One of my worst possible fears as a mother that is… Let me start by saying that Owen is totally fine throughout and after this incident (although I wasn’t).
Let me digress for a moment, some of my anxieties about having cancer have manifested themselves into nightmares about Owen being in harm’s way. It’s some kind of Freudian displacement, or something like that. My reoccurring nightmare is about Owen getting out of his crib in the middle of the night and helping himself in chocolate milk or some other snack in the kitchen. I started having this dream when he was a year old and he wasn’t even walking then—hence it wasn’t even possible). I went to an acupuncturist who told me I should go to a “dream worker,” which is just a little too “new ageie” for me. So, the dreams are just bottled up now despite my bets efforts and come back every now and then.
So, this very much felt like a nightmare. I was switching cars with my mother-in-law and Owen got locked in the car with the car running OUT of his car seat (all the windows were rolled up too). It’s too complicated to explain how this happened, but it was a complete fluke. I’ve always heard of this happening and tried to be vigilant—like I never let Owen hold the keys to the car, etc. But all my best efforts couldn’t prevent this.
After the shock and screaming of obscenities, I went to look for my cell phone in my car (which was unlocked) it was nowhere. I couldn’t even bare to see the little face of my two-year-old locked in the car. It was such a vulnerable moment and I was so fearful. Worst of all, I felt completely out of control, especially without a cell phone. I looked 100 yards each way—I had the choice of running to a dark highway, running to a convent (yes, we were switching cars in the parking lot of a convent) OR attempting to break the window myself. My flight or fight response kicked into full gear. I looked for possible weapons around the car like a rock—nothing. I went into my mini van to retrieve a stainless steal coffee mug and started attacking the driver side window. My efforts were fruitless, so I grabbed cross country skis from my trunk. I forgot how light cross country skis are compared to downhill, but I decided to give it a try anyway. I got a running start while my mother in law looked on panicked, and used the skis like a pole vaulter. I couldn’t break the window. I threw the skis on the ground and ran for the quiet convent.
While running I was screaming for help and worried that no one would be around. I rang the doorbell of the convent incessantly and finally a woman (who I believe was a nun) came out. She called the police and then came out to help. Her calming presence was a relief. She came out and talked to Owen along with my mother-in-law. If I tried to talk to him he would start to cry, it’s something about being yourself more with your mom.
The policeman arrived, and Owen’s eyes widened with curiosity. The officer was alarmed by the situation and I immediately begged him to break the window. I didn’t know he had that ability or not, but I thought he probably did. He tried the whole locksmith route and I quickly rejected that. Owen had already been in the car for 20 minutes, a locksmith could take another 20 minutes, maybe longer. The police officer decided that given the circumstances, he would break the window.
My mother-in-law gave the ok for him to break the window, since it was her car. It took the officer at least five tries with a special tool—so I don’t know what I was thinking with my cross country skis. At this point, Owen was scared and started to cry. I got him out and held him tight, “He said, “hoodu” which means “hold me.” And then he latched onto me like a koala bear and wouldn’t let go.
Only later did I think about what the officer must have thought about the skis strune on the ground or if he put them in his “report.” Or what the nun thought of everything, including the skis. One thing is for sure, that while I acting swiftly, I wouldn’t have changed my plan of attack. Maybe I could have been a little calmer, but I don’t really care about that right now.
If you have children, talk with your husband or partner about how you’d handle these kinds of emergencies—I think the big ones are: choking, head trauma, and I would add a car lock out too (for a young child). The chance that you will be alone in “a situation” is high. I wish safety and protection for all, and I hope that you never actually have to use your devised plans.
And God, "Thank you for sending a nun to me."