Prior to the coronavirus lockdown, I had what was probably one – if not the most – awful parenting moment to date. The actual incident was very mundane, but it was the cocktail of panic, dread, fear, uncertainty and hopelessness that it created in me which makes me think of it in this way.
I have plenty of parenting mistakes and fails to my name. However, on the whole, these have been relatively minor and had very few repercussions, let alone made me experience these kind of emotions. This was different though.
Let me paint the scene for you:
It was 3.05pm on a Thursday and time to pick L up from school. As is usually the case, time had gotten away from me and I was in a mad rush trying to get ‘Beetle’ and I ready to leave the house.
To add insult to injury, the little lad then decided to have a shit, which meant I had to quickly get him upstairs, changed and back downstairs in record time.
With ‘Beetle’ now back in his shoes and coat and standing in the entrance, I made a fatal error. I quickly nipped outside to put his nappy in the bin, before turning back towards the house.
In the two seconds it’d taken me to step out of the house and open the bin, the little lad had slammed the front door. I tried the handle. Nothing. I rummaged in my pockets for the keys. Nothing. Shit.
I then remembered that the keys were in the door lock, only on the inside, not the outside. Fuck. Fuck.
I went into panic mode. My two year old was stuck in the house on his own. I was trapped outside with no way of getting in. To make things worse, I pictured L waiting for me all alone at school. Fuck sake, Dave.
My mind whizzed through the potential options.
Were any windows open? No. Shit.
The back door! Is that unlocked? Crap, no it’s not, I locked it as we were about to go about.
Erm, can I smash a window? Probably, yes. Should I smash a window? Erm, not sure, that sounds expensive, dangerous and creates other problems. Let’s come back to that.
How about smashing the glass on the door? Hmm, maybe not that great because the little lad is on the other side, plus it’s only a few weeks old.
The letterbox! Can I get my arm through? After all, I do have stupidly small hands and skinny wrists. Let me try.
I stuck my hand and arm through the letterbox and tried to contort it up towards the keys. The metal was scraping and scratching against my skin but I continued to push, lulling myself into the false security that I was nearly there. The reality was that I was nowhere near.
Fucking hell, stupid door companies making secure doors you can’t easily break into. Now what? Do I ring someone? The Missus? The police? A locksmith? The school? Another parent? Batman?
Is it best to leave L at school and deal with this problem? Or should I get L and leave ‘Beetle’ here? He’d be OK on his own for a few minutes…wouldn’t he?
Aahhhh. Fucking hell. What do I do?
I peered through the letterbox and saw the little lad looking back. His face was one of confusion, rather than trauma, so at least I hadn’t broken him. Yet.
In a final show of desperation, I called out to him. “Can you see the keys in the door? Can you pass them to Daddy? Look, here’s my hand. The keys, can you get them? Take them out of the door and pass to Daddy. You can do it.”
I waited. Nothing.
Jesus wept, Dave, he’s just turned two, of course he’s not going to be able to do that. Now what?
I must have looked a sorry sight to any neighbours watching. There I was, a grown man bent over despondently against the front door trying to squeeze through a 10 inch x 1.5 inch slot. I’d hit a new low, which, for me, was impressive.
But then, something miraculous happened. The door began to open. ‘Beetle’ hadn’t handed me the keys as hoped, he’d only gone one better. He’d grabbed the door handle, pulled down and opened the door!
Just as quickly as the panic had arisen, it subsided and disappeared completely. Fear had been replaced with relief. Hopelessness had been replaced by purpose. Uncertainty had been replaced with pride.
I’m not a religious man, but at that moment, I felt like converting to Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism and Scientology because something – or someone – had saved me from a hopeless situation. Thank you, Tom Cruise.
I gave him a big hug and kiss, grabbed the keys, locked the door and began walking speedily to school with him on my shoulders. I was running a few minutes late, but so bloody what, I’d been to hell and back! My mind wandered as I recounted the situation.
It then hit me that I’d been even luckier than first thought. A few weeks before, we’d bought a new door as part of the building work we’d recently completed. Our old, wooden door had a mortice lock and a nightlatch, whereas the new UPVC one has a multi-point locking system. Sounds boring, but bear with me.
If ‘Beetle’ had been trapped behind our old door, he’d have been unable to open it because the nightlatch would have been too high. But, because of the multi-point locking system, he was able to open the door by just pushing down on the handle. What good fucking fortune that is!
Safe to say, I was a relieved man. I hadn’t felt that combination of panic, dread, fear, uncertainty and hopelessness since becoming a parent and I hope to never feel it again. Only time will tell if I do.
Now, I’ve become obsessed with never encountering this again. If popping out, even for a second, I make sure that I have the keys with me, that a doorstop is holding the door open and that no kids / dog are in the immediate vicinity.
Oh, and I’ve also been on a ‘Burglary For Beginners’ course arranged by a local group of criminals looking to diversify their operations…