Monday, July 19, 2010

A post in which I will be opinionated

This was an issue that, at first glance, appeared completely unimportant. I gave it little thought. I shrugged my shoulders and decided that my mind and energy would be better focused elsewhere, like on the determination of what vaccines I would give my child, what dairy substitute we would use (Hy-Vee rice milk won, in case you were wondering) and what if any vitamin supplement we'd give him. All, if you'll notice, pertaining to Levi's health.

It was not until his first birthday that I was faced with a seemingly simple decision: whether to keep him rear-facing in his car seat or turn him around to finally face forwards. Of course I'd turn him around. It was a rite of passage. It was an honor due him at his ripe old age of one. He'd surely enjoy the car more, be easier to entertain, and certainly easier to see in my rear-view mirror. Without a doubt I'd turn him around. The law states that at 20lbs and one year of age, I am perfectly allowed to do so. So I will. And I did.


Over his birthday weekend I had to swap the carseat into hubby's compact car because or Forester was full of lumber and drywall. He would fit rear facing (RF) in the Geo, but not comfortably, so I turned him around for our quick trip to the store. I was just certain he loved it. Who wouldn't after looking out the back window and seeing the world fly by for a year.

That afternoon at Levi's birthday party a number of mothers began talking to me about the benefits of a RF carseat. I brushed it off. Remember in the past how I've talked about our own need to "protect our own experiences", our own choices? This was one of those circumstances. In my effort to protect the decision I'd made, to prove to myself that I'd made the right one, I ignored them.

But as the night wore on I became more and more unsure of what I though was a rite of passage. While doing a little research the next morning I came to the following discoveries, the collection of which convinced me that keeping Levi in RF position was not only to be my decision, but also part of my duty to responsibly protect him.

  • Motor vehicle injuries are the number one leading cause of death in children under age 14
  • When a child is in a forward-facing seat, there is stress put on the child's neck, which must hold the head back. The mass of the head of a small child is about 25% of the body mass whereas the mass of the adult head is only 6%
  • Spinal cord injury, one of the most common injuries sustained by forward facing children in harness restraints, can cause temporary or life-long paralysis, or death.
Of course, all of this is null and void if the car seat in question is not properly installed. It would be better to have a child properly restrained in a forward facing position, than to have them improperly restrained in either position. Would you believe that a full 72% of car seats are improperly installed? Furthermore, would you believe that not all car seats fit in all cars? More important than the direction the child is facing, is most certainly the correct fit and installation of both the seat into the car, and the child into the seat.

But back to my quandary. When faced with what one mother told me ("the direction the child faces can be the difference between whip lash, and a broken spinal cord after a head-on collision," The most common type of collision, accounting for 96%) I couldn't put my son's perceived desires above my responsibility to protect him any longer. If I watch him like a hawk in the bathtub (drowning is the 2nd leading cause of death among children), and cut his food into bits so he doesn't choke; if I lock up the household cleaners, and store medications up high, why on earth would I knowingly expose him to the risk of paralysis?

Furthermore, if turning him forward is only a matter of what I assume will be his added enjoyment of car rides, what kind of parent would I show myself to be? One who diminishes safety in the name of fun? In that case, why should I require him to wear a helmet when he rides in daddy's bike trailer? The majority (85% of parents) don't make their kids wear them after all. And bike accidents are so much less common than auto collisions. Why does it even matter? I say this mostly in Jest, we all know why we make our kids wear helmets. We all have the "what if" scenarios go through our heads and they almost undoubtedly lead to a feeling of tremendous guilt on our behalf should the unthinkable happen.

So what if the unthinkable did happen?

I'm praying it won't. And I'm sure you are too. But I'm also going to keep Levi rear facing to the full capacity of his restraint - likely past his second birthday.


Chelsie Hardy said...

Yay! I'm glad you were convinced by your safety-conscience friends. :) We're leaving Rowan RF as long as he can, as well. Our carseat RF to 40lbs.

The Lukas Family said...

I had concerns when we turned Max around-when he met the age and weight requirements-but for us it is a decision that I feel more comfortable with. Our seat-in the car we have-is much more stable in the front facing position. And, I understand that RF IS safer the majority of the time but I have to point out that the video of the FF crash test is not using the upper latch that is now required in all cars. the child would not be bucked around quite as violently if the top were latched in properly.
I hope none of this comes off rude or judgy-I really enjoy your blog-I just had to put in my thoughts-lol!

Melissa K. said...

And THANK YOU, Emily, for doing so! I was honestly afraid someone out there might be offended - so glad you felt comfortable speaking up.

There are so many decisions we must make for our children, and we each do so with the faculties, resources, and experience God has granted us.

You come off as neither rude, nor judgy. After all, how uninteresting would blogging be if we all agreed with each other all the time? Thank you for your input!