The seatbelt struggle

A saga for parents with six year olds.

Chances are, if the kind of car you drive has the word “wagon” anywhere in it, you’ve got kids in the back. If you don’t, stop reading this now.

Let me start by saying: thank you, wagon car maker. For the (debatably) extra trunk room and the (point of entry) safety features and (let’s be honest, standard) cupholders and (required in the midwest winter) heated seats. From the bottom of my warm bottom, thank you.

Here’s what I don’t get. If, for this exercise, “wagon” implies “kids” this would lead me to believe an engineer with kids would have had a say in what’s going on back there. Or if not an engineer with kids, than a focus group of moms would have been a part of the crew. Note: that prior statement does not imply that dads aren’t equally responsible for kids in the back of said wagon, so if you’re revving up to tackle that argument, stop reading this now.

Our recent wagon purchase, albeit beautiful and bottom-warming, could not have had a parent with children under the phase of teenager in the rearview.

This is what I need in a wagon: I need my kid to be able to buckle his own god damn seatbelt. My eight month old gets a pass. And she’ll get a pass from now until probably age four or five, when I should be concerned with ensuring each point in the five point harness system is accounted for. But when my six year old can’t insert the metal part (google tells me this is called the seatbelt “tongue”) into buckle, we’ve got issues.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Bureau suggests that children upwards of age TWELVE sit in a booster seat (even longer if you weigh less, and if my son follows in my scrawny footsteps, he’ll be taking his date to prom sitting in a booster seat.) Safety first, but those giant chunks of life-saving plastic are wide. And that means, in most cases, they’re too wide for their designated space in the backseat which means a kid cannot sit in his seat and shimmy it from side-to-side in order to buckle the seatbelt. And that means, on rainy or cold days, which might as well be at least 50 to 99 percent of the time, the parent is hunched over, getting poured on and freezing or frozen, wiggling that shit around forcing tongue into buckle. (This is only after said child wanted to try, again, to do it themselves, can’t, gets angry, starts sobbing, and kicks back of seat in protest — all taking place in the mad rush to make it to school on time.) This process is similar albeit backwards once arriving at school and in the cringeworthy drop-off lane. And that process is again reversed but just as awful in the even worse pick-up lane.

It’s not asking too much. I appreciate your innovation awards and tip my hat to your lowered emissions. But my “sheer driving pleasure” kinda also includes my sheer “just get in the car without the hassle” pleasure.

Related topic: I’m freelancing now, so if you need help with those focus groups, give me a call. If I don’t answer, it’s because I’m struggling to get my kid in the car. Brb.


Things I googled for this unproductive essay:

  • mothers in engineering
  • seatbelt safety
  • what are the components of a seatbelt
  • do mothers work at BMW
  • do i hyphenate six-year-old (gets me every time)