I'm certain someone, somewhere, will want to vilify me for this post. I know this because that's exactly why I'm writing it. I know this because I've already seen people get jumped on for expressing similar, if not identical, stories.
So what am I going on about? Car seats, people, car seats. Specifically, rear-facing. See, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain rear-facing until age 2. The law, at least here, hasn't quite caught up with that recommendation and only requires that children remain rear-facing until age 1 and 20 lbs. I've seen a lot of people sharing this information lately, which is great. Get the word out! Safer kids!
See, though, this isn't a pro-rear-facing car seat post. Not exactly…
I am all for the recommendation. I believe that kids should be rear-facing as long as they can. I'm all for sharing the information and getting the word out about the new(ish) recommendations. Who wants to knowingly endanger their child's life more than they already have to by simply getting them in a car in the first place?
I am decidedly against shaming people and making them feel terrible about their (possibly quite difficult) decision to not follow the recommendation.
In all fairness, the great majority of friends and random internet strangers I've seen sharing this info have been perfectly civil about it. The few who haven't…well, they've been downright brutal toward those that choose to put their kids forward-facing before age 2, for whatever reason. Yes, there is ignorance out there and I know they think they're helping by pointing out the information, but getting angry at someone [that they don't even know] and telling them they are a terrible parent who is endangering their child's life? That is uncalled for. And extremely unlikely to change any minds or save any lives.
I wish I was making this up.
The particular example that prompted me to write this was a woman whose child screamed and screamed while rear-facing and they finally turned him around because the distraction and stress of having a constantly-screaming child in a car seat was making them feel unsafe driving. And you know what? I GET THAT. To everybody who shouted at her that they'd rather have an unhappy and/or uncomfortable child than a dead one – shame on you. You clearly don't know what it's like.
I could have been that mother. I fully intended to rear-face E as long as possible…until age 2 and beyond! But she had other plans. She hated rear-facing. HATED IT. She hated it with the passion of a million fiery suns. She would scream and scream whenever we went anywhere. We never did figure out what exactly she hated about it, though I think it may have had something to do with the sun. She would get in the car seat just fine, there was no struggle there. But once in the seat…screaming. And I'm not talking about regular ol' crying. I'm talking full-blown, screaming, omg-what-are-you-doing-to-that-child, getting-stared-at-by-the-neighbors, shrieking like she's being tortured. And here's the thing – when E gets worked up, she pukes. So, imagine driving anywhere while trying to keep your child (relatively) calm, only having no idea how to do that because you can't actually figure out why they're screaming their head off in the first place. Because if you can't keep them calm (and you can't) they're going to puke all over themselves, their car seat, possibly the car. We tried everything we could think of. I asked for suggestions from friends, our pediatrician, anyone I could. We tried to keep her distracted. We tried snacks, water, no snacks, no water. Sunhats and sunglasses to keep the sun out of her eyes. Singing. Books, activities, special "car toys" to play with. Bribery. Rewards. Treats. Whatever. Everything. I took to keeping paper towels and lots of tissues in the car. Extra clothes. It sucked. Taking her anywhere was torture for everybody involved. We stopped going anywhere that wasn't absolutely necessary. If we were lucky, she would scream herself to sleep before she puked all over. Of course, if she did puke, then she screamed even harder because OMG PUKE.
We did this for months. Finally, shortly before her 2nd birthday, I turned her car seat around so she was forward facing. It was like magic. A switch flipped. She didn't scream anymore! At all! We could go places again! I didn't have to worry about vomiting in the car!
Is she less safe now? Probably, yes. It was still worth it. The person shaming the other woman pooh-poohed her concerns about feeling less safe driving with a constantly screaming child. I completely understand. It was very easy to imagine getting into an accident because I was trying to deal with E's shenanigans.
The small chance that we were going to get into an accident where rear-facing vs. forward-facing would have made the difference for my child…versus the every single day screaming, vomiting, stress-inducing, distracted driving… Well, I weighed my options and you see which way I went. I understand not everybody would make the same decision. But I stand by it.
Over a year later, E is a great car traveler. She literally stopped screaming in the car the instant she was facing forward. Our car rides since then have all been fantastic. And H? He's about to be one year old in two weeks and he weighs a whopping 26 lbs. Legally, I could turn him around. Will I? Nope. He's perfectly happy to be rear-facing. He does not cause nearly the same amount of incredible stress and frustration in the car as E did at his age.
So, please. Before you judge, remember that you don't know everybody's story.