There is always something to be said about my family, traveling and car seats. You know how they say that each child is the same, but also still different? That a second child is always easier because you know what to expect, but then again, not so much? Okay. That’s where I find ourselves when it comes to our car seat situation.
In general, I would say that both my girls did not take well to their car seats as young infants. Now this wouldn’t be so much of a problem, except it is a challenge for me because my husband gets stressed (or distressed?) when he has to listen to the girls screaming in the rear while he drives. As you know from previous posts, he has a below-average tolerance level for crying, all the more so when he is helpless to do something about it behind the wheel. I think this is further aggravated by the notion that in Manila, there are no car seat laws, and a lot of the kids we know sit in the laps of their nannies when riding a car (I will get to how I feel about this later! For now, take it as is and exhale). Our trips tend to take twice as long because he would rather that we pull over and stop, get the girls out and allow them to settle down before sticking back in and continuing the drive. My argument, among others, is that there is no guarantee that sticking back in will make them happier once you’ve taken them out, so it’s better to just get to wherever it is we’re going in the fastest time possible. They will after all, survive the cry-fest and learn the next time around, or persist and eventually fall asleep in exhaustion. I don’t believe however, that they are traumatized in any way by the incident. They’re simply protesting.
In various situations we’ve been able to compromise our positions and when possible, I have agreed to sit at the back with the girls and provide all means and forms of entertainment necessary to keep them distracted and limit the amount of tears. But of course because I am with them in the car everyday and I have to find ways to keep my sanity when I’m driving and one of them is crying, then I have had to study the car-seat-crying patterns and ultimately find a solution to them.
Now that Sam is older and can be reasoned with, we have absolutely no car seat issues whatsoever. It’s so wonderful that she can climb into it on her own, buckle herself in when necessary and just take things in stride when it comes to riding a car. When she was a baby though, I took pains to get her used to her Maxi-Cosi infant car seat. Even during the day when we’d stay home, I would sit her in her seat for 20-30 minutes and play with her or read to her, or sit her in front of a mirror. It seemed to work and as time went on the crying decreased (unless she was hungry or had poop in her diaper, then we knew we really had to stop!) and eventually went away.
That is why, when my husband said we were going to Manila for the summer and Sam was only 6 months old, I fought like tooth and nail to insist that she continue on sitting in her car seat even while in the Philippines. I also insisted that we apply the exact same rules — that is to say, that even if she cries, while she’s in the car, we can’t just take her out while the car is moving to make her stop. Consistency seems to work like a charm with Sam, and I wasn’t about to destroy months of training only to have to endure and re-train all over again!
On this last trip back home to Manila, there would be occasions when Sam would not have a car seat in the car we’d be riding in, and she wouldn’t know what to do with herself. “Where’s my car seat?” She’d ask. That or, if my husband would not buckle her in properly (saying that we were only going across the street), she would try to do it herself. All the more she wanted to sit in her car seat after one incident when Sam was on my lap (with Jamie) and the driver braked so suddenly that she slammed into the back of the front seat quite hard and cried, poor thing. In any case, now she knows that she has her own seat in the car and she has to buckle up properly.
Oh my, Jamie and her car seat. No amount of training and practice seemed to have worked on her. Truth be told I am still trying to figure out the mystery to the crying. When I know that she is sleepy, then no amount of antics or soothing will calm her down. She will scream it out for about 10 – 15 minutes, and then eventually will fall asleep. I know, because on some drives, my husband and I would argue about whether or not to stop and take her out, and I would always say, give her 10 minutes (based on previous time and motion studies!). Sure enough, she would “collapse” shortly after.
There are days though when I know that she is smart enough to just not want to sit in the seat. Sometimes she sees me lowering her in, she’s already protesting. At first we thought that it was the car seat itself that was the problem, and so even while she is still in the rear-facing position, we upgraded her from Sam’s infant Maxi-Cosi car seat to the Britax convertible one (which she will eventually use when she sits facing forward). For a while the amount and volume of crying decreased, and I concluded that it was the cushioning that was the problem.
And then it started back up again, all the more after our Manila holiday, where there she would really get her way and be removed with every protest. Because of the traffic, sometimes I would remove her to feed her in the car and allow her to fall asleep on me before putting her back in. My husband was also quite traumatized because one time, he and the girls had to drop me off for a meeting with the client, and so Jamie screamed all the way home in the backseat. After that, he refused to be alone with the girls in the car again, and so on another occasion when he needed to take her and drive, he brought along a nanny to hold her in the backseat (yaya) and a second car with a driver, to take the nanny back home.
I paid the price for the inconsistency because when we got back to Chapel Hill, I couldn’t do that with the car moving, and so for the last 3 days, I would have to listen to her shriek and kick and scream for every single car ride we took. It got to the point that even Sam would start shouting at the top of her lungs, “JAMIE! STOP CRYING!!!!! IT’S OKAYYYY!!!!!!” over and over and over again. Now that she is used to it again and has a toy and the mirror to distract her (That, or I am already tone-deaf), it seems like we are going back into the previous pattern of protesting only when she is sleepy or really hungry.
I also did notice however, that Jamie cries when the car is dark or when she cannot see anyone’s face. My guess is that she’s been around people all her life (dragged to all of her sister’s social commitments), that sitting rear-facing with only a brown furry seat in view, is a little disconcerting. I cannot wait for the day when I can turn her around and make her face front (Although unlike Sam, that might be a while still, because of the new AAP ruling to keep them rear-facing until age 2.)! I suppose in the meantime, I can stick her with printed out pictures of our faces to keep her company, at least until she learns that when in the car, she has not choice but to buckle down.
What am I trying to say: Car seat challenges and conundrums or not (laws or not), I still believe that it is the safest way for infants and toddlers to travel, wherever you may be in the world. I go back to OCMominManila’s post on car seats too, where she talks about erring on the safer side. Not having them in their proper car seats is not a risk I am willing to take with my kids; I would rather have them healthy and screaming (At least you know they have healthy strong lungs!). And I like the idea that I can travel anywhere on the road with my kids, where it’s just the three of us with no one to have to hold them in place (It is also quite tiring to have to always hold a child in the car, mind you!).
As for the crying — if you are as “lucky” as I am with these two girls and their car seats, then crying will always be a part of the package. I would go as far as saying that they are not traumatized or feel that they are being straight-jacketed though. None of my kids have told me so for a fact, but there also have been rides that have gone off without a hitch, and both girls are happy campers from start to finish. It may just take a lot of creativity and some trial and error to figure out what works for them, and for you as well.
Care to share and car seat tips and tricks? 🙂
To read about the most recent Child Passenger Safety Laws (and find out what applies in your state), click on this link.