By Guest Blogger Laura Simon
The first house where I lived with my babies didn’t have locks on most of the doors. I replaced the door hardware shortly after we moved in – and after my friend had a truly harrowing experience involving a toddler, and locked door, the fire department, and a tube of mascara – I decided locks were a risk I didn’t need to take.
I did put a lock on a primary bathroom, for obvious reasons, and naturally my then-four-year-old managed to lock that door, and shut it behind him while water was running in the bathtub. Said child now loves to tell the story of being taken to the back deck and lowered through the (fortunately) unlocked window into the bathroom so he could turn off the tub and unlock the door. In his retelling, he always emerges a hero and somehow he fails to mention he created the disaster in the first place.
After that, I bought a special tool to pick homemade locks and forbade anyone in the house from using the bathroom lock. I followed the rule myself, which means I spent years doing all sorts of unimaginable things while taking a shower or using the bathroom. Peel a banana while shampooing my hair? Yep, I’ve done that. Style hair while sitting on the toilet? I’ve done that, too. Basically our bathroom door was more of a revolving door filled with the needs and wants of toddlers.
Then we moved to our current house, a house with lots of doors and a lock on each and every one. And recently, I decided to use the lock on the bathroom door. My kids are a little older now – 9,7, and 5 – mostly at an age where they can handle themselves just fine if I don’t hover over them all day, but also at an age where they want me to do something for them just about every other minute.
I just wanted to take a shower. A shower that didn’t involve getting out to wipe a butt. A shower that didn’t include opening a water bottle or approving an outfit. I told my kids what they could do, where in the house they could play, and I locked the door and fired up the shower.
Like any new experiment, things were a little rocky at first. Immediately all the bellies in the house screamed with hunger. Children who had just eaten a full, square meal fifteen minutes before banged on the door and wailed about starvation. When that didn’t work, someone decided to sob that she needed a Band-aid for an injury she suffered a week and a half before, even though there was clearly no fresh blood and fresh blood is required for any sort of band-aid. And when THAT didn’t work, someone wrote a note – complete with illustrations and written in red ink – and slid it under the door. “We want a snack,” it informed me. And below the word “snack,” someone clarified – in black pen – “candy.”
It was 8:57 am. They’d finished breakfast at 8:47. In fact, at least one child still had uneaten breakfast food in the table.
But do you know what didn’t happen? The world didn’t end. No one was hurt. I didn’t get a letter demoting me as a parent because for ten minutes, I dared to be unavailable for my children’s immediate desires. And what did happen? I enjoyed my shower, however short it was. And after the shower, I felt a little more relaxed because I’d actually only done one thing instead of my 5,000 mom tasks.
I thought to myself, “I should use that lock more often.”
And while I’m still very much available to my kids at all hours of the night, I’ve learned that it’s OK to shut the door and take a mommy time-out every once in a while. Sometimes I even eat the chocolate I’ve stashed on a high shelf, right next to the band-aids.
And my kids are OK, too. They’re learning that people have boundaries, and we need to respect them. They’re learning to be patient. They’re learning they aren’t the center of the universe either. That doesn’t mean you can safely trust a unlocked bathroom door at our house; you’d still better lock it. But at least, I hope, we’re starting down the road of respecting others, and their space.
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