Negotiating with a toddler.


My son loves to play with my keys and screams with rage when I deny him. I know it’s not the most sanitary thing in the world as he does like to gnaw on the Big Ben dangling from the ring, but he’s good at catching me in moments of weakness.

Last month, we had such an occasion. We were picking up Leni from preschool and as I buckled her in I heard the telltale bweep bwip from the electronic fob. A little alarm went off in my head. Take the keys back now, it said. So I shut the door and walked around to his side. That is where I realized I was locked out. With child locks in the back seat the only solution was to have Leni somehow extract the keys from Finn.

Now, the smart thing would have been to check to make sure the doors were unlocked before I closed the door, obvi. Hindsite, am I right? And so I found myself asking my 4-year-old daughter to help me extract the keys from her 15-month-old bro who I couldn’t even convince moments earlier. Through her closed window. Finn was not exactly eager to give up his prize of course. Maybe especially to his sister. As she was buckled in too, she couldn’t just take them from his vice-like grasp either. So we both had to ask him in sing-songy soothing tones to give Leni the keys.

“Come on Finn! Can you give Leni the keys? You can do it! So fun!”

Picture a slightly dishevelled woman in a parking lot locked out of her car calling through the glass to some young children (possible not even visible to anyone but her due to the tinted window).

Finn did eventually give Leni the keys, thankfully.

Step two was explaining to Leni how to operate the fob. I imagine it is exactly how a hostage negotiator would feel talking a rookie detective through a bomb diffusion. Same same. High stakes and all that.

“Ok see the black thing? Yes! Ok now turn it over. No the other side. Good! Now press the button with the open lock. Not the red one! Good good. The other one. The second down. Yes.”

After a few minutes of back and forth, she got it. It felt like much longer, mind you.  Suffice it to say, Leni saved the day. I am now in the car. No longer stuck outside it, looking like a jackass. And Finn is content as can be. Even slightly amused? Am I imagining that?

Leni is the hero of the day, but got very annoyed with me for saying so. You never know what will insight the ire of a 4-year-old. Or maybe she’s just incredibly humble?

Have I learned my lesson with the keys? Mostly. I would like to give a firm yes to that question, but he’s played with them since so…

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