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Some parent battles are fight-to-death

The biggest battles of parenthood sometimes come when you least expect them.

After a wonderful holiday, I had no idea that the my biggest challenge of the new year would come not from my 3-year-old son but from a molded piece of plastic with nylon straps and metal latches.

Any parent who has grappled with installing a car seat knows how frustrating and time consuming the process can be.

Even though I grew up in an age when children freely roamed the front and back seats while parents drove, I understand the importance of car seats. Thousands of children are killed or injured each year as a result of car crashes. In fact, auto accidents are one of the leading causes of death in children older than 3-years-old.

I say my thanks daily for the safety the car seat provides and for the fact that the car is one place that the child is immobilized.

That is why I was willing to have the ultimate to-the-death match with the extra car seat my parents gave to us. The match resembled some weird hybrid of wrestling, kickboxing and the game Twister.

My wife and I wanted a second car seat for our son to share the car with a friend. Little did I realize that my parent’s kind gesture would be so frustrating.

After the initial attempt to latch properly to the metal anchors hidden deep in the seat cushions, sweat poured off my brow, and not-very-kind words were ready pour from my mouth.

When I found that I’d installed the latch upside down and thus could not pull the strap tight and would have to wrestle the monster out and in again, I was ready for Gibson to go friendless.

The next most viable alternative was scissors to cut the strap and the trip to the store for a replacement.

I am glad to know that I am not the only parent so contorted.

KJ Dell’Antonio on the New York Times parenting blog recently wrote about this common complaint among parents.

Car seat installation rants flare on many parenting blogs. Parents not only lament about installation problems but also with knowing what type of car seat to use when.

Do you change from a rear-facing seat to a forward facing seat when your child turns one? Or two?

Do you graduate your child to a booster seat when they are 4 feet or 4 feet, 9 inches tall?

Standards and recommendations change, Car seat manufacturers give information in bold, but cannot insure that a seat will work in your car. It is hard for any parent to really know for sure.

I am convinced that most car seat designers and experts must not have children. How could they and still design a product that so few parents can install correctly?

According to statistics, 5 out 6 car seats in America are installed improperly.

Such statistics point to a product that is either badly designed or has instructions that are incredibly hard to follow.

Until some designer comes along and creates a car seat that most parents can put in their cars, I guess we are left with periodic prowrestling matches with our car seats.

One day I will win.

 

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.

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