I am a father. I am concerned for the newly made fathers. They are naive. They are innocent and ignorant of what awaits them. I can no longer be silent. My voice must be heard. If I can teach just one father how to pick a car seat that will help them avoid jail time or the emergency room with this post, it will all have been worth it.
This is an open letter to all those new fathers out there who have no idea what they are about to face.
Dear new father: So your wife is done being pregnant, (FYI- if you think she puts the PREGO card away, buckle up cause it actually gets replaced by the LACTATION “can you get me a drink please?” all-day card), and as you pack up to leave the hospital suite and take your new little family home, the hospital policy enforcement division lets you know that, yes, you have a beautiful baby, but that you CANNOT take that baby anywhere yet. And then they take the baby from both of you. That’s it, now the angry-elf side of me wakes up, and heads are gonna start to roll. NO ONE keeps me from my new baby that I worked really hard to seduce my wife into making for me. But, before I actually start my rampage of assault and battery on the hospital staff, they quickly explain that they can’t “release” our baby into our custody until we show them we know how to be responsible, law-abiding parents… and have the correct and appropriate “car seat infant crash restraining device” installed properly in our vehicle. Oh, and we have to demonstrate to them we can “properly” use it.
And that’s where it can get a little dicey.
Let’s backtrack a couple months. My 7-months-pregnant/hot wife and I are waddling around the local department store, (she was waddling because she had no choice, I was doing it to make her feel self-conscious…and you ALWAYS call your pregnant wife hot.) We start checking out these state and federally mandated child restraint devices… the ones that were nowhere to be seen in our early childhood, (lying in the back window anyone? Oh, the freedom of the ignorant, ancient world) and trying to decipher which car seat to buy that will keep us out of prison, keep DCFS off our backs, and give us custody of our precious little critter that is soon to come… Oh, and to keep them safe too.
We entered the car seat dealership arena of the store, and were blown away with all the different models. How do you choose a car seat when the options are endless? Should we get the one with a full-windshield, antiskid brakes, mp3 player, all-wheel steering with cup holder, and moon-roof integrated sunshade? Or how about the one that can transformer style it from a stroller/car-seat into a kid-sized equivalent of the new 2014 Chevrolet Camaro (with two-tone “genuine” death-to-a-cow leather, removable convertible top, and fold-out DVD player?) I didn’t know this, but car-seat manufacturers are now listed on Kelly Blue Book and NADA. Congratufreakinlations. Good grief! Did the car designers that got laid-off at Land Rover march over to Graco and Evenflo? These car seat things have more options to choose from than the menu at The Cheesecake Factory. (Ooohhh. The Cheesecake Factory. We use to eat there back in the day when we didn’t have kids…that place is delicious. Now we eat at Beto’s and Del Taco.) These child restraining devices can be spendy! Financing for these car seats are now available to qualified individuals… (OAC)
Ok, so we decided not to get a loan on the super-rugged and safe car seat that says “JEEP” on it (mainly ’cause we don’t have a jeep…yet) and we passed on the double stroller because we were not having twins, and we have seen those people double-lanin’ try to “navigate” thru a crowd, (yeah…they looked thrilled with their lives.) And we didn’t get the trendy 3-wheeled marathon 26.2 transformer car seat because we missed that trendy bus, and we don’t run… on purpose. We also didn’t want to take out a second mortgage to get the one that goes in a car, a plane, on your back, and then has a quick release handle that transforms it into a smooth-rolling piece of “weird” when you are too tired to carry your kid, or when you just want to look stylin’. So, we went for the uhh,…$29…one, because it was on sale, and umm…, it was discounted from like $890…because it was an awesome super-safe display model…with a scratch, and a dent… and discontinued, and had been previously used and stuff and made from Kevlar. (Ok–not really any of those, especially the used part…that puts you in prison as well.) We truthfully got the $29 one because we are cheap and don’t love our children. It was a basic and affordable, but nice looking option that was “approved” to be used for infants, up until they were like 16 days old before needing an upgrade. Whatever. We had done it. We could now hereby be recognized and licensed to be safe parents and legally own one of these human poop machines and start a new life together. Safely.
These initial infant car seats come with a blessed base contraption that makes installing, removing, and replacing the infant car seat a pretty slick procedure. You’ll think you’ve got this car seat thing all under control as you show off your mad skills to the hospital baby safety enforcer. Oh, you sweet, naive little fool of a father. You have no idea the torture that lies ahead.
Fast forward to when your kid reaches the age that you get to replace your click-it-in-and-out convenient base with a forward-facing car seat (which age just keeps getting older and older by the way.) (Also, FYI– Baby screaming gets louder when that happens because no matter how quiet you are, they can see the back of your heads now, which makes them think you are ignoring them, and they realize their life of looking at the rear vehicle headliner and dome light was all a game and they get ANGRY. The screaming projection level is intensified and directed at the back of your head instead of the back of the car. Enjoy!) You and your hot wife return to the Graco/Evenflo showroom to choose a car seat. If you are like us, again cheap and uncaring, you again go for the cheapest model you can find and return home with a dumb smile on your face and a few extra bucks in your wallet. BIG MISTAKE.
