing. I can tell you from experience that as long as you make your child feel like they matter and they are loved nomatter what, you are doing the most important thing. They need to know you will break the glass for them.