Time for a Story: A Mother Can’t Play Favorites; or Can She?


A mother should never play favorites with her children. My mother had instilled this concept in me after the birth of my second child and continued to remind me after the births of my next three children. I’ve also read about the detriments of favoritism online and in books. I realize this to be true. However, can’t there be allowances made in certain circumstances? You know, like when you and the family are about 1,400 miles from home and in crisis. Sometimes a particular child can become a favorite just by sheer size. Let me explain.  


We were heading out west the first time
               to see Colorado when we had a little
            problem in a parking lot.



We were on our first westward trip, from New Jersey to Colorado, and the troops were getting restless after travelling in the van a few days. I mean we do entertain the troops on long road trips with games and journals and tape recorders, but this was a particularly hot and sticky day and the kids were bored. So my husband decided to stop at Walmart. An innocent enough gesture to break up the day’s drive.
“Who wants to come into the store?” My husband asked the troops.
“What are you going to buy?” Our oldest asked in response, always the practical one.
Now while I’d answer with something interesting to get the kids inside the air-conditioned store, my husband’s a pillar of truth.
“I don’t know,” he told them. “I’m just going to look around.”
Not enough. He only got the shoppers in the family; our second daughter and the twins.
Nuts! I was trapped in a hot van with my son and the oldest. I couldn’t leave them in the van alone. I wouldn’t know where to begin to look for them if they weren’t in the car when I came out of the store. Okay, I was terrified that something would happen to them. I didn’t know anyone in Kansas. And besides, I wanted to get to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
My husband, sporting a smile on his handsome face, left with the shoppers. I grumbled in the passenger seat with my window down, praying for a breeze. The kids were quiet in the captain chairs behind my seat. I turned around to be sure they hadn’t passed out in the heat. They just sat there sweating with glum faces.
“You know,” I started. “They might have cold drinks in the grocery section of the Walmart.”
Nothing. Maybe they were unconscious with their eyes open.
“How about we buy some ice cream cups or salty snacks like a big bag of popcorn or pretzels.”
They bolted upright. I had them with food. We shut our windows and locked the van, racing through the parking lot and into the cool store.
We found the others by the ice cream section. They already had a bag of pretzels and some cold juice bottles.
“Get the Dixie cups,” I told my husband. “We need to be able to eat them in one sitting.”
“Makes sense,” he said. He opened the freezer door and all our children crowded in front of him, hogging the cold air escaping from the freezer. Good thing my husband has long arms.
But I wanted some of that cold air. I turned to the next freezer and opened it, basking in the cold air wafting from it.
“Vic!” My husband looked at me. His hands were full. “You said you wanted the Dixie cups.”
I closed the freezer. “Yep! Just trying to absorb a little cold air for later.”
We paid for the groceries and headed outside. Crossing the parking lot, my husband asked, “Do you have the keys, Vic?”
“Keys?” I looked at him, any effects of the cold air from the freezer evaporating instantly. The heat invaded my underarms. “You took the keys when you turned off the van, right?”
The children were hanging onto the locked door handles of the van. Suddenly, visions of our family eating ice cream in the front of the Walmart store for hours flooded my mind. How long would it take AAA to come and help us get into our car?
The important thing here, readers, is not to blame each other in the middle of a sweltering store parking lot in Kansas. [It was difficult!]
My husband swallowed. Hard. “Maybe I can get a coat hanger from someone in the store and try to unlock a door.”
I was walking around the locked van trying not to cry. 


Thank God for back slider windows on a
               conversion van. And thank God for
           slim young children. 


The kids were bunched up against the van in a small sliver of shade, wolfing down the melting ice cream cups.
Then I saw it. One of the tiny slider windows in the back of the van was open, or rather just screen-closed. I slid the screen open and called to my husband. “Can you reach in and unlock the center doors?” I didn’t think his reach was long enough, but I had no other idea.
When I turned to look at him, he was staring at the open hole and then at his children. He selected the slimmest twin, only ten years old, took her ice cream cup and gave it to our son. 
“Dad,” she complained.
“Pretend you’re diving, sweetie,” he said. “Turn your head sideways!” He picked her up.
“What are you doing?” I asked, alarmed for her safety.
He easily slipped her through the slider window. “Unlock the doors!”
She crawled off the bench seat and unlocked the van. We all cheered!
That night at camp, she became our MVC—most valuable child—because she saved us all from heat stroke in a store parking lot. She got to choose dinner and didn’t need to be a part of preparation or clean-up. 
In our bunk that night, I told my husband that our little “slim bean” was indispensable to our family camping trips.
“We can’t keep her that size forever,” he said as he rolled onto his side.
“Then I guess we need to keep the spare van key on a lanyard around your neck for the next time you leave the keys in the car.”
He bopped me with his pillow, but I took the spare van key out of the camper drawer and put it by his wallet. We kept a spare trailer key in the glovebox of the van. But it didn’t do us any good that day because we couldn’t get inside the van. Live and learn, ladies and gentlemen.
Have you ever locked your keys in the car or were you ever locked out of the house? Please offer any tips you may have on how you remedied the situation.
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8 thoughts on “Time for a Story: A Mother Can’t Play Favorites; or Can She?”

  1. Hi Victoria Marie … fun story – glad it was resolved fairly easily! I took Mum down to the beach near Cape Town … and said don't worry about clothes, or bags or anything and off we went – jumped out ready for a swim (yes we did have bathing suits on!) … shut the door and wham – keys in the car … luckily some kids with a coathanger managed to unlock it for us – crumbs I felt an idiot … a 40 year old and a 65 year old with no money and no transport … no water and no food – thankfully Mum was a down to earth one and didn't fuss!! We were duly grateful to some scruffy beach bums!!! Remedy: attract a beach bum with young fuzz!!
    Cheers Hilary

  2. You know, Hilary, I'm going to guess we all have a "locked your keys in the car" story. I'm so glad those "beach bums" had a coat hangar at the beach to be able to unlock your door. Wow! That could have been terrible.

    It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Camping with Five Kids, Hilary. Thanks for your comment. All best to you, my dear.

  3. No Victoria Marie, I have never had that problem but can appreciate how annoying it can be. Fortunately with remote control it's impossible to lock the car without the keys in your hand.

    Although modern cars are way over the top with technology, this is one benefit over the old manual locking system.

  4. That is so true, Bill! At the time, we didn't have any of this fancy new stuff. In fact, we still don't have any of the fancy new stuff. Although, not having to worry about locking your car keys in the car does sound like motivation to modernize our vehicles right about now.

    It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Camping with Five Kids, Bill. Thanks for your comment. All best to you, sir.

  5. We were definitely lucky, Michelle, both that the slider was open and that our little one was…well…little enough to slip through the opening.

    It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Camping with Five Kids. Thanks for your comment. It's greatly appreciated. Enjoy your weekend!

  6. Ha—I love this! (Seriously? Five kids? Wow…) I've never locked the keys in the car, but I have *lost* the keys (with the spare at home, laughing its head off). Only once, but it was enough to make me paranoid about keys forevermore 😀

    Great story!
    Guilie @ Life In Dogs

  7. Hello and welcome to Camping with Five Kids, Guilie! Thank you for your comment. I truly appreciate it.

    This is so true. We only need to lose keys or lock keys in the car once to discover that our precautions–spare key at home or in a locked trailer–are of no help at the time that we need them.

    Thanks for your note. Please visit Camping with Five Kids again.


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