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Viola Davis Recounts Accidentally Locking Her Baby in a Car

After sharing the harrowing event, the star reflected on how parents “all want the perfectionism,” but rarely know just “how messy it gets.”
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published March 4, 2024
celebrity actress, Viola Davis with her adopted daughter, Genesis
Image: Getty Images

Navigating the pressures of parenthood can be overwhelming, with the constant quest for perfection weighing heavily on parents. However, actress and mother Viola Davis recently offered a poignant reminder that parenting is anything but flawless.

In a candid conversation with Jennifer Lawrence for Variety’s Actors on Actors series, the How to Get Away with Murder star recounted a heart-stopping incident when she inadvertently locked her child in the car on a scorching day. “I locked my kid in the car and it was sweltering hot outside,” she confessed.

“I was overwhelmed. You would think I was in a Greek tragedy. ‘My Baby!! Jesus!’ And then I saw these two men. I grabbed their necks. ‘I said my baby is in the car, my baby!’ And then what do I have in my hand, my phone. So the two men whose necks I have in my hand, they said, ‘Mamm you just have to call 911!’”’

Davis said she then called 911, frantically asking them to come to her address, noting that the whole time her daughter was happy, oblivious and dancing in the car. Emergency services arrived and quickly removed her daughter from the car and the whole endeavor lasted “literally seconds.” But Davis notes she was “traumatized, and I do mean traumatized.”

Even after the ordeal, Davis found herself wandering through Target in a daze, her daughter seizing the opportunity to charm her way into a slushie… Amid it all Davis phoned her friend Michelle. “I said, ‘Michelle is this what being a mom is?’ She said ‘Viola I am sorry, but yeah. It is. I’m sorry that happened but I locked my kid in the apartment and I had to call a locksmith and they didn’t come for two hours!’”

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“We all want perfectionism, to the extent that even the perfectionism, even when we say ‘No we don’t want…we know it’s going to be a little messy. We don’t know how messy it gets in life,” she adds.

The actress then goes on to note how she and other actors portray so many characters in an idealized version these days that it can set up an unrealistic standard to live up to and has people forgetting about the “locking the kid in the car” moments. “I say this because I run into so many women who have locked their kids in their car, just because you know, especially after…” Davis trails off as Lawerence talks about the one time she accidentally drove around without buckling her child in his car seat. “Good to know, we all almost kill our kids,” Lawrence jokes.

If you find yourself grappling with the pursuit of perfection in parenting, know that you’re not alone. Embracing the messy reality of raising a child is part of the journey. And if you ever worry about forgetting your little one in the back seat after a sleepless night, there’s always creative solutions like the mom’s TikTok hack, offering a gentle reminder that you’re doing the best you can.

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