Why must you continue to embarrass me, mother?
Our secret is out. By now you know that we are kind of a risky family. Yes, we tend to do things a little differently around here. Some might call us lazy. Some would call us downright irresponsible. I prefer to think of us as rebels or revolutionaries. Yes, revolutionaries in the ‘burbs. I like it.
Surely this attitude and parenting philosophy carries over into all aspects of our life, then, right? You must envision children with no bedtimes. At dinner we have Eli cutting up a raw chicken with a butcher knife, while Elena lights the grill with a butane torch. I send the kids to Target by themselves so I can sit at home, drink beer and play Draw Something all day long.
I hate to burst anyone’s fantastical bubble, but things aren’t quite that risky around here. Usually they’re rather boring and safe. And at other times, you’d be witness to the opposite end of the spectrum: my own version of helicopter parenting.
It was Katy who first pointed it out. This time last year I was driving her to dinner. She peered into the back of my van and innocently asked why we had two car seats. And by “car seats” she didn’t mean a car seat and a booster seat. She meant why did we have a normal car seat and a barcalounger with a 5-point harness.
“Why wouldn’t I?” I asked. “I have two kids, right?”
You know how sometimes all it takes is a look, a certain arching of an eyebrow, to make you realize you that not only are you on the crazy train, but you’re the conductor? Right then and there I realized that I was the Paranoid Car Seat Mom, a different version of the Paranoid Playground Mom or the Paranoid Germ Mom that I hold in such low esteem. I was carting my nearly 9-year-old around in a car seat.
Elena had hinted that perhaps she was a little embarrassed about it. Maybe we could switch to a booster seat?
“No way!” I insisted. “I like you safe and securely restrained in the car!” No more wire hangers, either!
Elena in the Barcalounger when it was actually appropriate (age 5).
Thanks to the observation of a trusted friend, I was able to realize the absurdity of the seat. I was already worried about Elena transitioning to public school. Being the one and only 4th grader having to unbuckle your 5-point-harness in the drop-off line wasn’t going to make her any friends.
Still, whatever they are, we like to hold on to our paranoid tendencies. I switched Elena to a high-back booster seat for the better part of a year. It was slightly less ridiculous, but it fulfilled my visions of vehicular safety. I felt good about it until my very own voice of reason piped up. Last month Elena, now nearly 10, came to me with a very serious request. She wanted to start wearing a bra (the subject of an entirely different post – please, hold me). It was on that errand that I realized the absurdity of it all: I was taking my daughter bra shopping in a booster seat. What’s that you hear? The whistle of the crazy train?
When we got home, the high-back booster came out. I put a backless one in instead. That should do until it’s time to drive her on her first date, right?