Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Oh. My. God.
My ever-well-behaved three-year-old just locked me out of the apartment.
Obviously it's turned out okay and the "just" implies that I didn't have to wait for Gaetan to come home in the evening to discover me still shaking with rage on the balcony. But it was an alarming five minutes.
I suppose my mistake was telling her NOT to close the door. Presumably she wouldn't have thought of it if I hadn't alerted her to the opportunity.
Let's back up a little. Our balcony has two doors, one from the living room and one from Chloé's room. Normally in the summer (when the weather acts like summer, anyway), both doors are open and the air and inhabitants of the apartment are free to move about between indoors and out. But at the moment the balcony is off-limits because 1) the babies are not allowed out on the balcony because they a) dig in the flower pots and b) eat every bit of garbage, leaves and dirt they can get their hands on, and 2) one of the cats fell down a hole in the roof yesterday...right, that story doesn't belong to this post. At any rate, there's a hole in the balcony that we don't need the cats to jump into. So the balcony doors remain closed.
The door from the living room was tilted (open from the top - the only way to open the door is from the inside, close it and turn the handle) and I left through Chloé's room to hang the laundry out on the balcony. "Do NOT lock this door," I said as I pulled the door closed (but so that I could push it open from outside). As I hung clothes on the other side of the balcony, I heard the soft clunk of the handle being turned into the downward, locked position.
I didn't panic. This had happened before. I walked over to her closed and now locked door.
"Chloé," I said loudly (since the door was closed - I wasn't yet angry) and firmly. "Open the door."
She shook her head.
"Chloé." More firmly. "Open the door NOW."
She shook her head.
Now I was starting to panic. "Chloé! Open the goddamn door NOW!"
She shook her head. Calmly. Went back to looking at her book. 
I breathed, loudly. Paced twice to the other door and back, possibly to be sure that it was really not open.
Not open.
I pounded on her door. "Chloé! Open this door!"
She shook her head.
"I can't get in! Do you want me to wait out here until Daddy comes home?!"
A nod.
"What if something happens? If the babies fall, I can't get to you!"
Try another angle. "Okay, if you want your door closed, open the other door. I don't care. Just open a door."
Scheisse. Fuck.
I paced a few more times. Wondered what I was really going to do if left out on the balcony in my pyjamas all day.
I went back to the door. I was about to lose it. "Chloé, if you open this door now, I won't be mad. If you don't open it now, I'm going be FUCKING PISSED and you're going to be in BIG FUCKING TROUBLE later!" At the periphery of my fear was what the neighbors were thinking of me screaming curses at my kid.
Shake of the head.
Breathe. Breathe. How do you reason with a three-year-old?
"Listen, Chloé, I'm serious." I tried to sound calm and, you know, reasonable. "Something could happen and I can't help you if I can't get in." Pause. "I mean it, if you open the door now, I won't be mad. Just let me in."
She stared at me for a few seconds then put her book down and came to the door. I could see in her face that she had conditions she wanted met but didn't have the language to voice them. Just as well.
She turned the handle and then threw herself back onto her bed. I took a few deep breaths and sat down next to her. "Chloé, like I said, I'm not mad. You let me in and that's what's important. But if you EVER do that again and try to lock me out, I'm going to be VERY mad. And I'm going to fix the doors so that you can't open and close them like that. Big girls like you are able to open and close the doors but if you can't let me in when I ask you to, then I guess you're not big enough. Okay?" I waited. "Do you understand?" She glared at me but didn't say anything. Close enough. "You know, if the problem is that you want to be left alone, you can tell me that, and you can shut your door and sit by yourself for a while. Okay? Just let me know."
Who knows what I might be letting myself in for with that last offer, but I felt like I needed to give her a little support as a "big girl." I don't know precisely how to fix the doors but I have friends who (apparently) can't trust their children and they've changed the handles so that they aren't tall enough to turn them. I had thought (or hoped) that I wouldn't have to do that, that I could trust Chloé not to be stupid. But she IS only three. How much can we expect?

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