It’s a Lock

Door knockers... only useful if you're on the outside.

Door knockers… only useful if you’re on the outside.

Miles run today: 4.5

Temperature this morning when we ran: 63

Gnats washed off of my face and hair in the shower afterwards: 3

So I locked a kid who is not mine inside our house this weekend.

I called seven sixth grade boys and one fourth grade girl to the car to leave for my son’s birthday party. They trooped past me, and I locked first the door handle lock and then the deadbolt.

That’s when I heard the tapping on the glass.

And when I looked up, a gangly sixth grader, eyes somewhat troubled, peered through the window at me.


I unlocked the door and gave him a sheepish look. I’m sure he told his mom, and now she will never let him come over again. I will forever after be the mom who locked her baby in our house.

In my defense, I was going to count them when I got to the car. Really.

The funny part about locks is that people are always locking themselves out of things. But not me. No siree bob. It’s even scary when you get locked in; even when you (theoretically) can unlock the lock yourself.

When I was four years old, I played with a horrible boy named Patrick.

One of the things that made him horrible is that he came up with games like the one where he locked me in his room because he was some kind of weird jail dude.

I became hysterical, sobbing and screaming to be released. I sat on his bed and stared out the second-story window. I would never get out of there. Or at least not until my mom came to pick me up.

I heard the little terrorist tapping on the other side of the door.

“Anne! Anne! You’re going to have to unlock the door!”

“But [sob sob] you locked me in here!”

“Anne. Turn the lock on the door knob. I can’t get back in my room!”


When the power shifted, I seriously thought about not letting him back in.

Roughly 25 years later, my son and I got into a similar situation.

It was a brutally hot July day, and my 18-month-old son and I had just been to the grocery store. No trip to the grocery store with an 18-month-old is a good one. Trust me on this one. He had a penchant for rolling around on the hard floor and rubbing his hands all over the places where people’s shoes had just been. Then he would suck on his fingers.

But I digress.

I was six months pregnant, and not much of anything is a lot of fun when you’re six months pregnant.

So we arrived home at lunchtime with bags and bags of groceries that needed to be unloaded. I unstrapped little Unclean Child from his car seat and walked him inside.

I set the keys on the stairs and walked back out to the car to get the groceries.

And when I returned carrying six bags, belly huge, sweat rolling down every single part of me, the front door was closed and locked.

Just that morning, he had learned that doors had locks. Just that day at lunchtime,Β when my stomach felt like it was eating itself, I forgot that he had learned that doors had locks.

It was not a good moment.

I calmly knocked on the door, the sweat leaving tracks on the thick wood.

“Hello! Please open the door!”

“Mama! Mama! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

Trauma. Crying. Tantrums. Door pounding.

We do not keep a key outside the house. My husband was at work over 45 minutes away. My neighbors were all at work like normal human beings. And I didn’t own a cell phone.

My main fear was that my son would get hurt, and I wouldn’t be able to get in to help him. The lucky part was that he was stationed right at the door and hadn’t lost interest in his traumatic experience.

After several minutes of trying to talk to him, I ran two houses down where I thought I’d seen movement.

A random teenager let me in and allowed me to call my husband, who immediately called the police.

And then I made my way back to the house to talk sense to an 18-month-old hungry child.

The sobs had turned to sniffles, and I called in to him: “Hey! Can you turn the lock? Can you open the door for Mommy? Then we can get lunch.”

I heard tinkering at the door handle, but nothing happened. He got upset again.

“Hey! Why don’t you go get Bear?! He’ll help you open the door!” Bear was a huge, furry stuffed bear who I was pretty sure my son thought had super powers.

I heard baby footsteps retreat from the front door. I could only hope he wouldn’t lose focus.

Too many moments later, I heard the footsteps coming back.

Then I heard the lock turning, and when the door squeaked open, my son was standing there clutching Bear, smiling through his tears.

“You did it! You unlocked the door!” I pulled them both into a huge hug. “Now… never ever ever lock the door again. No lock. Okay?”

And that is why, to this day, I carry a key with me if I even step out onto the front porch. Or into the garage. Or if we’re eating on the deck. Key. Pocket. At. All. Times.

The police officer may have done a little eye roll when I showed up at the front door a few minutes later, clutching a tear-smeared toddler, a mangled bagel and a ring of keys.

Have you ever had Lock Trauma? Do tell.

