Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I had a great conversation on booster seats and buckling up tonight with a friend.  It reminded me that I wanted to post about it.  So, here we go....

Wow, I must have a pretty boring life if talking about booster seats is fun.  The key here is that it's important to me that my kids are safe.  What that looks like is different for every family.

I've read reports that say the recommended age to keep kids in boosters until they are 8, 80 pounds or 4 foot 9.  Wow, that means my kids should be in them still because 2 are under 8 and none are 80 pounds or 4 foot 9.  The recommendation was tried to put into law in place of age 6 or 60 pounds.  It never passed and I am glad about that.  Why does the state need to tell us every detail of what to do to keep my kids safe?  Do they not think I have common sense and can't think on my own?  I like recommendations to use as guidelines, not laws that don't take into account differences in situations.

When my oldest turned 6, our "western" pediatrician said he was old enough to go without a booster.  This is even though he was only 4 feet tall and 50 pounds.  I didn't feel comfortable with this recommendation.  I decided to wait it out until he was 60 pounds and tall enough to not be choked by the seat belt.  I have seen kids smaller than my 4 year-old that are "old enough" without boosters.  This makes me nervous, but they're not my kids.  I also see loose kids in cars that aren't buckled up, even in the front seat.  This seems negligent to me.

I have friends who have adjustable seat belts, so it was easier to move their kids out of boosters.  By adjusting the belt down in the car, it was properly fit to each child.  My cars aren't that coordinated, so my kids had to wait.  This was hard for them because many of their friends were out of boosters.

Now we're having the pleadings to ride in the front seat.  I think the law is 6 years old, but they tried to get it passed to 12.  Wiki says 10 and 70 pounds.  Some other site said 12.  If I wanted, I could call the CHP to get the real answer.  But, since in my mind the answer is 12, there is no need.  I like having my kids in the back for more than safety reasons.  I like my own space.  More than space though, I like them being safer.  This is a decision that each family needs to make on their own.  I will say that the peer pressure is annoying.  My kids nag at me because their friends are riding shotgun.  I pass no judgement on other families' choices, but will stick by what my husband and I agree on.

I probably moved my kids to boosters from 5-point harness car-seats earlier than most.  Does this make me a bad mom?  I don't think so.  Sure, with my first I kept him in longer.  As I started piling the kids in my car and wanting to hand down the cars-eats, I shifted them younger.  I made sure they didn't play with the buckles and kept it across them.  If they weren't able to do this, a 5-point harness made more sense.

Prior to that decision, there is the rule to keep kids rear facing until they are 1.  We kept to that rule pretty well.  We also followed the weight/height restrictions for their car seats.  This meant having to move them from the infant carrier to a rear facing 5-point harness seat.  I know many people who kept their kids in the infant carrier past the recommendations.  This in turn lessens the effectiveness of the seat which makes it less safe in my book.

As you can see, I don't always follow the rules.  Because I have 4 kids, I reuse my items longer than they should probably be.  Yes, technology on these items has improved.  I tried to buy effective seats for the value that were "rated" excellent.  This meant spending a bit to make this happen.  We also bought 2 sets of seats so both of our cars were able to accommodate all of our kids without the "oops, the booster is in the other car" situation.

We've done some traveling to Mexico.  My kids see us bending the car-seat rules there.  I guess we rationalize this because they are still safer than most kids who live where we go.  My kids aren't riding on top of vehicles or in the open backs of pick-up trucks.  They beg for it though.....

I will end this by stating that my recollection is riding in the back of our station wagon with no seat or seat belt (not always, but sometimes).  I also recall riding shotgun in my dad's VW Bug from a very early age and roaming in the motorhome while we were cruising down the highway on vacations.  I survived, but are drivers, roads and conditions different now?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


For me the word freedom means many different things.  Yesterday was the first day all 4 of my kids were in school for this school year.   I had the day to myself (I hadn't had one of those since last June).  It was also my husband's last day of work at his old firm.  Yesterday #1, in 5th grade, went to soccer practice with 8 friends and 1 mom, walking.  Today I heard the plan that #3, my 2nd grader was to walk to practice with 2 friends and no adult (maybe with a 4th grade older sister).  Am I ready for that much freedom?

I believe it depends on a child's maturity in how much freedom you give them.  Or rather how comfortable I am with letting them go.  #2 is very mature.  I've felt comfortable leaving her at taekwondo since she was in 1st grade.  The problem is that she's seen me be around for #1 most or all of his activities and she doesn't want to be on her own.  If #1 is left on his own at taekwondo, he tends to get into trouble.  Not so much when he's in class, but more when he isn't and is waiting.  It seems the waiting makes him forget how to behave.  He'll learn, right?  I've had to learn that "hovering" in class doesn't make my kids behave more, it makes them more anxious.  It takes away the power of their teacher to teach them if the kids are trying to please their parents the whole time.

My kids have gone to their taekwondo class without me a few times.  It's right next to their school, so it's a route they are all comfortable with.  We ride bikes, scooters, rip-sticks, etc... every day to school, so this isn't any different.  But it is.  Our neighbors go by themselves.  I have seen both of their mothers franticly look for their kids who haven't returned home in time.  Ugh, just when I thought I was ready to let them go on their own.

The same thing happened when I was just starting to let the bigger kids go ahead of me to and from school and "meet" me there.  A story came out that a stranger approached a girl, the same age as #2.  Why, every time I'm ready to take a step forward in independence for and from my kids do these situations arise?  Turns out the story was made up.  It did make me have the conversation with the kids about how and when to ask for help again, which isn't a bad thing.  I try to not attach a story to the "conversation" because the kids will just want the details and won't listen to the message.

Another issue is that we let #1, in 4th grade ride with friends to practice last year on his own.  Why is that an issue?  They did great and were able to get there safely without a grown up.  None of the kids even had a cell phone.  At the time, I felt unsure that that was the correct way to proceed.  I felt uncomfortable without a way to reach out and give a change of plans or check in as I would do if there was a grown up with them.  Obviously, that was my issue and not his.  The real issue is that now that he's tasted freedom, he wants more.  Even though he is part of a group of kids, some of who's parents aren't quite there.  It doesn't make sense to him that he got to go by himself last year and now has a parent with him this year.  There are differences in these scenarios, this year the location is further and they have to walk versus last year they rode bikes in a smaller group.  Regardless of the mode of transportation, he's more confident, and that's a good thing.  He likes the freedom.

So, do I make the choice that is right for my kids as individuals, even though it's not the group's decision?  Will I look like a bad parent if my child goes unsupervised?  Is it even about me?  There are a lot of "what ifs".  I've been reading Free Range Kids blog for a while.  I know the what ifs are there, but you shouldn't react to them for the most part.  Making smart choices about their safety will get me further.  Helmets when riding, seat belts in the car and supervised swimming are among my sticking points.  I'm not sure that being with them en-route to practice is one of them.

I know what seems logical, what would be ideal, and what makes me anxious.  These don't always line up.  I also know I like freedom and like my kids liking it too.  I have also found that if I am not at their class or practice that we have better discussions about it.  The kids have to go into more detail to bring me up to speed.  I like hearing from their perspective.

Some of the references above leads me to want to talk about cell phones, but I think I'll put that in a separate post in the future.