Monday, July 30, 2007

I don't fit in anywhere, really. (Part One.)

How often do you hear that politically? I've managed to define myself well in the political spectrum. I am a Conservative with strong libertarian leanings (but not Libertarian; their "drugs and abortions for everybody" platform isn't something I can get behind). There are a lot of us out there who believe in economic freedom and gay rights, thankyouverymuch.

I'm talking parenting here. I actually suspect I have kindred spirits in this arena as well, but I'm having a much harder time finding them.

Generally speaking, I define myself as practicing "attachment parenting," which is to say I breastfeed for a long time (I'm nursing my two youngest right now), my kids sleep with me when they're babies/toddlers, and, basically, I treat my children as little people deserving of respect, but not monarchs to whom I bow. (It's kind of saddening how often I see kids treated as either ornaments or their parents' boss, neither of which is healthy.)

I'm a member at MotheringDotCommune, which I enjoy by & large even though it's infested with liberals. My parenting & theirs tends to be pretty similar, and it's a good place to go relax when I'm starting to weird out the folks I know in real life or on other message boards.

But I am Not One of Them, and that's brought home to me again & again.

Two categories of examples:

Car safety. Rob & I were at Valero the other day and walked past a car that had one woman and five kids in it. None of the kids were over seven, and at least three of them weren't 0ver five, and not a damn one was in a seatbelt, much less a car seat or booster. Unrestrained kids = projectiles in a crash.

When I was 8 or so, I hit a windshield because my father didn't believe in seatbelts. It was at a low rate of speed and I was actually mostly OK (though it's been posited that my spinal deformity isn't so much scoliosis as the result of a traumatic accident, & that's the only incident that fits), but it was a distinctly unpleasant experience and so I am anal about seatbelts. After that accident I flat-out refused to get into another car without seatbelts, and so every classic car my father restored after that was retrofitted with seatbelts. (And he was an abusive SOB, so really no one else gets a by from me on this issue.)

Anyhow...I have a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 21-month-old. My eldest and middle daughters are in belt-positioning boosters. (Linda is too heavy for her carseat, and Bobbie is too tall for hers, & it was expiring anyway.) Esther is in a car seat with a 5-point harness. This is more than the law requires for Bobbie at least; she's old enough by State law to be in nothing more than a seatbelt. But she's not big enough for seatbelts to fit her properly, so she's in a booster, and will be until she is tall enough to go without. I really wanted to find a booster that converts from 5-point harness to belt-positioning, but my car's not the proper type.

When we first moved here, Bobbie and her cousin Jon Jr were both 4. We loaned Margaret our van (until it quit working). She babysits on occasion, and owned one backless booster that she used occasionally. When I found her driving around with the little girl she was babysitting in the booster & Jon in nothing but the van's belt, I went to Wal-Mart and bought another (backless, as it was all I could afford) booster seat for her to use. I think this worked well for about a month before she 'lost' them both.

She does respect my safety concerns, for the most part, and when she uses my station wagon Jon Jr and Cheyenne, who is about the size of a 5-year-old even though she's 8, go into the booster seats unless we're all going somewhere, & then my girls go in them & the other two are buckled into seatbelts. I've given up on converting her to full-time booster use.

I don't think anyone in my family really understands me on this, except my husband and my mother. My mother-in-law drives a PT Cruiser, which is theoretically a 5-seater but not really (most cars realistically seat one less person than they claim to). She volunteered to pick us up from the airport when we flew back from Hawaii. Now, there are five of us without adding her in, and at the time all three were in car seats, two of which are quite large. The numbers just don't work (and that's leaving aside the fact that she is a terrible driver). She thought we could just put the car seats for the older two in the back and drive holding two of them in our laps.

Um, no.

So here I am, committed to doing more than the bare minimum required by law (which, frankly, is more than probably half the people in my family do anyway). I think that taking reasonable safety precautions is only good sense. IE, I don't turn my kids around at six months, though I do turn them around at a year old.

But most of the people I talk to online seem to think I am careless with my children's safety. Before we put her in the booster seat, Bobbie was in a convertible car seat that was an overhead shield model (the kind that has the plastic you pull down to sit in front of them). It's a convertible car seat, and she was in it from birth (which, looking back, was probably less than ideal as she was a scrawny baby). It was never recalled--one reason I didn't buy an infant car seat is because of the number of recalls on them I saw where the seat would detach from the base & go airborne--and all car seats on the market meet certain safety standards. But I was told that I had to go out and buy a new one because they were death traps when compared to 5-point harness models, and by way of proof I was sent to a website that said (and I swear I am not making this up), "You wouldn't dream of buying anything less than a Toyota Sienna, would you?" and went on to compare overhead shield car seats to the "bottom-of-the-line" GMC minivan. (Nevermind that this horrible vehicle had an overall 4-star crash test rating, and better numbers in the chest area than the Sienna.)

But wait, there's more! There is the Cult of Britax. These are the folks who will tell you that having your child in anything less than a $400 car seat is tantamount to child endangerment. I can't count the number of times I've come across message board threads where mamas are told they must buy the Britax Regent, and hurled all sorts of invective at me for pointing out that my $120 Evenflo Triumph is actually rated higher in testing by Consumer Reports than their sacred Britax seats. (It is apparently heresy that the seats were tested both with & without the LATCH system being used to secure them, because of course no one drives a vehicle that predates this system. No one. And if you do, go out and get it installed, you baby killer!)

Even those folks have been one-upped, though. There's a video floating around the internet purportedly done by a mother whose son died in a car crash. His death, of course, was caused by being in a belt positioning booster seat rather than a Britax Regent, which is the only car seat that is a 5-point harness up to 100lbs. That's right, his booster seat killed him. This video, of course, was posted at every single parenting site I go to, and set all the hens a-twitter. Ohmigod, we have to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on this car seat right now because it is the only thing that will save my kid's life!

Meanwhile, here I am taking reasonable safety precautions, as recommended by the NHTSA. (Do the folks who let their kidlets bounce around totally unrestrained think they're being safe? Or do they not think at all?) I'd have my children in Regents if I could afford them, but the unfortunate truth is that they won't fit in my car. I mean, there is seriously no way I could fit three large car seats abreast in my station wagon. I barely fit two medium-sized car seats & one smallish one.

Then again, if I could afford to drop $1200 on car seats, I could probably afford a nicer vehicle. Catch-22, I suppose.

Part two will be later on; this is a very long post. I don't like long posts unless they're broken up with pictures. I'm not going to go back and slap 'em in willy-nilly, but I will leave y'all with another Random Kid Picture:
(This is Esther, whom the fine folks at Beech-Nut think might need to lose weight.)

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