Sunday, September 5, 2010

Bad Parent, Great Neighbor

It was Saturday afternoon.  We were doing what we like to do on Saturdays.  Yard work, of course.  Hanna was sleeping after a grueling trip to the grocery store.  We had the baby monitor outside with us, issuing a steady stream of static, over which we were hoping we'd be able to hear her little I'm awake now chirping.

Hallie had been playing "I'm the Daddy and I go to work now" (so named because that is what she says every five minutes as she plays) and going in and out of the front door.  This eventually began to disturb Devin's peace, so he locked the front door and told her to play somewhere else.  Her next game was "I'm the Daddy and I drive the orange car to work." (so named because that is what she says every five minutes as she plays) so she got put in the driver's seat of Devin's car.

As I'm sitting in my grass by the mailbox pulling weeds our neighbor stops by on his way past on his motorcycle.  Now this neighbor is kind of my go to man for all things yard related.  There have been many a Saturday when I have trudged over to his house and pestered him with questions about yard care.  He's extremely patient, and helpful and kind.  So today he stops by to tease me a little bit.  We get to talking.  He gets into help mode, forgets his errand, hops off his bike and says, "Come on over, let me show you what I'm talking about." Off I go and we start wandering around his yard talking about weeds, and weed prevention and the price of eggs in China, that sort of thing.  I look over at our house, and see Devin standing in our driveway.  The garage door is closed.

If you have kids, or if you remember being a kid, you will most likely know what the "I'm the Daddy and I drive the orange car to work" game is all about.  Child sits in the driver's seat and pushes all the buttons, turns all the dials, honks the horn if they've learned about that delightful instrument (Hallie has not, yet. Phew.)  and, occasionally, manages to find and push the button that closes the garage door.

Background Fact 1 - Hallie is terrified of the garage door. I think it is the sound it makes as it shuts, but if you start to close the garage door before she is in the house she runs as fast as she can to get in the house.

Background Fact 2 - We usually have the sliding door in the back unlocked when we are outside working in the yard, because that is typically our main method of entering and exiting the house. But this particularly fine Saturday afternoon we were primarily working in the front yard, so we had been relying heavily on the, oh yes you've got it, garage door to get in and out.


Amy, still in neighbor's yard, "Hallie probably closed the garage door.  She's also probably freaking out, you're going to have to go in the house and get her."
Devin doesn't move.  Amy still doesn't quite understand what has happened. She is still in the neighbor's yard.
Amy, "Devin, you'll have to go get her. She's scared, I'm sure she's screaming. Can't you hear her screaming?"
Devin, "Yes, she's definitely screaming."
Amy finally starts to understand why Devin is making no move to go get her.
Amy, "The front door is locked, isn't it?"
Devin, "Yeah, I locked it when she was playing that game, remember?"
Amy, "And... the sliding door?"
Devin, "Locked."
The neighbor decides it's time to kick it into superhero mode.
Neighbor, "Do you have a key hidden outside anywhere?"
Amy and Devin, "No."
Neighbor, "Do you have an access code on your garage to open it?"
A & D, "No."
Neighbor, "Ok, so let's see here. We're going to have to call a locksmith. Alright, well, let's get one."
Devin and Neighbor go over to neighbor's house to make phone call.  Amy sinks onto the ground in front of the driveway.  Hallie is screaming too loudly to hear any attempts to try and comfort her. She will not be comforted. Would you?

Devin and I wait for the locksmith to come. We try to get Hallie to push the button again. Her response, "No! No button!" I don't think she'll ever push that button again.  I worry about the emotional and psychological damage being done to her. She knows I'm out here.  She can't understand why I'm not coming to get her.

Our neighbor, after helping us make the phone call, remembers he had left his motorcycle in the street when he stopped to talk to me, and recalls his errand. He leaves us with his cell phone in case we need it again and off he goes.  Devin and I sit in the driveway, the sound of Hallie in distress filling our ears.  At least Hanna is still sleeping I think to myself, like an idiot. Because you know what we hear next? A chorusing cry coming through the baby moniter. Oh yes, both my babies are awake, and very unhappy now.

By and by the locksmith comes, opens us up, we run to get our babies and all is well again.  We start dinner. We still have the neighbor's cell phone.  I hear him pull up in his motorcycle outside.  I run out to give him his phone.  I start to thank him for his helpfulness.  He says, "Well, I've got something here for you."

He had purchased weed killer for our lawn, some seed to patch up the dead spots on our lawn, and some candy bars for Hallie.

That's the kind of neighbor I'd like to be someday.  We're baking his family cookies tomorrow and taking them over.  I don't feel like that's quite enough to adequately say "thank you", but we'll start there.


  1. Oh, Ames. Sad day. One of my friends had their daughter lock herself in the bathroom, and then she was too freaked out to unlock it. So her husband had to climb a tree and come in through the second story window. Daddy was Superman for a while to that little girl!!

    Yeah, I've been meaning to get a spare key to hide somewhere around the yard, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. The Colletts do have a spare, and I have had to make Daryl come over once, because Jill and I were locked out. At least we were together, and I had my phone. I should really memorize their phone number . . .

    Perhaps you should just give a spare key to your neighbor that sounds like a most amazing man!!

    Poor traumatized Hallie. The garage door is loud and scary.

  2. Scary!!

    When Eliza was just over a year old, Rick locked her inside our house. I was with the other kids visiting my sister 2.5 hours away. She was napping, and he went out to do something in the garage, inadvertently pulling the door shut and locked behind him. All other entrances were locked, and to top it all off he didn't have shoes on, and it was January in Indiana. It was also a Saturday, and the locksmith took a long time to arrive (he called from the neighbor's house). Her room was just above the garage, so Rick could hear her when she woke up. She could also hear him, and he sang Primary songs for her while he waited for the locksmith. We had JUST moved into our newly built home, but Rick was seriously contemplating cutting through the garage wall, into the living room. Luckily, he didn't end up needing to.

    Eliza seems ok in spite of the situation : ).

    Sorry you had such a traumatic day!!

  3. Well, that is a pretty creative way to get out of weeding! Ha Ha! Children are amazingly resilient, but she probably won't want to play the "drive the orange car" game again for awhile. Just as well--it's not the best game for 2.5 year olds anyway!

  4. Parenthood must somehow require one (or two) of these kind of stories. When Kamin was three months old and Patrick an elderly 18 month old, I decided one morning I was getting the motherhood thing down really well (thank you very much). I laid Kamin in the middle of our queen-sized bed and went in the bathroom to brush my teeth, ready for a trip to Walmart with just me and the boys. Click! Patrick had just locked himself (and the baby) in the bedroom. And I couldn't open the door (no handy keyhole for the Allen wrench).

    I tried shaking the door, taking the grate off the bottom, etc. No luck! Patrick started to cry, Kamin started to cry, and the dog (also in the bedroom) started to bark. I climbed out the second floor window of the adjacent room, trying to open a window, but no luck. My neighbor, out scraping paint on his house in the November morning wondered what in the world I was doing. I just screeched, "My babies are locked in!" and kept shaking the window. He turned and went back to work.

    I finally called Allen at his office. He ran home between classes (literally because he walked to campus back in those days) and kicked the door in for me. We all sat on the bed and cried for a while. Nobody made it to Walmart (but at least I had clean teeth). Not too long after that, Allen removed all the doors off the bedrooms. We didn't have any for like 10 years.

    Hang in there! They grow up in spite of us some days and it's all part of the journey.