When I was born in 1977, my home state of New York did not yet have child passenger safety seat laws on the books (that would not happen until 1982). So I could legally have come home from the hospital in nothing more secure than my mother’s arms. However, I am happy to report that my conscientious parents did strap me in a car seat that probably looked similar to this plastic tub. Things have come a long way, baby. These days, every child and his or her parents must endure a virtual car seat odyssey before a simple adult lap belt will do.
Don’t get me wrong – I am all for high-tech safety standards and state-of-the-art car seats. But do they have to make these things so darned hard to install? And expensive? And huge? I am also embarrassed to admit I have at times been confused by which car seat matches my child’s age/height/weight/blood type (well, might as well).
And then there is the #$%# LATCH system. It is no doubt a wonderful advancement in car seat safety. But car seat manufacturers need to let us moms know that only Hercules can install these seats.
When I had S. in 2006, I got her a top-safety-rated infant car seat that I could take in and out of the car, at risk of a
hernia, to ensure that my baby kept sleeping as I moved in out of stores and friend’s houses and wherever else I could think of to get us out of the house for a few hours. That seemed tolerable, even ideal for a new mom who liked to be on the move. Buckling her five-point harness was no big deal to me. She was so tiny and I was so anxious to keep her alive and safe that I just accepted she had to be locked up like Fort Knox to go to the grocery store.
Then S. got bigger, the car seat issue more complicated.
In my first-time-mom naivety, I thought S. would move right from the infant seat to one of those big kid booster seats. I didn’t realize until S.’s one-year well visit that she actually needed an interim car seat – the dreaded convertible car seat. I’m sure the pediatrician was a little worried for S.’s welfare when I admitted I had no idea there even was such a thing.
The convertible car seat we chose weighed about forty pounds sans child, took half a day to install, and took up half the backseat of our Nissan Maxima. Glop had to sit himself in the car seat to secure the LATCH system properly, plus use all his strength to pull the buckles taut. The 5-point harness kept S. in there good and tight, but getting her out was the problem. Every time I unbuckled her I almost broke my thumb.
What followed was two years of car seat hardship. Any time we had to switch the convertible car seat to our other car, we had to plan ahead. Way ahead. Because I lacked the strength to put the seat in properly, I was at Glop’s mercy for car seat removal and installation. Any time S. threw up/peed in/spilled on her seat, we couldn’t go anywhere for days. Moving the seat from my car to Glop’s car was an event. And forget about even trying to switch the seat into a friend’s car. I had to drive everywhere.
At three, S. weighed enough to move into an interim type of booster seat. It weighed a little less than the convertible behemoth, but we still had to deal with the LATCH system and a tricky 5-point harness. At four, S. moved into her FOURTH car seat, which finally relied solely on the lap strap that actually came with the car, thus making it EASY and PAINLESS to move her car seat between cars. However, A. had just been born and any celebration was tempered by the fact that we had to endure all the same car seat trials and tribulations with A.
So if you’ve stayed with me this far and you feel my pain, you’ll appreciate the glee I felt as I rolled out of Target with A.’s $35 high back booster seat (a mere pittance compared to the $120 convertible car seat and the $100+ 5-point booster seat).
It’s the little things, you know.
Some Eye-Openers About Car Seats
- The first “car seat”, introduced in 1898, was actually a bag designed to keep kids in place while the car was in motion (not necessarily to keep them safe).
- According to a study in Pediatrics, more than 50% of parents allow the 4-8-year-olds in their cars to forgo booster seats. See more on the study here. Scary!
- Car crashes are the leading cause of death of children 4 and older, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- It is suggested that kids ride in a belt-positioning booster seat through 8 YEARS OF AGE. Yikes.