Car Seats Suck
posted by: Guest Blogger
Oz Spies, who started blogging while pregnant with her son Axel, spends her days working in the nonprofit sector, chasing after a very active baby boy, and trying to find time to paint her toenails, walk the dog, feed the cat, and kiss her husband. You can read more at Knocked Up.
My eleven-month-old son Axel hates the car seat. He loathes being strapped in with every last ounce of his skinny body. He curses the heavens in baby babble almost every time we go for a drive. If he had his way, I think he’d get a hold of a couple of phone books to sit on and take the wheel himself. We’d go wherever he wants to go – probably someplace with mounds of graham crackers and all you can eat Cheerios and unlocked cabinets, where babies crawl free and gnaw on bark without meddlesome adults telling them it’s filthy and will give them splinters in their mouths.
I give him his sippy cup, which usually means that he’s quiet for 60 seconds, and the car seat is getting soaked with milk for 10 minutes. There’s now an attractive milk stain circling the base of the car seat. Stains are good for resale value, right? I pack toys around him – a rattling caterpillar, a purple crinkly hippo face, a wooden ring adorned with a pirate and a compass and a bell – and he throws the toys over the side, too. He’s bailing out the car seat, to keep it light in case it suddenly needs to float, which is very good thinking in the high alpine desert of Denver.
Once the seat is empty, he screams. He pulls against the car seat straps. He beseeches other drivers to bust him out of his safe, dependable, Japanese-engineered station wagon prison. Sometimes, if he’s really tired, he’ll give in and fall asleep, but other times he yells and sobs for 40 minutes. He’s immune to the charms of NPR and Modest Mouse. Even the adored toys that are really trash, like empty plastic water bottles, lose their power when given to Axel in a moving vehicle.
The car seat hatred is similar to the stroller hatred and the being carried hatred and the shopping cart hatred – he’ll tolerate all of them, but usually not for long. Try to link them up together – car seat then stroller then being carried – and you’re asking for a writhing baby fit of fury. Inevitably I end up letting Axel crawl someplace where other, probably better and more resourceful, parents do not let their children crawl – the floor at Target, down the sidewalk at the farmer’s market, through a bed of bark mulch. What he wants is to move, by his own power and in a direction of his choosing. I guess it’s nice that he’s determined, and that he’s not easily distracted – those qualities will serve him well if he’s a mountain climber or a skeet shooter or just taking the SATs. But, while he’s screaming in the back of the car and I can hear him over the radio ignoring my repetitions that everything is really okay, I wish he’d be just a little more docile. With his size, he’s in for many more years being strapped in carseats and booster seats.
There are a few things I won’t do: let him crawl around the backseat with the dog, turn his car seat around to face the front, or give him snacks. All are for his own safety. I’d like him not to fly through the windshield and fracture his oversized head, he hasn’t yet reached the car seat turn-around markers of one year and 20 lbs (and he probably won’t be 20 lbs for a few months after his first birthday, since he’s under the mistaken impression that eating a full meal is a waste of time better spent banging spoons against the floor), and I’m afraid he’d choke (again) on a cheddar bunny. But there’s got to be something that will work to keep him mostly content in the car. It’ll be snowing soon, so we’ll spend lots more time in the mountains – and we’ll have to drive to get there because Denver doesn’t have a high speed train that goes all the way up I-70, nor can I beam us up or wriggle my nose to transport us.
So what do you do to keep energetic babies and toddlers happy in the car, before they’re old enough for games like I Spy?