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The Second Time Around: Buying a Car Seat

HiRes11You need an engineering degree to select among the dizzying array of car seat models,  not to mention proper installation to follow the latest safety guidelines! 

Toy R Us:  It’s been more than a decade since I shopped this treasure trove.  Yet it was déjà vu as I stepped into a store last week: Barbie dolls, Legos, dinosaurs.  Much of the same merchandise, only new and improved.  Stacks of Fisher Price toys now educationally souped up and guaranteed to double baby’s IQ by age one. 

 But I didn’t linger as I was a woman with mission: to buy a baby car seat.  When I bought my first car seat decades ago there were three models.  Now I was greeted by a mind-boggling display with dozens of models, all with a long list of features I didn’t even know I needed.

 I noticed another confused woman, clearly not a new mother either, clutching a raft of car seat reviews.   We started chatting and realized we were both buying car seats because our daughters-in-law were going back to work and we wanted help out with the child care.  This grandma had done her research: she lectured about the top-rated seats, pointing out different models and citing from a printout from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Fortunately my daughter-in-law had also done her homework and provided me with a list of four suggested brands.  Looking for them, I discovered that each manufacturer sold different models:  Brentwood, Sterling, Savannah, Rio Grande, Berkshire, and on and on.  I wasn’t buying a car seat, I was choosing a life style.  (Although by that point I was ready for the one named Mojito; yes that’s really a model.) Then there was the matter of color; I simply wanted a pattern that wouldn’t show the spit up. I matched my color preference with a model on my list.  Sold!

 The box with car seat was the size of  a washing machine. As I looked around for help I noticed another thing that hadn’t changed in the store; you still needed to tackle a salesperson for help.  So with a heave (amazing how often weight training comes in handy with grandchildren) I threw the box into a shopping cart.  Armed with a 20-percent-off coupon (my daughter-in-law is very organized) I headed to the checkout line where a number of screaming kids had thrown themselves on the floor.  Again, not much had changed except I was sans the toddler with a tantrum.  And  instead of an overflowing cart I had just the car seat, causing the cashier to comment with some disappointment, “Only one item?”

 The car seat adventure did not end at the checkout line. As any new grandmother knows safety rules have changed a lot in the last decade.  I discovered this only after dragging the crib I had dutifully saved all these years down from the attic right before the birth of my granddaughter.  The drop side crib used by my three children had been recalled as unsafe.  I also recently discovered the crib bumpers are also considered a safety hazard!

 So not only did I need to get the car seat properly installed, I had to get it checked by a safety official.   (According to the National Transportation Safety Board, seven out of 10 children are improperly restrained.)  Again, another new grandmother mantra: when taking care of your grandchildren you need to do an even better job than when you raised your own tots.

My daughter-in-law’s mother had already been through this safety check with her new car seat. (We’re all doing our bit to help the economy.)  She had a suggestion: After trying to follow the incomprehensible instructions she gave up and went to the safety check at her local precinct and sweetly told them that she couldn’t quite get the seat in.  Presto! A safety technician installed it and approved it all in one quick visit.   I am going to take her advice.  However she warned me that the baby carrier is so large that now nothing else can fit in the back seat. She suddenly missed her mini-van of days gone by.

It also dawned on me: How am I going to carry baby and all her accoutrements back to her apartment? Sometimes the only street parking space seems a mile away.  I need a stroller.  But that’s a story for another day.

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