lock ’em up. can we?


Four years ago we installed the first lock on the closet door.  It was a small hook and eye, placed about four feet off the ground.  It wasn’t meant to “lock” them out completely, we just wanted to make it harder for them to get inside.

You see – the “costume” (read: clothing) changes were exhausting.  I couldn’t count the number of outfits and the volume of clothes that my youngest two daughters went through in a day.  I was lost in a flurry of cotton within minutes of sending them in to get dressed.  Yes, I know.  It’s all my fault.  I trusted the three-year old to get her baby sister dressed. But folks, she wanted to do it.  She loved it. And, honestly,  I was tired and busy doing something for them so independent dressing sounded like a great idea.  

However, the quick minded three and half-year old and her eighteen-month-old side kick were smarter than me.  They easily reached the lock (it’s called a stool mom – uh, duh…).


I was determined to win.

We bought a thicker hook and eye lock.  We drilled a hole about five and a half feet off the ground into the closet door.  We stood back and high-fived.  For a moment, I saw peace and sensibility.  My home was on the verge of tranquility.  There would be no more clothing strewn about.  No more drama over t-shirts and colors.  No more tears shed over clothes (from them or me).  It was done.  Easy.

I won.

For about three months I was triumphant until they busted the lock and our house was once again showered in pink and purple and blue and green.  Dirty.  Clean. Underwear, socks, leotards, t-shirts, pajamas, shoes covered every room. It was overwhelming.  It was consuming.

It was bullshit.

The little princesses were not going to win.

I ripped off the broken lock and installed a sliding monster of security.  A huge lock (think deadbolt) that had to be moved in and out of place.  We put it at the top, maybe six feet of the ground.  My friends thought I was crazy  (how many people lock their kids out of the bedroom closet?).  They questioned my reasoning, no doubt thinking I was a case of neat freak gone nuts.  I can only imagine what the cul-de-sac conversations sounded like when my kids mentioned the new lock.

I didn’t care.  I couldn’t handle it.  I couldn’t handle them.  There were no other answers.

The clothes were locked in.

We opened the closet in the morning and selected an outfit.  We shut the door and locked it.  Chaos stayed behind the locked door.  It was so easy.  I could control what happened.

I loved all seven days of it.  Then, they broke it and I gave up.  Gave in.   I am not sure what the proper preposition is to end the ordeal, but, in short, I lost.

Total bullshit.

I had to figure out how to make peace with the clothing drama.  The color drama. The “I have NOTHING good to wear” drama.

I still haven’t figured it out (but I’d love some suggestions).

Now, two years later, I have a five and a seven-year old that are still sharing a room and, for the first time, getting up tomorrow morning to go to school.  Together.

In hindsight, the closet lock was unnecessary.  However, tomorrow would be an ideal time for an effective sliding lock. A deadbolt for my heart.

I’d like the kind of lock that I could fasten into place and know that my baby would be safe from the growing pains that are just around the corner.  I would slide the lock into place and protect her from the heartache of making friends and losing friends. I’d keep out the insecurity that accompanies learning and failing.  I’d not let the fear of falling and finding her footing and her way in this world impede or shadow her happiness.

The ideal sliding lock would be tethered around my older daughters who, until now, I deemed safe because we had a youngest, an innocent, still at home.  I’d lock them in and keep them vulnerable and innocent – which is easy to be when there is a baby in the house.  I’d lock the cruelty out.  I’d lock the fear and doubt and teenage angst out.  I’d keep the wide eyes and ridiculous questions.  Hell, I’d even keep the bullshit costume changes if it meant I could lock them all in a hysterical stupor of giggles.

If the damn lock had worked, I’d be using it on myself.   I’d be locking out the rapid heartbeat that took over when I kissed the girls goodnight.  I’d lock out the frantic thoughts of my own aging that is juxtaposed against theirs.  I’d lock out the fear that tomorrow, they are all one step closer to not needing me.  I’ve been hiding behind the warm, fuzzy statement that, “my youngest is still in preschool.”

She isn’t anymore.

And, there is no way to lock them in and keep them safe.

