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Parenting Archive

Looking Back

Ah, the good ol’ days. Remember when phones had cords? When people used typewriters? When cartoons were almost solely for Saturday morning enjoyment? When kids bounced around unrestrained in cars…and it wasn’t considered illegal or even unsafe?

Times certainly have changed.

Parents reading this blog today probably spent a good chunk of their childhoods unrestrained, or at least under-restrained, in cars. Looking back it seems scary, but at the time, it’s just how things were.

I was born in the late 1970s, and my mom was actually quite progressive about keeping me safe. I almost always used a car seat (albeit a dinosaur by today’s standards) until I was 4 years old. In fact, I distinctly remember the afternoon when my mom was washing our Chevy Nova in the driveway and asked if I’d like to stop using my car seat. I agreed, and I felt so grown up that I insisted on sitting in the back seat (buckled up) as she pulled the car into the garage.

Today my mom admits that having me ride in the car seat was less about safety and more about helping me see out the window. Still, she took car safety seriously. She always wore her seatbelt and insisted that I do, too, even if I did “graduate” to the front seat as soon as I graduated from the child restraint. I did often wear the shoulder belt behind my back, but she always reminded me to keep the lap belt on my hips, not my tummy (something that was often easier said than done).

I also remember a time when my mom was transporting a group of kids to some sort of YMCA event. She told everyone to buckle up, and a girl (I didn’t know her, but for some reason I remember her name was Pam) said that she didn’t have to wear a seatbelt because she was 16. My mom replied “I’m a lot older than 16, and I have to wear a seatbelt, so you do, too. Buckle up.”

Like I said, buckling up might have meant a shoulder belt behind my back, or lying on the back seat with a lap belt “secured” loosely around my waist during a long road trip, but it was (slightly) better than nothing.

Then there were the times I wasn’t with my mom, like the time my grandparents took me on vacation to California (we lived in the midwest at the time) when I was 6.

The trip involved staying a few nights with some distant cousins who had a convertible jeep. The dad decided to take us out for a ride, so my grandpa sat in front and two older cousins and I sat in the back. By “back” I don’t mean the back seat. I’m pretty there was a back seat but we sat on the back sill and held onto the roll bar. I remember looking behind us as we sped down an iconic palm-tree-lined Southern California street…and feeling nothing but sheer terror. Even at 6, I knew that balancing on the edge of a fast-moving car was probably a stupid idea. Perhaps that’s where my interest in child passenger safety began.

What cringe-worthy moments do you remember about riding in the car as a kid? Did you have a car seat? Did you use seatbelts? Did you stand up in convertible cars? Did you narrowly escape harm because you were restrained, or despite being unrestrained? Did your experiences play a role in how you go about restraining your own kids?

I Made A Mom Cry :(

I certainly wasn’t trying to upset her to the point of tears but I did, and I feel awful about it.  Let me explain….

I was recently involved in a NHTSA special study called NCRUSS.  I was part of a team that evaluates how children are restrained in the vehicle and what the driver knows about child safety seats and how to install them.  My job was to observe and document restaint use (and misuse), and then refer the parent to a local CPS Tech or Inspection Station for a complete and thorough check.  I know most people won’t/don’t follow through with that so the more dire the situation, the more I feel the need to stress that they really MUST do this.  But I literally have 60 seconds or less when it’s busy and the next vehicle is waiting to convince them of this. 

Anxiety

This summer I’ve been writing about my “other” safety passion: drowning prevention. A few weeks ago I urged all of you to enroll your kids in swim lessons. Shortly after that, I wrote about how my daughter fell into the pool during my son’s swimming lesson and I realized that I needed to heed my own advice.

And I kept my word. I immediately scheduled a recurring appointment for my daughter, Anna, and she has had several lessons already.

Crazy Woman Puts Her Kid Back in A Booster

My son is 11 and 77 lbs. He’s also 5’ tall, taller than some women (and his teacher)! We had a 2005 Toyota Sienna until January that he never seemed to fit well in. I talked about how he didn’t fit and included a picture in this blog post on how to tell if your kid still needs a booster. In January, we bought a new vehicle and he fit differently in the back seat than he did in the Sienna. Yay! He could ride without a booster! How exciting. I didn’t particularly care: he appeared to fit in the seatbelt OK and that’s all that mattered. However, I couldn’t see him in my rear-view mirror anymore and that drove me crazy. I could hear him doing things, but couldn’t see what was up and had to rely upon my dd to tattle on him—“E, what’s your brother doing? E, is he sitting up straight? E, what was that sound he just made?” All as if he existed in a vacuum and couldn’t hear me.

Staying Afloat

Most people know me as a child passenger safety advocate, but few know that before I developed my obsession with car seats, my child-safety passion revolved around drowning prevention. With summer fast approaching, the topic is more pertinent than ever.

There are many steps people can–and should–take to prevent drownings. Fences, alarms, pool covers, and, of course, parental supervision. Another layer of protection comes from teaching children how to swim. If your young children don’t already know how to swim, please consider enrolling them in lessons.

This has been a bit of a controversial topic in the past. For a long time the American Academy of Pediatrics advised against swimming lessons for children under age 4. They said there was no proof that swimming lessons for smaller children did any good. They also worried that parents wouldn’t watch their kids as closely if they thought their kids could swim.

The problem is that it’s very difficult to prove a negative. How can we demonstrate that a child didn’t drown because that child had taken swimming lessons, or that they would have died had they not taken lessons?

It’s also true that some parents probably would become complacent and not watch their kids around water because they figure their child is “drown-proof,” but that is where emphasis on parental supervision needs to come in.

Last year the AAP did wind up revising their recommendations to include swimming lessons for children over age 1. They still wouldn’t be thrilled with my having enrolled both of my children in lessons at six months–again because there’s no proof it helps–but they do now believe that toddlers and preschoolers can benefit from learning to swim or learning water survival skills.

I liken swimming lessons to teaching kids how to cross the street. You don’t want a 2-year-old crossing the street alone, but that doesn’t mean you don’t talk to him about it. You tell him not to run into traffic, to cross while holding hands with an adult, and to look both ways. You certainly never expect him to be alone next to a street street, but if he ever is, maybe there’s a chance that he’ll remember your lessons.

The same goes for water. We never expect our children to be near a pool, river, lake, or ocean by themselves, but even the most attentive, careful parents have lapses or miscommunications. If young children find themselves near water, isn’t it better that they have learned about potential dangers? If they wind up in the water, isn’t it better that they have learned skills that might save their lives?

Of course knowing how to swim or get out of a pool is only one aspect of a cohesive system of safeguards. I like the “Safer 3″ approach to pool safety:

  • Safer Water: Install barriers and maintain safety equipment
  • Safer Kids: Have constant adult supervision and teach kids to swim
  • Safer Response: Know CPR and first aid, and have a phone with you at all times

In the coming months, play safe around the water, buckle up, stay hydrated, and try not to get a sunburn. (I have already failed on that last point–hopefully you’ll be luckier.) Most of all, enjoy time with your family and have a fun-filled summer!