38 thoughts on “It’s a Lock

  1. I know it must have been very scary at the time but, I couldn’t help smiling throughout the story. Sorry.:-o

    Back when Saturn automobile dealerships were new, they advertised bringing an owner a new key when they locked the keys inside the car. I accidentally locked my keys in the new car while it was running. Remembering the commercial, I wrote down the VIN number and called the dealership. After a few transfers, I spoke with the Service Manager and explained my predicament. He said no problem! Really? He pulled a service tech off the line and had him drive fifteen miles to my location. I felt stupid at the time but, to this day, even though they are out of business, that story is one I tell regarding good customer service. They truly stood behind their advertising.

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    Every parent’s nightmare. My toddler once locked me out of the car, but luckily the window was down a ways and I was able to reach my arm in. It’s amazing we survive parenthood. So many things to stress us out!

  3. Bernie Brown says:

    Yes! My experience was very similar to yours, only son was still in his crib. I don’t remember how I came to be locked outside with a telephone repairman, but it happened. With his trusty screwdriver, he removed a window screen and opened a window. I crawled in and all was well. I wrote a letter commending him and sent it to his manager.

  4. Andria says:

    I have 2 locked out stories. Years ago, before they picked up recycling, I was a good little recycler and took my newspapers and soda cans to the recycle place. I had taken everything out of the car and closed the door, and my dog jumped up and locked the automatic locks. Fortunately the window was open a tad. Although we couldn’t reach in, the recycle guys use some tool to reach in and unlock the door.
    When I taught in Chicago my classroom had a door to the outside. Because it was hard to open, the 1st weeks of school, I made all of the kids practice opening the door. So, not too long after the beginning of school, the fire department came to conduct our official once a year fire drill. My kiddos opened the door, and my class and the class next door all filed out. When we were out we closed the door. A minute later a secretary came to the door (probably didn’t want to get up from her work when the alarm went off.). She tried to push it one time, and then threw her hands up and said she couldn’t get out. I told her to just push and she tried one more time and said she couldn’t do it, it was too hard. Of course we got a terrible rating from the fire department and the secretary and I got called in to the office to explain why we couldn’t evacuate everyone. I did have the 3rd graders show the secretary how to open the door. I thought it would be too embarrassing to have the 1st graders show her.

    • annewoodman says:

      Dogs and secretaries foiled you, huh, Andria? ; ) That’s a sad story about how you tried so hard to get everyone prepared and got reprimanded anyway! So frustrating. It was very gracious of you to use the third graders to demonstrate the way things should be done. ; )

  5. E says:

    I onced locked my keys in my Chevy Cavalier while it was still running.I was so excited to go shopping that I got out of the car before even turning it off! In my defense I was only in my early twenties and this was my first new car. Luckily, my mom had an extra key that she insisted on keeping for such emergencies. How do moms know that will happen? She was quite surprised to find it still running when she showed up thirty minutes later. Won’t ever live that one down!!

    • annewoodman says:

      Your mom loves you, that’s why. ; ) And moms are pretty savvy… we know that, don’t we? I’ll keep the extra key in mind for my kids when they start driving… eeeeeeek!

  6. robincoyle says:

    Great story . . . in not a great way. Great outcome is what I mean.

    When I was 14, I went to Sweden with my parents. We stayed in an old funky hotel with the bathroom down the hall. The door lock had a skeleton key. I couldn’t unlock the door after using the restroom. I panicked. It felt like I was locked in for hours. I eyed the small window and the jump to the street some 3 stories below. When I finally was able to unlock the door and return to the hotel room where Mom and Dad were having a martini, I was in tears. “Weren’t you worried, sob, about me?” Sniff, I was locked in the bathroom for ages, sniff.” They calmly told me I was gone for 4.5 minutes and no, they weren’t worried about me.

  7. jmmcdowell says:

    In pre-cell phone days, I managed to leave my car/house/office keys in my office and exited the building, which locked behind me. I had to find someone home in married student housing across the street and call a colleague to drive over and unlock the building and office with their keys. Totally embarrassed!

  8. Daryl says:

    After locking ourselves out of our house (eek), we had to call a locksmith. The funny thing is, that he struggled to open the door, he tried and tried and tried, but he was stumped. Was it the high-laser precision lock on our house–nope, it was my carefully applied weather stripping around the door jam. Who knew that $10 of carpet-like material could stump a pro locksmith. Maybe I should patent the idea.