I suppose the mature and rational thing to do is to walk them all in to the same school, at the same time, kiss them goodbye and walk away.  I’m going to do that.  If you see me tomorrow I’ll be all brave and happy and I’ll be mumbling something about how I am SO ready for this…


When I come home there will be at least 10 outfits strewn about from the morning mayhem of getting dressing and I will stare at the closet that doesn’t lock and hold my coffee and listen to nothing.


Locking them out of their closet failed.

Thinking I could lock them in time failed.

But locking them into my heart, imprinting their innocence and their vulnerable existence on my soul…

I’m pretty sure that lock is foolproof.


12 Responses to “lock ’em up. can we?”

  1. 1 Trevor

    It took me two days to get here to comment after reading your post. I can’t believe we walked all three of them into school on the 15th. I have to say I hated that kindergarten classroom for the 15 minutes we were there. I couldn’t enjoy the moment for the level of concentration that was going on in my head….”Don’t do it Trevor…Don’t you cry in front of all of these people…Damn you Trevor bite your lip a little harder and don’t look at her!” Sorry for my silence and my unfocused gaze into the corner. At any rate, I am proud of our girls and I am proud of you for giving them each five plus years of your undevided attention. As hard as that was, I will never forget that morning at ECC. Love you.

  2. 2 Mark

    Having children is a blessing and a curse. To have the good, you need to take the ugly. I, for one, would never, ever, go back to not having mine. They are simply too precious; the good moments, and the bad. I cry now, thinking to the future when I must walk my lil’girl down the aisle, but cherish the memories of her first steps. And yes, that too brings tears to my eyes.

    • I love that you are here Mark and sharing your take on this whole gig from the Daddy perspective. Thank you. Your thoughts brought tears to my eyes and you are right, it’s all about the good and the not so good. But, really, I guess it’s all good. Right?

  3. 4 Jay Jay koi

    I can relate on so many levels. I threatened my girls at 2 and 4 that I would take all their cloths out of their room and lock them in my closet. I would hand them an outfit everyday and that was what they would wear. Next Wednesday my baby gets on the bus with her big sister….I’m not ready for this. My oldest son starts Parkside ( he will see your mom). I want time to stand still.

    You brought me to tears with your writing and helped give me strength for next week….I will stand in my house coffee in hand and listen to the silence. It has been 6 years since my oldest started school and now all three will be in school. Sometimes I thought this day would never come….now I’m so sad it is here.

    • Jay Jay – I am so happy to have reconnected with you and know that we are sharing many of the same “moments.” I cannot believe that your oldest is heading to Parkside, that in and of itself makes me want to cry. Weren’t we just there??? Hang in there. Day three feels – well – good! 🙂

  4. 6 Jen N

    Crap, now I’m crying…
    Great piece. Just put my own three down to bed all squeaky clean and yummy smelling and perfect. I agree, need a lock on this time.
    But talk to me at dinner/bath time tomorrow…

  5. 8 Jessica

    I’m at home today because I had no place for my children to go for the day. I am ready for school to start. I have two more weeks on anxiety regarding child care. But I have to say…It is so nice to be home this morning, still in our pjs, listening to the girls laugh and play in the back of the house. I miss this in the morning and one or two weekend days are not enough. If I were closer we could go to lunch and break the silence.
    I am so excited for Evie…she’s been waiting so long to be a big girl like her sisters.

  6. 9 Jennifer

    I cannot believe Genevieve is starting Kindergarten today, be brave & she will too! (plus she has both of her sisters right there). It took me until October to really enjoy everyone being at school. But even now I still miss them being home when the first few weeks of school start.

  7. 11 Beth

    First of all, I’m remembering some clothing drama of our own…
    Second of all, you told me a lock on the closet would work…
    Thirdly, I can’t believe Genevieve is going to kindergarten…
    Fourth, just realized last night that my babysitter thinks I’m old…
    Fifth, a lock on the pantry door doesn’t work so well either, mostly for the adults who forget about it and eventually rip it out from forgetting to undo it…
    Sixth, I can’t believe Genevieve is starting kindergarten!
    Have a great day, sis! I have a feeling it won’t take you too long to enjoy the silence.

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