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4 Things I Learned When My Toddler Locked Me in His Bedroom

The headline is this: my oldest child and I spent an hour and a half locked in a bedroom while my younger child stopped answering my voice, and our rescue involved three strangers, three firemen, a fire truck, three police officers, several calls to 9-1-1, and a very brave neighbor.

Here are 4 Things I Learned When My Toddler Locked Me in His Bedroom:

1. If bedroom doors lock from the outside, it’s just a matter of time before something goes wrong.

It was 2009, I was at home with my preschooler and a toddler, and Robb was on a business trip. We were in the final stretch of six days without him, and that alone was hardly a recipe for freshness and success. We had just finished baths, the wettest and most chaotic necessity with small children. I had just finished dressing two-year-old Tyler, and he was running free while I gave three-year-old Tucker the post-bath treatment. Tyler had just learned how to successfully operate the doorknobs, and in a phase of opening and closing doors incessantly, he casually closed the door to Tucker's bedroom.

I'm not a huge fan of closed doors with small children on the other side, so I asked Tuck to open the door while I picked out his clean clothes. And then I heard him say, "It's locked, Mommy. Tyler locked the door.” Tyler was on the outside, and Tuck and I were trapped inside. (I'd like to take this moment to give a special nod to the previous owners of this house, who thought it was indeed brilliant to put a lock on the outside of a child's bedroom. Brilliant.)

My cell phone was about eight feet away, on the shelf at the top of the stairs . . . on the other side of the door. Robb was in Texas. My parents were out of town for the day. Nobody was likely to drop by our home unannounced for a very long, long time. Even still, I didn't panic. Yet.

2. I can communicate fairly succinctly in a desperate pose with my face smashed to the carpet.

I lay down on the floor, with my face smashed against the carpet. I could see Tyler's little socked feet. I called for him, and he lay down on the floor, inches away from me. I could see 1/4 of his sweet little face, pressed against the carpet. He was so close and yet so far, with a securely locked door standing between us.

"Hi, Mommy."

"Hi, buddy. Can you unlock the door? Turn the little knob? Please?"

He stood up. He fiddled with the doorknob. I thought it would perhaps be this easy, since he was our only hope. But then he peeked through the one-inch crack underneath the door, and he slid his fingers through and smiled at me. "Hi, Mommy."

"Hi, baby. Can you get mommy's phone? It's on the shelf by the steps. Please, baby. Please."

"Phone? Get Mommy's phone?"

"Yes. Please."

I watched his sweet little feet walk down the hallway, stopping just short of the shelf. But then he took the calendar off the wall and sat down to look at the newest animals born at the zoo. We tried this again and again for a long stretch. I sent Tyler to retrieve the phone, and he found other things to do for a few moments, only to come back and say hi to me.

But then he stopped coming back. The only thing worse than the hopelessness of a child who cannot follow directions is the fear that settles in when he stops answering. I began to imagine the worst.

Tucker, trapped with me, paced the length of his bed, again and again, saying, "We'll never get out, Mommy. Never. We'll never get out. Ever.” Not so helpful. I encouraged him to pray instead. So he folded his hands and paced, saying, "Please, God. Please. Please save us. Or we'll never get out. Ever."

Still, no Tyler. He would not be our means of escape, and I needed a plan: fast.