Friday, June 22, 2007

locked in the car


Ah, a babushka in training! Eliza has decided that is her new look and frequently asks us to tie on her play scarf. The photo has nothing to do with my post - it just cheers me up to see her happy.

I was told to look on the bright side: today couldn't be worse than yesterday. As far as Eliza's behavior goes, it hasn't been. Her only mischief was turning on the gas outside twice, which I smelled immediately.

After spending the late morning with my friends and Eliza's friends, Micah and Laurel (the three amigos go way back, their parents having met one hot summer in birth class 3 years ago), Eliza started getting cranky around noon, so we headed back to the car. Eliza was buckled in, and just as I was reaching to open the driver's door, I heard bleep-bleep. The car had locked itself with my keys and sweet girl inside!

I was terrified as I called AAA (my cell phone was in my pocket), but I no longer panicked once I was told it had been marked top priority and someone would be there in under 10 minutes. It took five. The temperature was in the 70s, but the car had been parked outside for a couple hours and was considerably warmer. I'd had the foresight to open the moon roof so that the car wouldn't be blazing hot when we got back to it, and thank goodness for that.

I did my best poker face to keep Eliza from freaking out, and at first she was grinning and laughing at me through the window, but eventually, she figured out something was wrong and began to cry. I can't even say how sad and helpless I felt to watch my daughter's face beaded with sweat and tears. It was just another minute until help arrived, but it felt like much longer.

I would never deliberately leave my child in a car for a single minute, so those eight minutes were a nightmare to me. I'm going to have a spare key made and stick it to the underside of the car - having it stolen is a far better fate than being locked out.

Ironically, I was asked today if there were any safety devices she hadn't managed to beat. There is but one, but it's not the car seat (the upstairs gate, being bolted into a stud in the wall, has so far proved impervious). About a year ago, Eliza figured out how to undo the chest buckle of her top-of-the-line car seat, and from there could wiggle out. One evening, as we made the hour-long drive down the freeway back home from a friend's house, Eliza escaped her car seat at least a half dozen times. Each time, C pulled over ASAP, and we buckled her in again, making sure she was as snug as possible. Minutes later, she escaped again . . . and again . . . and again. We struggled with her car seat escapes for a week or two until we decided we had no choice but to turn her around and hope it would eliminate her desire to escape. I had done my homework, knew the statistics, and was planning to keep her rear-facing until she reached our car seat's rear-facing limit (32 pounds), which in her case, wouldn't have been until after her 2nd birthday. I never would have turned her around for convenience's sake (hers or mine), but her constant escapes were much more dangerous.

She hasn't tried to get out since, and no doubt can no longer remember that she was able to do so. Today, I encouraged her to pull the lock up, but it was a few inches out of her reach.

At the moment, Eliza is soundly napping with her animals, and I'm relatively calm, but it's hard to overstate how scared I was for a few minutes this afternoon. Eliza and Chris are my whole world.


Jenny said...

I understand why just looking at this picture makes you happy- Eliza is an adorable little babushka-in-training! Can I ask what the caption means?

What a horrible experience- I can only imagine how long those few minutes must have felt for both of you. Thank goodness you had your cell phone in your pocket and that you belong to AAA! I let our membership expire because we never used it, and now I'm wondering...

You really had to turn Eliza's seat around when you did- she must be incredibly strong to be able to squeeze the chest buckle open!

I'm glad she finally took her nap (I'm sure you both needed some rest!). CJ held out and finally crashed around 7 PM.

Elaine said...

That's so scary! I think you're right. I'd much rather lose the car to theft than have my kid stuck. I think AAA makes plastic, one time use keys for just such occasions. They won't start the car but they'll get you in.