It was shortly after this car seat switcharoo event (which, again…FYI, requires all but a state-certified child safety inspection on moving the car seat configuration, notarized to verify age, weight, and height of your child should you ever be audacious enough to put your child anywhere but in the rear-center seat, facing backwards in the car), that my wife needed a much-needed break from home to attend a special meeting (a.k.a Girls’ Night Out away from poop and husbands), which required me to take our critter with me in our “other car”…which was my work truck. Problem. Single cab. Dual airbags. Or better known as death bags. (Did we vote on these bags being put into everything that moves?) It may as well have been a Ford Pinto stuck on the tracks with a train screaming from behind at 90mph, full of all the 1980’s rusty razor blades that your creepy next door neighbor used to put in your Halloween candy and vials of Ebola. Everything is pitted against us. (Oh, the molten hell these lawmakers, car designers, and car seat makers should all endure for conspiring against us peasants.) If I were to dare to even have the slightest cotton-froth of a thought about putting my kid and a car seat in that single cab truck with the dual airbags, I would be dragged into the town square and flogged an hundred fold. People would stone me and my truck for being such sinful, irresponsible, menaces to society.
So, how the crappers do I go anywhere? Well, lucky for me, I have the option on my dash to turn the passenger air bag off. (Someone should get a raise for that, and on those that can’t be turned off, enjoy never having your children ride with you until they graduate high school.) To turn the passenger airbag off in my truck, it only required the original key forged when the truck was new, a computer hacker, a retina scan, and a signed pardon from the President of the United States. (Jack Bauer is my cousin, so that was the easy part.) So… when DCFS was called by my neighbors after they saw me open the door to the single cab “death truck” with baby and car seat in tote, I showed all the nice people in uniforms and badges my passenger-side deathbag was indeed off, and the Presidential pardon paperwork, and then told them all to take a hike because I had somewhere important to go that required I risk my child’s very life in such a reprehensible deathtrap. (Taco Tuesday at Del Taco, 3 tacos for 99 cents after 3pm. C’mon everybody- let’s go already! We can feed like 6 families for twelve dollars!)
Then, I realized with horror, as I was alone without any aid in this new car seat configuration, that I could not properly install this cheap, worthless, car seat. Listen. Women have been in the spotlight for a while now as being treated sub-par and unequal to how a man is treated, or paid, etc. That may be true, but it does seem like they have gotten a bit of revenge on us men by hiring a bunch of females to design and test these car seat models out.
You see, the problem is, men and women are NOT the same. Obviously. Women tend to multitask better than men, (actually I can’t multitask at all. I can barely remember the letters to spell “multitask” and also type them at the same time) And they generally have a smaller build than men. Let’s look at two specific parts of their bodies. No, not those parts! I’m talking about their hands. Those two little feminine caring loving hands. They’re a joke. If you look at my wife’s hands, and then you look at mine, you will notice a difference. Her hands are puny and small. Mine are awesome and big. Yep, and it just so happens that my hands, as masculine and chiseled as they are, also don’t fit in the car seat slot the seat belt is supposed to go thru. Major problem folks. Oh…and get this…How the crap am I supposed to put my hand AND a seat belt buckle through that painful gateway of hell at the same time? Someone at Graco should get fired.
So, how do I safely strap my kid into this awesome mandatory safety device, if I can’t do it without shredding my hands into a bloody mess, or calling my next door neighbor’s 12-year-old kid to put the seat belt through the slot when my wife is gone? I can’t drive around and find someone to help… my baby’s unbuckled. This is prison we are talking about– I can’t mess this up. They take your kids away and give them to certified safe parents if you so much as talk about not buckling them up, even if it’s to go check the mail, let alone asking the kid down the road if you can borrow their hands. (Plus, that just sounds creepy.)
All of you creative minds out there that think I should quit whining about everything and figure out an alternative can go pound sand. I don’t want to thread a rope through the slot and thread the seat belt through every time my wife or the next door neighbor’s kid with sissy hands is out of town. Something this regulated and punishable for non-compliance should have slots big enough for GOLIATH to get his mittens through. It’s only fair. You try grabbing a broom handle and duct taping it to the seat belt and try ramming it through that tiny little slot as the seat belt locks up, or keeps pulling back out just when you almost grabbed the other side… and doing all this while your toddler is sleeping in the car seat.
I’m a Monster. I didn’t know it, but now it’s clear. I must not care about my children. How else can you explain buying a SINGLE cab truck? I think the whole reason pizza delivery went viral is because car seats were invented and laws were passed at that same time for mandatory lifetime prison sentences on car seat non-compliance offenders. But I digress. My point is this… When choosing a car seat, the flashy advertised options on a car seat are cool, and there are some pretty sweet models to choose from. (I recommend cup holders, click and go stroller base, and quick removable seat cover for easy cleaning for when these little critters throw up on the way to Disneyland…when you are about 300 miles away from a restroom, paper towels and f’breeze,) But, MOST important... better check your hand size with that seat belt slot, especially you manly men with big mittens. Otherwise, you may end up in jail or remain home bound. It’s not worth it. Even the President of the United States can’t sign pardons for leaving a child unbuckled. If he were to have the slightest corn puff of that idea, even he would be dragged to the town square… Now if you will excuse me, my wife is away for a few days, and I need to finish my Papa John’s. (FYI, car seats make fantastic booster seats at the dinner table.)
(If you can find some more change in the couch to toss out a few extra bucks for one like these with the top-secret flap opening behind where your kid’s back goes that allows you to weave the belt through without having to be Macgyver, you might stand a chance of avoiding prison time.)
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