Thursday, May 22, 2014

Conquering Parental Anxiety, with a Car Seat

In my almost 5 years of parenting I’ve changed thousands of diapers, fed a comparable number of bottles, lost incalculable hours of much-needed sleep and had myriad Pixar movies’ images permanently burned into my corneas after perpetual viewings.

Parenting the two Junior Dudes has introduced me to activities that not only had I never done before, but many that I didn’t even know existed before I became a father. Siphoning the snot out of their congested little noses, anyone?

There is one invaluable parenting exercise, however, which I had intentionally avoided doing since even before Day 1: I never learned how to install a car seat. Though I’ve never acknowledged it before now, I admit that not knowing how to do something as vital as this has been a source of guilt. So you’re probably wondering why an extremely hands-on father like me never learned how to install a car seat and the answer is simple.


Not wanting to fail as a father has been an ongoing fear since long before I actually became one and I don’t think that’s abnormal. I frequently tell my boys, and myself, that my primary objectives are making sure they are always fed, healthy & safe.  

When we went to get our first infant seat installed a week before the Little Dude was born, it was my 37-weeks-pregnant wife maneuvering in the back seat of her Prius watching the Installation Guru finesse the intimidating harnesses and straps into place. I was afraid that when called upon to install a car seat in a real setting, I would do it wrong and my son would somehow get hurt as a result. So I strongly encouraged my wife, who is much better with attention to detail than I’ll ever be, to learn the process. And for 4 ½ years, she’s moved the seats in and out of our cars like a professional.

So I decided to finally do something about it.

When the Britax people asked if we wanted to test out their Advocate "UltimateComfort Series" car seat*, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally learn this skill I desperately wanted but had long avoided. Since we’ve used Britax car seats for years, and I felt confident that they’ve been keeping my boys safe, this was my golden opportunity to finally practice what I preach.

I opened the box and read the instruction booklet cover to cover. I felt comforted knowing Britax’s patented HUGS Chest Pads would be hugging the Littler Dude safely in his seat, since I can’t do it myself while driving. The technology Britax created to minimize the force a child encounters in the unexpected event of an accident is vital and the seat’s Integrated Steel Bars lock its connection to the car, reducing forward movement during a crash. There are countless features Britax includes to make sure that kids stay safe in the (Heaven Forbid) event of an accident. Those are the nightmares no parent wants to think about, but I feel better knowing Britax is looking out for my kids like they are their own.

Since both of my boys are near the top of their respective growth charts, it’s reassuring to know that the 19-month-old Littler Dude can stay in this Advocate until he’s 65 pounds (and 49” tall), which should be at least another year (hopefully 4).  

When the moment of truth finally happened, when it was time to personally ensure my son’s day-to-day safety, I brought the owner’s manual and one more essential asset out to the driveway to help me install my first car seat: my wife.

I expected a barrage of obstacles and challenges, but the truth is the actual installation took less than 10 minutes start to finish. Like a child afraid to try a new food, only to discover it’s delicious, I conquered a critical piece of self-doubt that had plagued me for 4 ½ years. Knowing how safe and well-built Britax products are, I have no doubt that the Littler Dude will be safe in his new Advocate. Plus, now that I know first-hand how LATCH connectors and the Five-Point Harness work, I feel extra confident that my sons are in good hands…and comfy seats. (Did I mention that it's called the UltimateComfort Series partly because the headrests and seat itself are Memory Foam?)  

Though I’m still a car seat novice, I can rest assured knowing that the Littler Dude clearly appreciates at least one essential feature of his Advocate: Britax’s True Side Impact Protection, or as he likely views it, a cozy place to rest his head.
I think he likes it. 

Disclaimer: Though I was given an Advocate UltimateComfort Series car seat by Britax for review purposes, I was not compensated otherwise for this post. All opinions contained within are 100% mine, for better or worse. Also, I wish they made these in my size so I could sit on Memory Foam whenever I'm in the car. 

*= The Advocate Ultimate Comfort Series is available exclusively at Babies R Us. 

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  1. I've always fitted the seats on my kids car seats... for the last 7 years. However, last week I called into Ireland's Road Safety Authority "Check it Fits" Roadshow to ensure that I'd fitted them correctly.

    I discovered that OK the seats might have been fitted OK, but my seat belt on one was twisted, and I should always ensure that the booster seats are secured so that they cannot move about in the car while the kids are not in them.

    You're never too old to learn something new.

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