A Parenting Dilemma: Safety vs. Sanity

As cooler weather descends upon us, we parents of the Great White North must resign ourselves to the dreaded daily struggle that is the snowsuit. But it doesn’t end there…

I recently came across online recommendations saying that when you strap your children (of any age) in their carseats, you must remove winter clothing first. Here is a link. (Note: The images in these articles always feature smiling children sitting cooperatively in the back of a spacious mini-van. The angry, red, chapped, tear stained faces with drippy noses never make the cut).

Do you do this?

We have always been careful to follow carseat rules, using appropriately sized seats and _ 100adjusting them correctly. Heck, these days, they won’t even let you leave our local hospital with your newborn until you can prove you have a carseat and know how to use it. When the kids were itty bitty little things in bucket seats, you could buckle and then bundle them up appropriately indoors and then just pop them into the base in the car, no problem. (Note, my son was not yet appropriately bundled for winter in this photo).

Getting my 2.5 year old toddler into his snowsuit these days could be compared to wrestling an angry octopus into a mesh bag. Through all of the running away, kicking, screaming and flailing, I eventually get all of his limbs into the correct holes, and I carry the bundle of tears, often football style out into frigid temperatures and into the car. Then, he adopts a variety of plank-like positions and ear-splitting screams in order to prevent the buckling of the seatbelt at all.

However, the seatbelt always gets fastened, and tightened. You’re welcome son.

Tell me to add the removal of the snowsuit before getting into the car and to put it back on at the other end, and I’m going to look at you like you’ve got two heads. (Please see update below).

There was a time when people rebelled against wearing seatbelts, and then helmets. Now these things are the norm. (Here’s a link to the history of the carseat and a slideshow of how they progressed ). Perhaps snowsuit removal will become the norm too. Maybe I’ll change my mind on this one too. Who knows?

But isIMG_20140116_104542n’t there a point when too many rules and regulations make things so complicated people just stop going places?

I have two sons. They climb, they fall, they wrestle, they bump, they bruise and they
bleed. Some days I feel I will be lucky if I can get them safely to adulthood. I do everything that I can, within reason, to keep those two little men safe. I am a worrier. I am a stickler about helmets on bikes, parental supervision, and following the rules. But sometimes, I just have to buckle those kids into their seats as they are.

I did another post on reasonable risk a while back.

Spend half an hour online and you will find a dozen ways you are endangering your children’s lives on a daily basis. Carcinogens in the baby soap? Non-organic vegetables? Co-sleeping? (Oops … three more strikes).

How are you failing your children?

(Disclaimer: Do not follow my lead. Always follow manufacturer guidelines.)

So…as an update, after a lot of online research, we are looking at possible compromises. It seems one possibility is leaving the coat unzipped, and buckling against the chest. Still not ideal but better. The guilt got to me once again.

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7 Responses to A Parenting Dilemma: Safety vs. Sanity

  1. hgaloska says:

    OMG this post is hilarious. Important, thought-provoking, and hilarious.

  2. Zoe McCoy says:

    I whole-heartedly agree that we have to be willing to accept some reasonable risk. I’m all about letting kids explore and play and taking the occasional fall or skinned knee (or enjoying the very not whole food sweet treat). But, as someone who used to work in a pediatric rehab hospital, I’ve seen too many injuries from motor vehicle accidents and the risk is far greater than most outdoor play. So, for me, this is one of those things I’m admittedly a little nutty about in terms of advising parents to err on the side of caution. Here’s a post from a mom in Alaska with some advice on keeping kids warm without using “puffy” items inside the car seat straps (without having to essentially take on and then off a snowsuit). http://carseatsmadeeasy.blogspot.com/2010/12/keeping-warm-and-safe-in-winter.html
    And another from a mom that includes some product reviews/recommendations that might be helpful: http://thecarseatlady.com/warmandsafe/
    I completely hear your frustration about getting in and out of the car, and it’s so, so, hard (and anxiety-provoking) to keep up with everything that “experts” recommend in the name of safety. Especially when much of that advice may or may not be really necessary. I hear that. My intention here is just to share my opinion/perspective on car safety as a greater risk than most and some advice from others on how to avoid puffy layers with car seats.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment on this Zoe. I can definitely see the reason behind many of the recommendations in your links, especially for small babies.

      I am certainly not in a position to quote safety statistics, or give advice. As you say, you have more experience here, and I would urge anyone looking for advice to listen to YOU, not me.

      I’m simply a frustrated parent trying to get through the day. All of the suggestions revolve around keeping the child warm, but that isn’t always the issue.

      (As a side note: It appears that many of the concerns are about children being ejected from the seat. With a 5 point harness tightly fastened around a winter coat of a toddler, I’m having difficulty picturing this.)

      Again, thanks for posting. I’m certainly not trying to start a debate or campaign against safety, just provide a perspective on the realities of everyday life with a toddler and the guilt we all deal with on a regular basis!

      Best wishes!

    • Also…please see my new update at the bottom! Thx.

  3. Anna Maste says:

    I’m with you Cathy on the insanity of this “rule”. I’m all for reasonable risk. And while I certainly can sympathize with the commenter above who has seen the aftermath of too many car accidents, the question that first comes to my mind is: “Yes, but how many of those were because their kids were wearing a snow suit under a properly buckled 5-point harness?”

    If none (or virtually none) of them were because of that, then the reasoning there would lead to the conclusion that riding in a car at all is not a reasonable risk, and we should walk everywhere. (Which of course has its own risks.)

    I fully admit, out loud and in public, that I put my kids in the car in snowsuits. Always have. I do, however, always readjust the car seat straps, and pull them as tight as is reasonably possible. Likely more tightly than the kids would like. As long as I’ve secured them and the snowsuit is as compressed as reasonably possible with my bare hands, my engineer-trained brain cannot imagine any scenario in which the snowsuit will suddenly compress more without being done so by the very seat belt that would be keeping them in place. I think the real culprit here is people not tightening the seat belts after putting their kids in, because inevitably you have to loosen it to get it buckled up when they’ve got a big suit on, and it’s cold out, and once it’s buckled we just want to get in the darn car.

    At the end of the day, I’ve used my brain and experience to make an informed decision. I refuse to be governed by some fear-mongering society that insists on micromanaging risks for me. I encourage everyone else to do the same, and draw your own conclusions.

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