One day, when Aaron was about around two years old, JoAnn went out to runs some errands, leaving Aaron and me to wash my beloved navy blue two-door Fiat (because that’s what guys do to bond). The car, being a European two-door coupe, had very little room in the back, but just enough room for a car seat. Aaron was like me at his age. He wanted to be inside near the steering wheel, radio, and keys, so he climbed into the car while I put up the windows, closed the door, and started hosing off the vehicle.
It was a beautiful, warm late Spring day in Southern California and we were having a ton of fun. Aaron would put his hand on the window and I’d spray where his hand was. He’d put his face to the glass and I’d spray his face.
At one point, Aaron jokingly pushed down the door lock, and I mimed how funny that was. I also mimed right back that he should unlock it, but it was too late, he was already turning and jumping like a chimp on the seat. Oh was it fun — until he jumped his way into the back, found his car seat, and to my surprise, buckled himself right in!
Aaron looked at me for a moment and then realized he was stuck. He started to cry. I made funny faces and behaved in a manner that most would describe as silly to distract him and calm him down, but I couldn’t help but notice that the sun was now shining directly into the car, turning it into a dark blue sauna, and illuminating the glistening beads of sweat on his little nose.
Through the closed windows, I tried to tell Aaron how to press the buckle so that the car seat latch would release, but, alas, it was, in fact, childproof. With his little face getting red and sweaty, I knew that time was not on my side. Since JoAnn had the other key to the car, there was only one thing I could do. I went into the house, got my hammer, and smashed the driver’s side window in order to reach in and unlock the door.
Cool air rushed in past my face as I pulled him out. Life was good, and that adventure cost me a hundred and seventy five bucks.
When I told JoAnn about it, she didn’t criticize me for leaving our baby to run free in the car with the keys inside. She just shook her head and laughed with me – as she did when I lost Emily skiing, accidentally hit Benjy on the head with a baseball bat, forgot to pick Coby up from Sunday School, and any number of other things that may have happened along the way while raising our family of four .
My parents were pragmatists and I believe I owe them the real essentials of this story — No panic, no anger, and an ability to laugh at ourselves. In fact, keeping our head is one of the basic keys to raising children who remain calm and learn to solve problems. It’s about the example we set, and as parents we may not all be in the same boat, but we’re all on the same ocean.
Parenting is decision-making — thousands upon thousands of decisions. What we call common sense is just the most reliable compass for guiding those decisions. Trusting in common sense solutions, like calming your child prior to smashing the window of your beloved car, helps us respond calmly and effectively when raw emotion might cause unprepared parents to panic.
BTW – I really loved that Fiat.