The following is a true story.
Tonight I left my mom’s house later than I should have. My truck driver husband was able to park at a nearby truck stop and take the afternoon off to visit with us, so we had dinner with my parents and then Emma and I had to drive him back to his truck before heading home. I wanted to leave by 6:45, but then it looked like a storm was blowing in and I wavered on whether or not to go or wait it out. Finally I decided waiting was ridiculous, and we left at 7:15. I dropped Zach off at his truck and then headed home, driving towards an incredibly ominous horizon. Driving in the rain makes me quite tense. I was also aggravated that Emmalee had fallen asleep in the backseat, knowing that a nap in the car coupled with being out later than usual would make putting her to bed difficult. My agitated state of mind is the only excuse I can come up with to shed some light on what happened next.
The drive home actually wasn’t so bad. Though the sky looked ready to open at any second, I was nearly home before the really heavy stuff let loose. I pulled into my garage, relieved to have made it home in one piece. Here I should take a moment to share an odd habit of mine. I always leave my car keys in the driver’s seat of my car. I don’t really know why I do this, but I guess I just find it more convenient that the keys are right where I need them the next time I get in the car. I usually have Emma and a ton of other stuff to carry in, and it’s just one less thing to worry about. So when I got home this evening I hit the button to unlock all the doors, dropped my keys in my seat and shut my door. I then went around the car to open the back door and get Emma, who was still snoozing peacefully. Except the door didn’t open. I frowned, feeling pretty sure that I had hit the button. I went back around to my door, but it wouldn’t open either. There was a brief moment of confusion and then sheer panic hit as I realized what I’d done. I had just locked my keys and my child in the car.
I spoke aloud, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, no, no, no, no!” as I ran around the car and tried each door handle, knowing that it was in vain but unsure of what else to do. And then I ran into the house and called my mom. She jumped into her car and drove to where my husband was to get the spare key from him. Why my truck driver husband who could have potentially been thousands of miles away has the spare key to our vehicle, I do not know. Luckily he was nearby tonight. The waiting was pretty awful. All I could do was pace and pray that Emma would stay asleep, all the while berating myself for being such an awful, irresponsible mother. What kind of person locks their child in the car? I mean, really? It’s the kind of thing you hear about and think to yourself, “What an idiot. I would never do something like that.” And yet, here I am, confessing that I am, in fact, that idiotic.
The fact that Emma stayed asleep as long as she did is purely a miracle. She never sleeps for longer than twenty or thirty minutes in her car seat, and yet tonight she slept for an hour. She might not have ever even known that she’d been trapped if my mom hadn’t missed an exit due to poor visibility in the sheeting rain and taken an extra fifteen minutes. As it was, though, Emma woke up and screamed her poor little head off for nearly that long. When I was finally able to rescue her she was red and sweaty and disoriented. I gave her some cold juice and a cool bath, and then lots of extra kisses and coddling before putting her to bed where mercifully she quickly fell back to sleep.
Yes, this actually happened. I feel exhausted and traumatized by the whole ordeal. I think I can safely classify this as the ultimate epic fail in my career in motherhood. I certainly feel like a failure. I know that the situation could have been much worse, but it’s that very possibility that makes me feel both lucky and completely awful. Yeah, things worked out alright and no major harm was done. But it’s what could have happened that will likely keep me from sleeping tonight. After this nightmare of an evening, the title of “Most Awesome Mom” feels like its way out of reach.