I distinctly remember the first time I was forced to interact with a car seat. I’ve teamed up with Tesco this week to share what it is about car seats that I find so harrowing. My nephew was an infant and I was pregnant with my first child. My sister-in-law, a seasoned mother of two, was getting out of her car, deftly juggling her iced tea, a couple of diaper bags, her purse and her toddler, and I asked if there was anything I could do to help. She quickly responded that I could, “Get Leo out of his car seat” and then smiled as she added, “It’ll be good practice”. I quickly regretted offering my assistance.
Then I remembered that I would soon become a mother and have to do hard things like this so I took a deep breath and opened his door, determined that I, a woman who had successfully four-pointed her Master’s program, could retrieve him out of the car. I ogled the harnesses and clamps and straps and I (remembered) realized I had no clue what I was doing. I had no clue how to begin to unbuckle this car seat and no clue how I would ever survive the demands associated with being a parent. I could blame my terror on hormones, but I’m pretty sure I felt this way pre-pregnancy as well.
I backed away from the car seat and told her I would just carry her bags into the house instead.
Now, two children later, I’m a car seat pro. Sort of. Okay, maybe I’m not a pro, but I at least buckle in, tighten straps, unbuckle straps, loosen straps, heave a kid in, and heave a kid out what feels like a thousand times each day. I’m at least car seat experienced and car seat comfortable.
I still panic. Car seats are intimidating, yo.
I panic about whether or not I buckled the car seat straps together (even if I know I already buckled the car seat straps together). I panic about when I should move my children from rear-facing to front-facing. I panic about the financial costs related to ensuring my children are in the correct type of car seat during each growth stage, about whether the fabric of their coats protects them from the climate while preventing them from being too puffy. I panic about whether or not the straps are tight enough and sometimes I worry about whether or not the car seat has reached it’s expiration date.
I worry about whether or not I’m worrying enough about whether or not the car seats are expired.
I panic about keeping my children safe in the car, even if I did manage to worry enough to do all of those things correctly.
Sometimes I just panic about the amount of energy I need to expend in order to get my kids in and out of the car, regardless of where it is I even need to take them. There are many days that I do not take a trip to the store because the thought of taking my kids in and out of the car sounds like too much effort. Because it IS too much effort. Carrying, lifting, pulling, strapping, unstrapping, lifting, carrying. Those are the steps of taking my toddler in and out of the car, and sometimes those steps seem insurmountable. At the very least, inconvenient.
Sometimes in a moment of clarity, I reflect on the fact that our kids are so much safer than they were back in the day. It wasn’t too long ago when kids literally swung from seatbelts in the backseat or played with their dolls on the floor of the car, their parents up front, unbelted. In these moments, I attempt, again, to take a deep breath and let go of the fears.
As it turns out, letting go of the fears is one of the most difficult demands associated with parenting. Even harder than pulling that car seat strap tight.