Monday, August 26, 2013

Putting My Kid in Someone Else's Car

Today, I put my 4.5-year-old's car seat in my neighbor's van and watched her kids climb into their car seats in the back row. I, of course, installed my car seat securely, fastened the top tether, and buckled my son in as usual, with a nice, tight harness and properly aligned chest clip.

Her kids, almost-3 and almost-5, are in good car seats, a Britax and a Graco, both five-point harnesses. But they were not buckled safely. The harness was too loose, the chest clip was not remotely in the right place, and the straps were twisted. On top of that, she has the same van as me, and I know that there is only a top tether hook in the center position in the back row, so really she shouldn't have had her daughter's seat on the side, either, since the top tether couldn't be secured.

It's so hard to know where to draw the line about when and whether to allow your child to ride in someone else's car. I trust her driving; I trust her parenting; I trust her to keep my child safe as they go on an adventure together. Knowing that I installed my son's car seat and buckled him, at least for the first leg of their drive, I know he's fine in the car.

But I also know that her kids are not buckled correctly. So we have one of these, "Do I say something or not?" moments. Should I tell her that her kids are not really secured safely? Should I offer to check her car seat installation for her? She knows I'm big on breastfeeding, and in fact asked me for some advice regarding her seven-month-old a few weeks ago, so if she knew I also was obsessed with proper car seat use, would she ask me for advice about that as well?

I've run into this a few times, where I just want to help a friend, but I don't want them to take my information as criticism of their parenting. And what do you do when someone asks you for help, takes you seriously, but then continues to do it incorrectly? I've had that happen, too!

So what would you do? If you were the one doing the driving, making the offer, how would you feel about the other parent mentioning something about your car seats or the way your kids are secured? If you were the one whose kid was being driven by someone else, would you say something to that parent about their kids' safety (and, by extension, that of your own child)? I don't want to be "that mom," but car accidents are no joke.

Let's hear your thoughts!

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