Parenting: Safety First

Of all the people I figured I'd want to bludgeon with a tack hammer, I never thought the cabal behind car seat installation would be at the top of the list. Before I had children, I was totally oblivious to the mental anguish, anxiety, and sometimes physical pain this mysterious group inflicts on anyone needing to transport little people around. 

The car seat installation trap is a uniquely frustrating one. On the one hand: you have the intense fear of your offspring being in danger -- a child not in a car seat faces a 97% chance of dying, which is why only 316 people survived past age 6 in the years 1886-1974. 

On the other hand: you have this device that, when installed properly, keeps your child in a cushy bubble of safety-induced bliss, complete with a cup holder and plenty of nooks and crannies to hide raisins or fruit snacks that will later aid scientists looking for a new super-adhesive. But if installed improperly, the car seat may be even more dangerous

An example is the click-in infant car seats that have a handle for easy carrying. After clicking them in, the simple act of folding the handle down ensures the next generation will live. Leave the handle up, though, and you better hope your child can still play on the soccer team without a fucking head! "Jesus, Mike," my wife said to me once, "did you leave the handle up when you drove home?" 

Me: "Ummm ... yes?"

My wife: "If you got in an accident, that could lead to decapitation! Read the fucking manual!"

Me (aghast): "Holy shit."

If the car seat box had been properly labeled, something like, 'Infant Car Seat and Potential Guillotine,' I probably would have thumbed straight to the 'scenarios involving decapitation' section of the manual. 

But the titans of car seat installation torture won't let you off the hook easy. Because once you master the click-in infant car seat, you graduate to a car seat that suggests not 1, but 3 harness points!

The easiest one (Number 1 above) is fairly straight-forward: just put the seat belt through the back of the car seat. You may even go the extra mile and tug on the seat belt a few times (really hunker down on the bitch!). But after clicking in, you may notice that the car seat seams to move quite a bit. A lot, really. You envision a car accident in which your child, strapped into a car seat only attached using the "Bad Parent Method," gets a mean case of whiplash/vertigo as he sails around, unfortunately tethered to the car from only 1 point. 

The local news anchor will lambast you: "Single car accident today on Highway 6. The father driving survived. The toddler survived, but only barely, and is now being treated for injuries because his father was in a hurry and needed to get to Target before it closed." 

So you attempt hooking the "Lower Attachment" to the "Lower Anchors." The car seat manual may have a few simple steps: a "Simply reach your hand in," a "Listen for the click," and even some taunting phrase like "Easy peasy!"  

"Easy peasy" if you happen to have or employ someone with the tiny hands, long arms, and heightened motor skills necessary to cram a hand holding a hook/latch between the bottom and back of your car's back seat and find a metal hook somewhere inside.

If the good folks at Graco had filmed me during my first 3-point installation, their instructional demonstration would have had a lot fewer "Easy peasys" and a lot more, "C'mon!" "Where in the fuck is it? ... Is this it? Here it is ... almost .... c'mon, click you fucking slut!" "Dammit!" "Dammit!" "Are you fucking kidding me?!?!" and then a long intermission where I pace around the driveway, mentally calculating the danger I think my child would be in if I didn't hook up all 3 harnesses. 

Easy peasy! 

Number 3, the "Top Tether," is easier to click. But that's if you can ever find the "Anchor" the manual claims is in the back of your car. It could be in the way back, it could be on the seat. It could be a little bit under a cover. You may end up hooking the top tether that holds your pride and joy to a flimsy plastic piece that is part of your cars speaker system and will hold up in an accident as well as your 5-year-old's popsicle-stick-house-project holds up to your 2.5 year old with a basketball. 

The good news: once you've installed your car seat, you can rest assured that there will be nowhere your child will love getting in more than their carseat! It will be magical journey after magical journey to the grocery store! At least that's what the car seat people tell me.