When you have a little one in your care everything is more complicated than it should ever be. From cooking to cleaning to using the bathroom, everything becomes problematic. Everything transforms from a simple task into a "situation" that requires a strategy to accomplish. I don't mean to say that your life becomes a series of insurmountable obstacles. Cooking or cleaning or anything else with a toddler around just takes a little extra care not a S.W.A.T. team. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the little one becomes a factor impacting every aspect of your activities and the older and more mobile they get, up to a certain point, the harder they are to fit into your plans. It all has to do with safety, the safety of the child, and when you are a mother or the temporary equivalent thereof, the safety of the child is always paramount in your mind. Because of this, a mountain of special products have been invented and marketed to allow the modern mother to go about her busy day with the least amount of worry or concern about how to safely accomplish this or that task. Some of these inventions are truly innovative (the baby gate). Some are, I must say, simply bizarre (the child leash). But premier among these innovations, at least to my mind, is the car seat.
Independent of the fact that they are mandated by law, the utility and undeniable benefits of child car seats have made them one of the most indispensable items in every parent's arsenal of child related paraphernalia. They have become as common an item as diapers to the child afflicted, and the modern parent would no sooner contemplate life without a car seat than they would life without a car. For infants they double as a carry-all for babies, and Kiley was brought in and out of the house in her car seat until she got too big for that to be convenient. The car seat is like water, you've got to have it, but it wasn't always that way.
Most people over the age of forty, and all people over the age of fifty, can remember a time when car seats were not the ubiquitous items that they are today. In fact, as with all inventions, there was a time when car seats had not yet been invented, and, like all inventions, it took time for the car seat to "catch on" with the public. One can find examples of car seats as far back as the 1940's but even in the 1960's so called car seats were designed to contain children not protect them. Some of them looked down right dangerous themselves and were probably counter productive when it came to safety. Some were more like baby cages than baby seats. This is not an indictment of parents of the past. Seat belts themselves were not common in cars until 1958 (though no one really used them until the 1980's) and, as with the car seat, this was not due to a cavalier attitude toward safety, but rather to a lack of awareness of the dangers involved. What person of my generation does not remember standing up in the back of the car as a child or, when they were smaller, standing up on the front seat of the car? There were nine kids in my family and even if car seats were in wide spread use in the sixties, it wouldn't have done us any good. We were packed into the station wagon like sardines, crawling around back there, playing games and fighting. If we had ever been involved in a serious accident the carnage would have been epic. But, like everyone else at the time we were unaware of the possible consequences.
My first daughter was born in 1974, and when leaving the hospital I was wheel-chaired to the car, sat down in the front seat, and the baby was handed to me by a nurse. That's the way I got her home, holding her in my arms in the front seat. By the time my third daughter was born in 1982 the hospital wouldn't release the baby if you didn't have a car seat to put her in and would lend you one if you needed it. Now, where I live, it is against the law to transport a child under the age of seven or less than sixty-five pounds without the use of a car seat. Added to this, children under the age of twelve or less than sixty-five pounds are required to ride in the back seat and it is recommended that children under the age of two ride in a rear facing car seat. Like the general use of seat belts, car seats have gone from a novelty to a necessity in the course of a generation. Even if it weren't the law, what parent today would contemplate doing what my parents and I myself did as a matter of course - transporting our children without a car seat? In times past parents didn't realize the danger they were subjecting their children to by not using car seats. Today they do. What are we doing or not doing now, as a matter of course, that we do not yet realize poses a danger to our children, and that in years to come will be considered irresponsible and even illegal. Times change, and usually for the better.