I’m the Latch Key Mom, or at least that’s what I’m now calling myself, because I had to come up with a cool name for my blog. Okay – maybe it’s not exactly cool, but it does describe me and my mommyhood. I’m fortunate to be the mother of four wonderful children. One of my babes has autism and he likes to explore. I’m the warden of my own personal Cuckoo’s Nest, so I wear my house key on a lanyard around my neck, to lock in all our craziness. And believe me, it can get crazy.
A few years ago, we lived in a typical subdivision, on a cul-de-sac, with lots of neighbors close by. As my son with autism (Bear – short for Barrett) got older, he discovered that our backyard fence was easy to scale; that our door locks were easy to manipulate; and that there was a great big world out there, which we’d sheltered him from. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to have some very kind and patient neighbors. On both sides of our house, we had empty-nesters, which in addition to always having an eye on everything, also seemed to find amusement in our little explorer. Before I even knew he was gone, my phone would ring with a call announcing, “Barrett’s outside!”
Once upon a time, Bear walked right past an adult (who will remain nameless, but it wasn’t me), on our back porch, while in his pajamas, as it was past bedtime. The adult was actually on an emergency business call, and honestly never saw Bear walk past. It was getting dark and Bear walked down the back steps, scaled the fence, went up the hill and entered the house of some neighbors with whom we were still only acquaintances. Yes, he just opened the door and walked in, like Goldilocks! He looked around – and I’m speculating here, because there’s no proof to this portion of the story – probably investigated the pantry, used the facilities and looked for a computer. Not satisfied with what he found, he ventured upstairs. At this point, I do have eyewitnesses, so I’m revealing the facts. He entered the family’s master bedroom, where mom, dad and three children, dressed in their jammies, were gathered on the bed for story time! My Bear got so excited; he jumped on the bed to join them.
Back at the ranch, the adult on duty got a call…talk about mortifying! I swear to God, my husband called a real-estate agent, because a sign was most certainly going up in the yard the next morning. Those neighbors were so understanding and lucky for us (and Bear, who made many more uninvited entrances into their home), they became close family friends. Who knows? That may not have happened, if not for Bear’s breaking and entering.
He’s been caught with his hand in neighbor’s cookie jars, literally. He’s hidden out in a neighbor’s basement, to play with their dogs. He’s streaked in the cul-de-sac…more than once. He’s tip-toed in the tulips. I’m telling you, I could go on and on (and on).
Now this may make us sound a bit incompetent, but we do have four children and it’s often hard to keep a beat on all of them, all of the time. And honestly, Bear has some serious stealth. It doesn’t just happen….he plans it. That being said, we did make attempts to secure the premises – I swear. Bear couldn’t be in the backyard alone and his siblings were instructed to keep an eye on him. We also made both the front and back doors keyed locks, so the kids would have to ask us to open the door for them. The garage, still presented a problem, since the interior door did not have a key lock. We had a second refrigerator out there and shelves for pantry over-flow, so we didn’t want to put a key lock on the door for convenience sake. But we put a lock box on the buttons that opened the exterior garage doors. Well, accidents still sometimes happened. There were times when we’d forget to close the outside doors, or they were open because the other kids were playing out front, so there was still opportunity. Then we put a code lock on the interior garage door. See? We really did try.
Not all neighbors understood. One couple wasn’t very happy that Bear seemed to LOVE their backyard garden. And we did have to call 911, more than once, when he went missing, so we kind of developed a reputation. Eventually, this factored into our decision to move (not exclusively, but we did relish the chance of a fresh start for Bear).
There was a short period of transition, when we rented and were quite frankly very vulnerable on the Bear security front. There was a horrible incident when he went missing for quite a while – I lost years off my life, believe me. I still can’t really talk about. It was awful.
Then we found our dream house. We are so lucky. Lots of land and a big house, with lots of doors…uh-oh. Yeah, big problem. I won’t bore you with all the different security scenarios we came up with, but we settled on keyed locks for all the doors. Doors are locked at all times – and yes, I do occasionally have nightmares about the dangers of that. It ain’t easy.
So how’d the key end up on my neck? Well, in the beginning, I flippin’ lost my keys all the time and it sucked when someone was at the front door and I couldn’t answer it. It would be so embarrassing when a delivery man or a neighbor would ring the doorbell and I could see them and they could see me, but I couldn’t find my key to open the door. Then they would watch me panic, running around like a chicken without its head, looking for a key, all the while pleading with them to “hold on.” Or, I’d be in hurry to go somewhere and couldn’t kind the key. Then there was the time a friend dropped me off and left, and I didn’t have my key. Blah,blah,blah. So now I wear the key around my neck all the time. It’s convenient and so unfashionable!
People always ask me why I have a key around my neck – so there you have it. If someone has a short answer I can give, for the next time I’m asked, I’d love to hear it. Snarky or cute will work!