My carseat mistake!

I don’t want to type this. I don’t even want to admit it, let alone share it with the world. But I need to because it just might prevent a tragic accident and even if I’m a little embarrassed and a lot sick to my stomach, sharing my mistake is worth it if it just makes one kid a little safer.

Unbeknownst to me, my son was not properly restrained in the car. I don’t know for how long. This is pretty shocking to me…and probably to everyone that knows me…because I am one of those carseat super freaks. I have read and re-read everything there is about car seat safety. I have taken online courses. I want desperately to become a certified CPS Tech. Before our road trip, I took out our carseats and reinstalled them, just to be sure they were installed properly. I did this with the manual…which I’ve already read a ridiculous amount of times.

So what happened? Well, we pulled into our driveway after a trip to Target and I unbuckled everyone, since none of my three kids can undo the straps on their five-point harnesses. As they were climbing out of the van, I opened the trunk to get out a gazillion dollars worth of school supplies and I saw it. The seatbelt. The seatbelt that holds in my son’s car seat. His forward-facing, five-point harness car seat that protects him. The seatbelt was hanging there, just like it does when not in use. Except it was in use, or was supposed to be in use. HOLDING MY SON’S CARSEAT! But it wasn’t. It was not holding in his car seat. The tether was still attached and he had been properly strapped in, chest clip on his chest, no slack in the straps. But his car seat WAS NOT BELTED TO THE CAR!

My stomach dropped. My throat closed up. Tears sprang to my eyes. I couldn’t speak. I know this sounds dramatic, but this is my son’s life we are talking about and I had failed him. Had we been in a wreck, he would not have been properly retrained. He could have died or been seriously injured.

As I stood there staring with my mouth open, I knew exactly what had happened. He had released the seatbelt. He likely had no idea what he was doing and probably was surprised he could do it (remember, he can’t undo the bottom harness on his car seat, which is also a red button). And you know, it’s my fault. I’ve told my kids a thousand times that we don’t ever move the chest clip, we don’t unclip the chest clip, we don’t unbuckle the bottom buckle. They know this. They respect it. But I had not once told him not to undo the seatbelt. It never crossed my mind. When I explained car seat safety to him, I had talked only about the actual car seat and it’s parts. I didn’t mention that it had to be attached to the car and how that happens and that he should never mess with the seatbelt itself. (this same rule should apply for latch! no messing with the latch buckles either!)

And you know what else? I should have checked that. I should have been checking the actual seat belt each and every time he gets into the carseat, just like I check his seat itself. I wiggle the seat (checking for tight install), I check the strap position, I check that it’s properly buckled on him, I check that the chest clip is on his chest, I check that the straps are tight. Why wasn’t I checking the part that holds the whole thing in?!?!

People, learn from my mistake. Make sure your kids know not to mess with the seatbelt…or the LATCH, depending on how it’s installed. Make sure you are checking that it is actually buckled, and locked, every time you get in the car. It’s our jobs to keep our kids safe – don’t make the same mistake I did!

I realize that we are lucky, we were not in a wreck and my sweet boy is just fine. I’m so thankful that nothing bad happened and that we caught this and can learn from it. We had a talk, I showed him the seatbelt, he asked a lot of questions about carseats and seatbelt and physics. So I’m happy that we could learn from this. And as hard as it is (pride can be a pretty big lump to swallow), I wanted to share our story so that your kids can be safe(r) too.

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