Ahh, Saturday morning. It’s 8:30, and we’re being lazy. The house is quiet, nothing stirring yet. I love early mornings when my toddler decides to sleep in because they’re incredibly rare.
What the crap?? Suddenly our silence is shattered by someone with the audacity to ring the doorbell and knock violently. DON’T THEY KNOW WE HAVE A CHILD SLEEPING?? Probably a stupid teenager wanting to mow our lawn. “That better not be a kid. Don’t open the door unless it’s someone important,” I growl.
Here’s a fun-fact about me: I hate hate hate doorbells, knocking, or ringing phones when I’m not expecting them. I always feel a rush of panic (mostly because my house is rarely visitor-ready), even if it’s a doorbell on TV. I only like it when I am expecting it, and it’s barely tolerable even then.
I hear my husband reach the door, presumably peek outside as the knocking continues, and then fiddle with the chain and deadbolt. (Ugh, why are you opening it? Now we have to talk to them.) Then I hear my husband shout in alarm, “Oh, my God, Phineas!”
*RECORD SCRATCH* You may be wondering how we got here.
My child had apparently moved past being able to open UNlocked doors to being able to unlock them himself. He could also open car doors. He enjoyed getting in the car when we have been outside working in the yard or garage, but we’ve always watched him. He likes to crawl between front and back, and push lots of buttons like the emergency flashers, or play with the steering wheel. He also likes to lock himself in and roll down the window when he’s in his car seat, which is super fun when it’s raining and I have to dig for keys to get him out and go inside. Basically, the car is a playground to a toddler.
But this fateful Saturday he had apparently discovered a new button: the garage door opener.
The Amazing Toddler Disappearing Act
Now the front door guest has my undivided attention.
I jump up and throw on public-acceptable clothing, and rush into the hall. As I pass my child’s door, I glance in to verify that his bed is, in fact, empty, and my mind struggles to catch up to what the evidence is telling me: Your child is not in this house.
I head up the hallway towards the door, putting together the pieces of what must have happened, and I feel terrified, annoyed, and also a bit impressed.
As I burst through the front doorway, I take in the scene: There are two uniformed officers standing on my front lawn. Next to them, barefoot and attempting to do a headstand and generally pleased with life is my (at this point) 2-year-old. My husband is standing to the side, chatting with the officers. I notice that the garage door is open and the car emergency flashers are going.
I’m still a bit panicked, and frankly, I want to lie down on the ground until my heart starts beating again. I force myself to stop thinking of all the horrible things that could have gone wrong.
“Yeah, my sister’s kid did this once,” the first officer is saying. The second one nods in agreement. It happens all the time. I’m not the world’s worst mother, and they’re not going to take him to give to a more qualified parent. Phew. Hey, at least he has clothes and a diaper on. He is barefoot, but he’d had the presence of mind to grab his rain boots on his walk up the sidewalk, and around the corner. “We asked him if this was his house, and he said no. But we saw the flashers, and thought we’d try anyway,” the policeman is explaining.
So much could have gone wrong. Thank God he hadn’t gone so far that they couldn’t tell what house he came from. Thank God police were in the neighborhood at all. Thank God none of the usual speedsters were tearing through our neighborhood this morning, no aggressive dogs to traumatize him.
Why am I telling this slightly embarrassing and vaguely condemning story? Sure, it’s funny now, (and kind of at the time) but it so easily could have been tragic. It’s amazing how fast they get past you. 90% of parenting seems to be thwarting someone who is bent on damaging themselves as violently and thoroughly as possible. They’re going to slip past us sometimes, and those times can make us feel like terrible parents. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that perfection is an illusion.
And it’s also good to be reminded to never quite trust those quiet mornings, no matter how rare and intoxicating the silence can be.