Tennessee toddler stuck in arcade machine: Panic or take a picture?

A small boy in Tennessee managed to find himself inside a toy crane arcade machine. After the fire department was called, the grandma's camera came out. Sometimes a smile for the camera is the best way to diffuse a tricky situation.

Some may fault a grandma for snapping a picture of her 18-month-old grandson trapped inside an iron claw machine, but perhaps the simple act of capturing the moment is a lesson in parenting for panicked moms and dads.

Colin Lambert of Maryville, Tenn., just became the latest poster child for both adorable mishaps and parental panic-button moments when he got himself stuck inside an iron claw machine at a coin-op laundry.

The fire department freed the boy from the machine at Browns Creek Coin Laundry, but not before his grandmother had captured the image for posterity, which went viral thanks to social media. 

"I took a bunch of photos," Diane O'Neill told ABC News. "As long as he was OK, it was funny. He thought it was fun, like, 'Look what I can do. I’m clever.' He was smiling until he wanted to get out, and then he became unhappy."

In my experience, shooting a picture in a moment of crisis is not only OK, but possibly what keeps parents and kids from losing it in total panic.

I have had some pretty terrible panics short-circuited by someone pointing a camera at me and hollering, “Say CHEESE!” You can’t help it. You stop, the panic stops, and you look at the camera.

Your focus shifts as the camera zooms in.

While this is not a rule that applies in a life-threatening situation, for most anything else involving kid crisis, the camera can be a useful tool for diffusing freak-outs associated with life’s smaller crises.

I don’t just say this as the mom of four boys who have gotten themselves into every kind of bind, short of becoming a prize in a machine, but also as an overwhelmed parent who managed to slice off the tip of her right thumb using a mandolin slicer while making dinner last Friday night.

After a few hours getting patched up, two friends came to retrieve me from the local hospital ER. I was at that stage when help had been administered – like the grandma taking pictures knowing the fire department was on the way and it would be alright.

However, the initial shock had worn off and I was beginning to fall apart. All I wanted to do was get in the car and cry.

My friend Bruce blocked my path. He reached into the car and pulled out a gigantic hat made entirely of the kind of balloons clowns use to make into little dogs at parties. This was a massive woven balloon cupcake with a cherry on top.

He strapped it on my head, pulled out his cell phone and said “Say Cheese!”

My automatic response was to lift my now gigantically bandaged thumb in a battered “thumbs-up.”

“I was at a dinner and they had these on the tables,” Bruce explained. “Now you don’t have that image of how tonight was, stuck in your head forever.”

True. Now I have a picture of me looking ridiculous and the memory of good friends and unlikely places in which to find a smile.

Little Colin Lambert will be able to look back and laugh at the mischief he got into, perhaps as he himself wrangles a child from some unusual form of entanglement.

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