When my children were born the issue that plagued me the most was car seat safety. I admit, I read everything in my path related to child safety. I scoured books and articles with advice on everything from how to do baby CPR to how to save an injured tooth. I childproofed every cabinet. All cleaning products went into storage above the refrigerator. Outlets were safety-capped and cords were constrained. Bumper guards protected them from sharp corners and gates were affixed at the staircase.
And the car seats were inspected by me, Dom, my father and the state police, lest any haphazard inattention to detail go unchecked.
I kept close watch on the weight limits of every car seat. I registered every one of them so I would be notified in the event of a recall. I knew when to replace them, when to adjust them for growth, and when to be done with them completely.
Let me go on the record now and say: We are not done with them yet.
My children abhor the booster seats. Not that I blame them. I can vividly recall using plastic booster seats at restaurant tables when I was little, and being SOOOO grateful when I was finally pronounced “big enough” to sit in the regular chair without the boost. So I get it when my kids complain that they HAAAAAAAAAATE the booster seats.
But, state law says 4’9” is the magic height to finally be out of a booster. My oldest has two inches to go. The booster seats accommodate children up to 80 pounds. My kids are 58 and 68 pounds. So, Mom’s Rule is that they still must ride in the boosters.
They hate me for it.
When we pull up to the school, the children insist on being let out “at the bridge” at the front of the school so they can walk up to the building, rather than going through the traditional carpool line and being assisted by the 4th and 5th grade Safety Patrol. It finally dawned on me that perhaps they don’t want their peers to see them climbing out of a booster seat in our vehicle. And I so want to help them avoid harassment and embarrassment. But at what cost?
Having read every article ever published on car seat safety and the necessary regulations that govern them, I recall only one with painful clarity. A mom let her 6-year old ride in the front seat of their SUV. He seemed big enough. He was wearing his seatbelt, after all. And mom was conscientious enough to have disabled the airbag. But during the drive she swerved a tiny bit and her tire caught the shoulder in such a way that caused her to lose control of her vehicle. The SUV rolled. The passenger door came flying open. And the 6-year old too quickly and too easily slipped out of the seatbelt’s hold and glided underneath the rolling vehicle. His little body was just too small, too light, for the seatbelt to restrain him properly. His mother is now an advocate for child safety restraints in vehicles.
I do not ever want to pay such a high price to care so much.
Vehicle seat belts are made to properly restrain adults in the violent reactions of physics during a crash. A child is different. That is why there ARE child safety restraints. Booster seats raise the child up so that the lap belt rests across their lap in the proper way, and makes the shoulder restraint fit them better, so that in the event of a crash the child has more of the height properties of an adult and is more likely to avoid injury. Car seats of all kinds are designed to help the seat belt function properly. If that seat belt is not ready for my 58 pound daughter, then she is not ready for it.
I see children much smaller than my own riding in the back seat with no booster, and worse, riding in the front seat. All the time. I know my kids think it’s embarrassing to be in a booster seat at ages 9 and 10. But I also know there is nothing the mother whom I mentioned earlier wouldn’t give to have her child sitting safely in the back seat in his booster, to have rolled that SUV and not lost the most precious thing she had.
When talking about seat belts in general, I heard a guy say this morning that he encourages people to “Wear your seatbelt today. Today may be the day you need it.”
For as long as my children fit the requirements for booster seats, they will ride in them. My purpose, after all, is to keep them healthy and safe. And, BECAUSE. I. SAID. SO!