  9. My scariest lock out story was when we were living in Las Vegas and my daughter was a baby. It was the height of summer, 110 degrees, and my car had been outside for hours. In my rush to want to get in the car and get the air con on, I strapped my daughter in her seat in the back and locked and shut the door with her and the keys inside, so she was locked in that sweltering hot car! No cellphone, I immediately ran to a house and we called 911, and they were there in minutes and broke into the car. I could see her in there with bright red face and sweat pouring off her. I was totally ready to smash the window, if it had taken more than a few minutes, but wanted to avoid showering her with glass if we didn’t have to. I’m feeling that panic again now thinking about it.

    • annewoodman says:

      Vanessa, That’s the scariest story yet. There are so many horrible stories about people who do this in hot climates… many of them used to be nannies or young moms who moved to a very hot climate from a place like Sweden. They would leave the baby in the car for just a couple of minutes… and it was too long.

      I’m so glad your story had a happy ending. I can’t imagine how panicked you must have felt!

  10. Amy Mak says:

    The worst part is being so close and not being able to help your child…we’ve had a few of these stories and I don’t have to think very hard to relive the horror of not That helplessness is the worst. I’m thinking of keeping my 6th grader locked in his room though πŸ™‚

  11. 4th grade…Ms. Vaughn’s class…boy and girl bathrooms (one holers) accessable from each classroom, so no hall passes and wandering occurred. After using boy’s room and while opening door to go back into classroom, the HANDLE fell off into my hand. Had to knock – repeatedly and louder – to get Ms. Vaughn’s attention. She ultimately came back and spoke, “Are you okay, Michael?” I ‘splained that I couldn’t get out and needed her to open the door. When I handed her the doorknob, she, the class, and perhaps (but not likely) I had a nice laugh.

  12. One Saturday when I was young, Mom decided she was sick of the sight of Dad and me and she threw us out of the house. So Dad decided that a trip to the Paterson Falls (about a 45 minute drive) would be a fun little day trip. All went well until Dad realized that he had locked the keys in the car.

    So he was forced call Mom, who had to schlep all the way to Paterson with a spare set of keys. I still remember the expression on her face when she arrived. If looks could kill, Dad would’ve been bleeding out of his eyes.

  13. Melissa says:

    When I was in 8th grade, my house caught on fire. I came home to four fire trucks in front of the house, no key and my dog was in the house. My sister was five minutes behind me on a different bus from the high school and she had the key. Fortunately, the fireman broke down the door and my dog was unharmed. That’s when I started making sure I always had a key. Our house had damage in the attic, but it wasn’t too bad…and my dog was safe πŸ™‚

  14. kabe1 says:

    I too had a “friend” who would shut me in her room on playdates until my mother arrived to take me home – perhaps related to the horrid Patrick? The other thing which I have done more than once is leave my keys in the front door and then go inside – only once were they taken and that was a very expensive mistake!

    • annewoodman says:

      That happened to a friend of ours when she was living in a not-so-safe neighborhood in a not-so-safe city! She had had people come and peer in her windows and even try to break in in the past. But the night that she left the keys in the door? Nothing!

  15. David Gentry says:

    It was brilliant to call upon Bear for help. I would never have thought of it.

  16. 4amWriter says:

    Haha! Such a funny tale — although I’m sure it wasn’t funny at the time.

    My husband and I locked ourselves out of the house. (Note how diplomatic I am in that sentence…) Anyway, we realized one of the windows next to the bay was unlocked, and Hubs was tall enough to reach it…but too big to climb through. I would have climbed in, except my 4 year old son thought it would be soooo cool to climb in through the window to rescue his cold, hungry family and so we let him do it.

    He brags about it to this day.

    • annewoodman says:

      It’s nice to have a claim to fame, and your son now has that… for life. ; ) Superhero!

      I like that you are gracious enough to keep blame out of your comment. ; )

  17. Sheila says:

    I’ve locked myself out of everything you can possibly lock yourself out of, but it’s never been as funny as this. I love the little terrorist description. Thank you for the smiles! πŸ™‚

  18. This was great!! I’ve had plenty of lock traumas. I too was locked in – but not quite to the flat I had been staying in, which belonged to the friend of an ex-boyfriend. I had let myself out of the flat, which locked as I closed the door. Then I went to the front door of the building, which was dead-locked. So I was stuck in the tiny bit of hall. There was a point, later, when I was looking at a phone directory wrapped in plastic, thinking that I was going to have to use that to pee in. Thankfully another resident came back in time and I got out!

  19. […] how I managed to lock myself both out of and into a variety of places. […]

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