Saturday, March 17, 2012

On carseats and babyhood

Have you ever had a disconnect between instinct and research? Assuming you had the power to make the decision, how did you handle the dilemma or issue?

The upside of living in 2012 is that there's a world of research, reporting, information (and yes, opinion) immediately at our fingertips. As parents, we know so much more than our parents did. In 1974, you bought Dr. Spock (or you didn't) and that was it. Now the self-help parenting world is packed full of books, essays, websites, and philosophies on parenting and other elements of child-rearing. The downside of all this information, of course, is negotiating with yourself when your instinct or inclination flies in the face of expert research.

I'm feeling torn between the research and the reality myself. The Tot (Who's Not) wants to sit in a high-backed booster seat in the car. He currently sits in a 5-point harness seat (Sunshine Kids' Radian 65), but his older siblings both sit in boosters, as do the vast majority of his preschool-aged friends, all children of type-A, educated, research-oriented mothers. But the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) is unequivocal on this point: a harnessed seat is the safest place for a child to ride in a car until said child maxes out the height or weight limits of the seat.

The Tot (Who's Not) turns 5 next month, a milestone age for most children. At 5, a child may still be regarded as "young," but he is no longer a baby or a toddler. And the finality of that makes me nostalgic for my children's infancy. Downy heads, milky smiles, and early cooing are long past for me. The Tot (Who's Not) would tell you that he is not "little." I remember The Boy, at age 5, correcting a fellow mother in the Chicago Children's Museum when she referred to him as "a little boy" to her own children.

And so the debate I currently have with myself is whether to keep The Tot (Who's Not) in a harnessed seat because it's safer than a booster seat, or to join the majority of my peers and friends by moving him to a high-back booster seat within The Great White Moose. That he asks me if I can buy him a booster seat every time we are in the car is part of it. It's tiresome to explain to him at least four times a day that it's safer for him to be in a harnessed seat, this his siblings did not go into HBBs until they were 7 (The Boy) and 6 (The Girl), and that the difference between him and his friends whose "birthdays are after mine" is 10-20 pounds. I know, I know. Having to answer a child's same question repeatedly is tiresome. It's also an unavoidable part of parenting.

Part of me thinks that the move to a HBB is just another step toward growing up. After all, I have no desire to encapsulate my children in a bubble until they are 18. Although they are only almost-5, almost-7, and 9, I spend part of each day prepping my children to become productive, self-sufficient adults. There is definitely a degree of measuring risk and taking action involved in parenting, as in life. But although it doesn't seem like it, getting in a car that moves every day is much riskier than letting your children walk to the city park by themselves. That is the expert research that is tripping me up in keeping The Tot (Who's Not) in a harnessed seat until he's in 2nd grade.

What do you think?

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