Tuesday, August 26, 2014

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Our Two-Year-Old Locked Herself In Her Room


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Norah was screaming in her bedroom, and when I tried to open the door, it was locked. She banged on the door, and then she tugged at the knob.

She was one, nearly two, and we were living in a small two-level town home in Minnesota. I was 28, and in graduate school. It was mid morning on a weekday, and it was summer, so I was home.

Norah is our second child, and this wasn’t the first time she’d locked herself in a room. She’d recently become fascinated with doors and locks, and Mel and I had gotten really good at popping locks in our place with a screwdriver, so when Norah locked herself in her room, I didn’t think much of it.

“Don’t worry, little,” I said. “I got this.”

I left for a moment, and came back with a screwdriver. Then I hunched down to pop the lock, and realized that this lock was different than the others in the town home. This lock didn’t have a little hole in the center, but rather a place for a key. Someone had placed an outdoor lock on the door, and in the two years we’d lived in that town home, I’d never noticed.

By this point, Norah was reaching her little fingers under the door and crying. It was a heartbreaking thing to witness, and suddenly, I felt helpless. I honestly didn’t know what to do. Thinking back, I am a little surprised by how quickly I ran out of ideas.

I am sure there is a handy, tool-oriented reader shaking his head at this story and formulating a million ways to get through a locked bedroom door, but sadly I’m not a handy person. I’m not the kind of guy with a lot of tools, just a small toolbox in the garage with a few screwdrivers and a pair of pliers. I once tried to put together a fabricated desk, but got so frustrated that I ended up dropping a million swears and smashing it with a hammer.

I didn’t own a ladder, so I couldn’t go in through Norah’s second story window. I thought about kicking in the door, but Norah’s hands were stretched out under it, and when I asked her to back up, she just stuck her fingers further under the door and cried. I tried to tell her how to unlock the door, but she was a two-year-old, so it felt like I was trying tell a dog how to ring a doorbell.

By now Mel and Tristan were in the hallway with me. Tristan was five, and his face was a mix of excitement and compassion. “Is Norah locked in there forever?” he asked. I didn’t answer his question because at the time, I didn’t know. Perhaps she was going to be in there forever. Perhaps we’d have to feed her by shoving food under the door.

Basically I was freaking out.

I explained to Mel about the lock, and how I didn’t know what to do. She looked a little scared, but not nearly as scared as I felt.

“Can we use a credit card or something?” she suggested. “I’ve seen that in movies.”

“I don’t know, babe. That sounds like a long shot,” I said. “Where would we even stick it?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Probably by the door knob, or something.”

“Do we jab at it, or is it an up and down motion? Is there a twist we should be doing? Ugh… this is all so complicated.”

Mel shrugged.

At the time I was studying English, and Mel was working on a degree in horticulture, and when I think back on this moment, I feel like we were the protagonist in a joke that began with, an English major and a horticulturalist tried to pick a lock…

I suppose the main problem was that both of us were so used to discussing the theory of something, that the thought of taking action before discussing our motives, goals, and outcomes seemed foreign.

Our discussion on how best to pick a lock with a credit card ended when Norah’s cries changed from ones of panic, to deep helpless moans, animal-like moans, that made me wonder if she’d locked herself in her room in order to transform into a wolf-like creature.

I went through my wallet and found an old debit card and wedged it between the door and the frame. It didn’t work. I just ended up ripping the card. But it gave me an idea, so I started trying other things. I tried a spatula, a butter knife, a screwdriver, and more cards, and so on. Nothing worked, and by the end, I’d worn the skin off my index finger and was now bleeding.

During this time Mel had called a locksmith. We didn’t have any family in the area, and although we probably should’ve humbled ourselves and called a friend or a neighbor, there were a few reasons why we didn’t. One was the fact that it was the middle of a workday, and almost everyone we knew either had jobs, or was about as handy as I was. Second, it felt like we were admitting guilt or something. Like we were calling someone we knew and saying, “Hey, I’m a shitty neglectful parent. Can you come help me get my daughter out of her room? She’s locked in there and I’m pretty sure she’s turning into a werewolf.”

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter