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It Could Have Happened to Any Of Us

Photograph by Twenty20

I was sitting outside a tea shop with my daughter when I heard a mom yelling from the parking lot. She was shouting from the outside, “Push the button! Listen! Open the door!” Her tone was quickly becoming more and more panicked.

Her toddler had locked her out of the car.

The situation had started innocently enough. She was loading a toddler and baby into her car. Having secured the baby in the carseat on one side, she'd tossed her purse and keys toward the front seat. She closed the door and walked around to the other side of her car to get the toddler (loose in the backseat) into his own car seat when the boy grabbed her keys and locked the car from the inside.

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Recognizing one of the unspoken rules of motherhood—helping each other when we can—I ran over to help. My daughter stayed behind with my mom, who'd joined us that day.

I peered in through the passenger window and saw the boy holding the keys. As any mom knows, a 2-year-old doesn't really have the capacity to follow instructions, e.g. “push the button again.” At that point, I offered to call the police. I knew they could get inside the car. With the mom's nod, I was on the phone with dispatch right away.

Side note: always have the local police department's number in your cell phone contacts so as to minimize response time.

Those few short minutes felt endless. The scene had become more dramatic as the car alarm had been triggered and her infant was wailing from the inside. You can imagine how distressed the mom felt.

Let this event remind us to be more vigilant and to never underestimate a toddler's ability to scare us out of our wits.

Just as the police car turned into the parking lot, the 2-year old suddenly unlocked the car and the alarm stopped. Mom immediately opened the doors and pulled her crying baby from the car. Just like that, the danger evaporated. The officer stuck around for a little longer to make sure everyone was OK.

In the end, the mom was shaken up more than anyone else.

Before I left, I told her this could happen to anyone. We hugged and she thanked me.

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Let this event remind us to be more vigilant and to never underestimate a toddler's ability to scare us out of our wits. With that in mind, here are some safety tips collected from Safe Kids, an organization dedicated to preventing injuries in children:

  • Make sure your child's car seat is installed correctly and that you know its height and weight limits.
  • Know your car seat's expiration date (often stamped on the bottom.)
  • Once a car seat has been in a crash or is expired or broken, it needs to be replaced.
  • Always check for children when pulling out of your driveway or parking lot.
  • Always accompany small children in and out of your vehicle.
  • Wear your seatbelt and make sure every other adult in your car is buckled in too—sometimes injuries to children are caused by other passengers not being properly restrained in a car during a crash.
  • Never leave a child alone in a car, as the temperature inside rises quickly.
  • Create your own reminders when your routine changes so that you have backup safety measures when traveling with kids in case your mind reverts back to your routine.
  • Don't use your phone while driving. My own tip: keep your phone in the backseat so that it's literally impossible to check that new message or email.
  • Always lock your car when not in use to prevent your child or any other child from getting into it.
  • Call 911 if you see a child alone in a car.
  • Be mindful of your keys as you get in and out of your car to avoid getting locked out by a child.
  • Make sure anyone else who drives your kids knows proper car seat use and these safety tips in general.

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