Like most of you, I’m pretty serious about car seats and their safe use. Putting your child in the car is absolutely the most dangerous thing you do every day, and hopefully the most dangerous thing they encounter in their entire lives, for the sake of my nerves and sanity. It absolutely is dangerous for a child to be in the car. They are much more likely to be injured or killed in your car than anywhere else. Car seats do an incredible amount to mitigate potential damage, but they must be used correctly.
These are facts. You can’t argue with them. Well, you can, but you’d be wrong. These things are true and there’s not anything you can do to make them untrue, even if you find it incredibly stressful to think about the fact that your daily errands are actually the biggest risk to your child, and not, say, letting them walk home from the park two blocks away by themselves. The car is more dangerous and we do it all the time.
The fact that these are inarguable facts is what always ends up making car seat discussions so weird to me. The reaction of some people just never made sense. Because you can’t argue with facts. But you know how it goes – an article goes around Facebook, giving some tips about proper chest clip placement or a new guideline for car seats. And you or someone else shares it, because it’s information we all need. There’s some discussion, and then someone explains why it’s not actually the safe thing to do in their specific situation. Which, fine. That’s fine. We all have to make decisions for our kids like that, things that go against what everyone else does or what someone else might think is the best thing to do. You are allowed to do that. It’s your child, you know best. End of. You should be okay with this, no matter the decisions you make. For most people, I in no way feel that these choices aren’t made from a place of proper concern and care of the child.
However, your (the general your) choice not to follow a specific safety guideline does not invalidate that guideline. Your choice to do something different doesn’t immediately make your version of the rules just as safe as the issued guidelines. It doesn’t. You should feel confident in your choices, because you wouldn’t have made them if you didn’t weigh it out and decide it was the right way to go, but your choices don’t have a place in discussions of actual safety guidelines. You’ve evaluated the information on your own and made a decision based on those facts, your own life, and your own child. That does not mean it’s okay for others to make the same choice, or that others should be encouraged to discard guidelines.
And this is the weird part. In a lot of these discussions, it ends up being an absolute refusal to accept that the issued guidelines are the safest thing to do. Whether you follow them or not, they are the safest. When you choose not to follow them, you are trading a measure of this kind of safety for a measure of whatever works best for your family. And again, that’s fine. It could not be more fine. If you understand the safety guidelines and choose something else, you’re well within your rights and you probably have good reasons. There are people out there who don’t know the proper guidelines, though. Who place the chest clip too low, who turn the seat around way too early, who put their kids in giant bulky coats in the infant bucket. What they’re doing is not safe, because they don’t know the guidelines and haven’t made an informed choice to do these things. They’re just doing it wrong.
So what always surprises me is one, that refusal to acknowledge that whatever you decide to do, there IS a “safest way.” And two, how agitated people who don’t follow the guidelines get over the fact that there ARE guidelines they’re not following. It just keeps going, with justification after justification for not following them, as if they need someone to say, “okay, in your situation, that’s fine, because the guidelines don’t apply to you.” You must acknowledge that my child is as safe as yours. You HAVE to acknowledge it, or you’re a dick. But if you’re not following the guidelines, your child is NOT as safe as mine in a car accident. That’s just a fact. You can’t argue with it, and the other side can’t truthfully acknowledge that your kid is just as safe, because he isn’t. If you’re going to go against posted guidelines, you need to accept the fact that you’ve made that trade off and feel okay with the idea that it works for you, without approval from those who are guidelines-sticklers.
Until a couple of days ago, this phenomenon made no sense to me. It’s TOTALLY FINE to do whatever you want with your own child after availing yourself of the information and making an informed decision. Why are you getting so worked up that other people don’t agree that it’s the absolute best thing to do? It doesn’t matter. Your individual choice to go against whatever is in the article posted has zero effect on anyone else. On top of that, you probably understand that you’re going against the “rules” and know that it’s not a good idea to encourage others to do the same. So just… why so worked up?
BUT THEN. There was this article posted on Reddit. It discusses how children who receive general anesthesia before the age of 4 had “diminished language comprehension, lower IQ and decreased gray matter density in posterior regions of their brain.” And my immediate gut reaction was, “THAT’S NOT TRUE.” I was instantly aggravated and denied the possibility that it could possibly be true. Because Penny had surgery before the age of 4. I thought, “What was I supposed to do? She needed surgery. We did the right thing. It can’t be harmful, because we did the right thing.” And that’s when the whole car seat thing clicked for me.
It’s a fact – children who receive general anesthesia before the age of 4 do present those limitations and whatnot. But I instantly felt like it couldn’t be true, because I would never harm Penny like that. How dare some science article imply that my choice caused damage to my kid? I wouldn’t do that. But it’s true. It’s a fact, and my intentions matter nothing to facts.
That immediate, “I WILL KICK YOU IN THE FACE FOR THESE LIES ABOUT ME ENDANGERING MY OWN CHILD” reaction makes me kind of understand where the Facebook comment arguers are coming from. I’m a good (okay, decent) parent. I always have Penelope’s best interests at heart. To suggest that I don’t – even with facts I can’t argue with – is infuriating and upsetting.
But facts are facts. I did what was best for my kid, and the facts say there could be consequences. It’s upsetting, but I did what I thought was best with the best intentions. I need to be okay with that because it’s reality, just like people who choose different car seat practices need to be okay with the potential consequences of their own choices, provided they make them with plenty of information and the best intentions.
Anyway, that’s all.