March 16, 2014

Teachable moments: Car Seat Safety

The roar of the throttle as it approached on my right, too fast for me to register that it was a blue Toyota pickup. I tapped my brake and slowed as it tore into view, crossing my lane and smashing into the tail end of a black sedan headed in the opposite direction. The expected sounds of scraping metal and bumpers popping and glass shattering came next. The sedan flipped high into the air, and landed on its top, crunching into the pavement.

The pickup truck continued on a swift path across four lanes of traffic before landing softly in a clearing of trees.

I told the boys everything was okay and parked the car. I told them I was leaving to make sure the people inside were okay.

I knew they were scared. I knew I would return to frightened wails and tear streamed faces, eyes welled up and down-turned frowns.

When I bent down to peer into the rear passenger window, I thought I would see blood. Instead, an older woman in a red coat was trying to free herself. Someone yelled for her to unlock her door.

I told a bystander to call 911 and ran across the street to the driver of the truck. I was cautious as I approached and before I could reach for the handle the door opened and a large man stepped out. He said he was fine. His pedal was jammed.

“My pedal was jammed,” he repeated.

“I don’t know why this happened,” he said to no one in particular as he lifted and lowered the utility boxes in the bed of his truck. “But I didn’t hit anyone.”

Before long the streets were filled with early morning traffic, curious onlookers and concerned witnesses.

I made my way back to my boys, who were now in shambles, clutching hands and screaming at me, “Where did you go? We are crying!”

I pushed the hair back from Roscoe’s forehead and looked him in the eye, “We are so lucky we didn’t get hit by that car. I’m so glad you both have your seatbelts on. And did you know that everyone is OK!?” 

I met Merritt’s wide eyed gaze and while they were now in silence, listening intently with hope, I started to cry. 

“Are you crying, Momma?”

“Yes, I am…because I love you so much. This is why we have to ALWAYS wear our seat belts, right?” They solemnly agreed, shaking their heads.

Their witnessing the accident has left a deep impression on them. I have been made to retell this story more times than I care to say over the last two days, because it was so jarring and because they are still trying to make sense of it. For a three and four year old the action was awesome and the consequences gruesome.

For me, it became a teachable moment in my mothering experience. I often let Roscoe buckle himself in to his seat, because every little step of independence feels so great when I am required to tend to their every need day in and day out, and because the self-satisfaction he shows after having done it on his own has become a feel-good moment for everyone. Merritt has recently demanded responsibility for buckling his top strap, typically on request to compete with Roscoe in the great buckle race: who can do it faster?

The finicky nature of these car seat buckles, the way they can appear fastened when in fact they are not, for seemingly inconsequential reasons like the corner of t-shirt is trapped somewhere in between. 

The reality is that the buckling of seat belts is an adult responsibility, as is proper harnessing, something that we've always paid attention to, but that is easily overlooked in the bustle of a morning routine or afternoon errands.

I can only imagine how we may have fared had the unthinkable happened and the blue Toyota pickup slammed into our car as we hummed along the road to preschool drop-off that morning.  
For the latest information on Carseat Safety click here.

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