Every day, I start the morning by running car errands and every day, when we return home, I let Buddy out of the car first. Then I open the garage door for him and bring in my purse, coffee and any other items we purchased while we were out. After that, I go back to get Buster and Buddy stands in the hallway taking off his shoes and coat.
Today, Buster asked me if he could go in first. In the last month or so, he has become much more cautious and self-sufficient, so we have been allowing him to have a bit more independence. He's very diligent about taking off his shoes and coat on the mat as soon as we get inside, so I didn't see any harm in letting him do that while I got Buddy out of his car seat. To be extra safe, I made sure to leave the door open, so I could see him from the garage during the 20 seconds or so it would take me to unbuckle Buddy and help him climb out of the car.
Of course the first thing Buster did when I returned to the garage was to shut the door and lock the deadbolt. At first, I was just annoyed he hadn't listened when I told him to leave the door open. I finished getting Buddy unbuckled and then walked back to the door and told him to open it. He pulled on the door handle and said "I no know how to do it."
Hmmmm. Now what?
I still wasn't too concerned. I assumed he just needed a little reminder of how to undo what he had done seconds earlier. I told him he needed to unlock the deadbolt to which he replied "What is a deadbolt?". The next few minutes went something like this:
Me: See the door handle?
Buster: What door handle?
Me: The thing you pull to open the door.
Buster: This door?
Me: Yes, this door. See the handle?
Buster: Oh, yes.
(Buddy: I'm cold, I'm cold, I'm cold...)
Me: The deadbolt is the big lock above the door handle.
Buster: What big lock?
Me: The metal pole you can flip back and forth. The pole you just flipped when you closed the door.
(Buddy: I'm, cold, I'm cold, I'm cold...)
Buster: Oh, okay.
Me: Okay, good. Can you turn the pole back?
Buster: What pole?
Me: The deadbolt pole, above the door handle.
Buster: Oh okay. (pause) Mama, I can't reach it no more.
(Buddy: I'm cold, I"m cold, I'm cold...)
Me: Go into the bathroom and get your step stool, okay?
Buster: Okay! (feet running and then stool being dragged to the door) I getted my stool!
Me: GREAT! Now stand on the stool and unlock the deadbolt.
Buster: What deadbolt?
****repeat entire above conversation****
After several minutes, it became clear that Buster couldn't figure out how to unlock the door. At this point, I started to panic a bit as I realized that with my purse sitting on the counter, I had no keys AND no phone, so in order to call my mom or Chris to bring over a set a keys, I would need to leave Buster inside the house alone for the several minutes it would take me to run down to the neighbor's house and use the phone. The more I thought about the sorts of problems Buster can get himself into when he's alone for several minutes, the more I realized I didn't feel comfortable w/that option.
So I'm standing in the garage, playing the part of the calm "this is nothing to worry about" mom, while frantically evaluating which items in our garage would be best for breaking a window and deciding that the best thing to do is to break a panel next to the front door and the reach through and unlock it. And because I am such a spaz, I started picturing myself slicing open my arm on a jagged piece of glass, collapsing in the snow and freezing to death while my helpless children sob over my body
I decided before I risked an early death I would make one last attempt to have Buster let us in the house. I told him to take his stool over to the front door and that I would meet him over there. Once we were all in place, I explained again how to unlock the deadbolt, which was much easier now that I could see Buster through the window and give him more precise instructions. Finally on the third attempt, he was able to unlock the door and we got in the house.
After my heart stopped racing, I decided it was time to move the house phones to locations where the kids can reach them and go over how to call for help. Knowing Buddy shares my tendency to imagine terrifying scenarios and Buster dreams of riding in an ambulance, I tried to keep my explanation as matter-of-fact as possible. We spent about 20 minutes pretending we needed help and each boy took several turns picking up the phone, turning it on and pretending to dial "9-1-1". I'm sure we'll need to go over it a few more times, since Buddy was too focused on all the potential disasters that could leave me unable to help them and all Buster could talk about was how exciting it would be for the police to come to see him. In the mean time, I think I will keep an extra house key in the garage and continue to exercise caution when carrying laundry down the stairs or using the carving knife.