If a dad came to me and asked if it’s okay to put his mature, normal-sized 6-year-old in a booster, I’d say sure. If a mom came to me and asked if her tall 10-year-old, who passed the 5-step-test, was really all right without a booster, I’d say it’s fine. If another mom asked about forward-facing a 4-year-old, I’d congratulate her on doing an awesome job and I’d tell her that I would do the same thing if it were my own child.
And yet when I’ve reached these same milestones with my own children, the choice hasn’t always been easy. In fact, I’ve struggled with all these scenarios in the past year. This spring, I hesitated to let my 5-stepping, nearly-5-foot-tall oldest child ride without a booster (though I did give in). A month later when my extremely-compliant 6-year-old started begging to ride in a booster, it took me weeks before I finally allowed her to use one in our secondary car.
Yet my reluctance in making those decisions comes nowhere near the internal struggle I’m facing as I decide what to do with my youngest child, Oliver, who’s about to turn 4. He still rides rear-facing in both of our vehicles and has never asked to go forward-facing. I don’t think he even realizes it’s an option.
I didn’t hesitate when it was time to turn my two older children forward-facing, but it’s different with this one.
See, not only is Oliver my baby, he’s my last baby. As my kids have all gotten older, I’ve been able to cling to “still” having him as my tiny little one: My other two outgrew the ring sling, but I still had Oliver to carry. The other two outgrew the octopus costume, but Oliver could still wear it. The other two didn’t want to read Moo, Baa, La La La anymore, but Oliver still loved it. My other two got too big to rock to sleep, but Oliver still fit in my arms.
The other two could forward-face, but Oliver still…
Well, he still fits rear-facing and will for a while, and yes, rear-facing is safer. But my resistance to turn him around isn’t about safety, it’s about me. I have absolutely no qualms about a 4-year-old forward-facing; I just have qualms about this particular 4-year-old forward-facing, because I’m afraid of letting go. The reality is that turning him around will mark the end of an era for me. Once he rides forward-facing I’ll never again have a rear-facing child. I’ll have to admit my baby is growing up, and I don’t know if I’m ready to do that.