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How to Get Your Kids Strapped into Their Car Seats in 49 “Easy” Steps

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

Suburban legend in my family has it that when my brother was a toddler, my parents put him in a box in the backseat when they went on car trips. Every so often it would fall down and they would dutifully put it, and presumably him, back in place.

Since then, car seats have come a long way — and thankfully, too. Many children’s lives have been saved by the proper use of (non-box) car seats.

But, I’m not going to lie. There are mornings when I long for the days when it was socially acceptable to shovel your kids into a box and go. Why? Because of the epic battle that goes on in our minivan every day as I attempt to get my three children safely strapped into their respective car seats. (This is after the epic shoe battle.)

To achieve success takes a mixture of patience, tears, yoga, and rice cakes. Here’s the breakdown.

  1. Don’t have anywhere to be. (I know this sounds counterintuitive because otherwise, why would you be getting into the car? Good point. I guess then just “wish” you don’t have anywhere to be.)
  2. Hear sounds of intense distress as 3-year-old loses the race to 5-year-old in the age-old battle over who will get to the car first.
  3. Explain it’s not a race and ask everyone to get into the car.
  4. Momentarily stand idly by as nobody gets into the car.
  5. Wonder why they care so much about who gets to the car first since NOBODY WANTS TO GET IN THE CAR.
  6. Tell everyone to get into the car. Now.
  7. Pick up 1.5-year-old, who has suddenly morphed from adorable baby into some paradoxical limp noodle/rigid board combo.
  8. Try to manipulate 1.5-year-old into the car seat without: (1) hitting his head on the side of the door; (2) jamming his legs into the back of the seat; (3) leaving him hovering over the car seat in some noodle-board, Pilates-inspired move.
  9. Look forward to the day that baby can be forward-facing.
  10. Manage to get 1.5-year-old into his seat using a combination of your hands, forearms, elbows, and head.
  11. Realize he’s sitting on the straps.
  12. Cry a little. Just a little.
  13. Hear over the cries of 1.5-year-old that 3-year-old is also crying. Apparently 5-year-old attempted to go through “her door.” Explain that everyone can share all the doors. Feel a small sense of victory, as this means that everyone is now in the car.
  14. Lift up amazingly compliant, non-noodley-boardy baby so as to rearrange the straps.
  15. Notice that the older children are in their seats!
  16. Ask 3-year-old if she wants to strap herself in. She does not.
  17. Ask if she’s sure. She is.
  18. Repeat steps 7 to 10.
  19. Attempt to strap baby in. Why are the straps so tight? Do they magically tighten overnight? Release the straps.
  20. Contemplate the mystery of the tightening straps in order to tune out the sound of 5-year-old crying because his seatbelt won’t give any slack.
  21. Perform tricky yoga maneuver to get body into back of minivan in order to release his seatbelt.
  22. Realize you are far too old and inflexible to ever attempt this move again.
  23. See that the seatbelt has somehow become entwined in the arm of 5-year-old’s booster seat.
  24. Contemplate the mystery of the entangled seatbelt so as to distract you from the feeling of someone pulling your hair and — worse — the realization that you are experiencing this sensation because the baby is standing up in his car seat.
  25. Have 5-year-old stand up so that you can untangle the seatbelt.
  26. Perform tricky seatbelt-armrest extraction procedure, all while in some crazy approximation of downward dog as baby thumps you on the butt with a two-week old hardened rice cake.
  27. Vow to clean the car.
  28. Ask 3-year-old if she could please try to strap herself in?
  29. Resignedly accept her refusal.
  30. Unfold yourself from the backseat in order to prep for steps 7 to 10.
  31. Perform steps 7 to 10.
  32. Five-year-old is in.
  33. Manage to get now-loosened straps around 1.5-year-old. Tighten straps.
  34. Two down, one to go. Think to yourself that you’re almost ready.
  35. Move over to 3-year-old’s car seat in anticipation of strapping her in.
  36. Listen to her tell you indignantly that, in fact, she will be strapping herself in.
  37. Move to driver’s seat so you can softly sob without your children noticing.
  38. Look in rearview mirror to see that 3-year-old has fastened one of the three required buckles. Ask if she would like help. She would not.
  39. Repeat silent sobbing.
  40. Look in rearview mirror to see 5-year-old diving back into his booster and refastening seatbelt. Realize that he found the 2-week-old rice cake and is eating it. Care absolutely not at all. Whatever, as long as he’s back in the seat.
  41. Repeat steps 38 and 39 a few more times — if it’s a good day, maybe just four times.
  42. Berate yourself for ever harboring the foolhardy belief that you were almost ready to go. You will never be almost ready to go. Never, I tell you.
  43. Three-year-old finally succeeds in getting all straps on and immediately begins crying.
  44. Realize she is crying because the straps are twisted and digging into her shoulders.
  45. Get out of the car. Prepare for battle.
  46. Unstrap her. Tell her she can have a rice cake if she lets you do the straps. She assents.
  47. Restrap her.
  48. Scour the car for old rice cakes. Total success — more than enough to go around. Vow to never clean the car.
  49. Strap yourself in. You’re done.

Now … where are the keys?

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