Zee was two days old when she and I were discharged from the hospital. That day my little girl had her first of many car rides, each time strapped safely in her car seat. Whether its a quick trip to Spar in mom’s taxi, or on holiday in Cape Town in a rental car, Zee has always been in a car seat.
But wait! This isn’t a post about how I’m the perfect mom, who always does the right thing. I’m not, and I don’t. You see, while I have been absolutely uncompromising when it comes to my child’s car safety, HOW this was done wasn’t always 100% correct. This post is to tell you about two major mistakes I’ve made along the way, and more importantly, to share with you what I’ve learned since the #CarseatFullstop campaign began.
What is #CarseatFullstop?
For those who’ve yet to see posts by, or about #CarseatFullstop, this is the crux of it:
#CarseatFullstop is an awareness campaign designed to educate South Africans on the life-or-death importance of using car seats for kids under 12.
Confrontation – out here in the real world, or online – isn’t for me. That’s why you won’t find me getting into debates and fights even on social media. I try not to allow most things to get me worked up… Except for that time I saw a child standing on the front seat of a moving car, or those kids bouncing around on the back seat of another. Now that makes me go from good ol’ chilled, sunshine and rainbows me, to full on fire breathing dragon/monster/beast.
I’m not that judgemental mom – none of us should be, we’re all imperfect here, and are entitled to handling this parenting thing whichever way works best for us. However, some things, such as the safety of our children, are non-negotiable. Seeing children left unsecured in a car makes me want to shake their parents by the shoulders while screaming, “that is a little life you brought into the world, why are you not doing your best to protect him/her???”
Alright, rant over. Sorry if I got a little carried away there. Time to get back to my own mistakes, and what I’ve learned.
1. Forward-facing at one… What was I thinking?
Zee had just about outgrown her first carseat, the rearward-facing baby one. Excited new parents, off we went “big” carseat shopping. We bought a forward-facing seat from Toys R Us, and we were quite happy with our purchase.
Here’s what I discovered through the #CarseatFullstop campaign and Volvo’s Children and Cars safety manual: Children should be in a rearward-facing carseat for as long as possible, at least until the age of three or four. The neck muscles are weak during those early years, and the skeleton isn’t fully developed either. Rearward-facing carseats greatly reduce the risk of injuries should there be a collision.
This one really got me in the heart, because Zee was just over one when I had moved her to a forward-facing seat. We knew that we wanted to keep our baby safe, we just weren’t educated on how to properly do that. All I could do after reading that was be extremely thankful that there had been no incidents in all those years that I was getting it wrong, and try not to hate myself for being a bad mom.
2. “It looks a little uncomfortable, let’s loosen the straps”, she (I) said.
I would sometimes loosen the car seat straps, thinking they were too tight or uncomfortable. Fail!
The pic above is a post I saw on the #CarseatFullstop Instagram account. It mentions the pinch test – if you’re able to form a fold when you pinch the strap together, it’s too loose. The straps should be tight and untwisted, in order to properly secure and protect your child.
It’s safe to say, Zee is tightly strapped in now, no more loose “comfy” carseat straps for us.
Knowledge is Power… IF you apply it
We’ve all made mistakes, the key though is making the necessary changes once we’re educated on how to correct those mistakes. Had Zee still been a tiny bit smaller when I learnt what I did, I assure you she would’ve found herself back in a rearward-facing carseat. She may have found it strange, she may have fought me on it, but I prefer a SAFE and secure crying/screaming child over the alternative.