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March 18, 2009

The Armrest is NOT a Place to Seat your Child

090317-01-generic_rear_armrest I'm still completely flabbergasted and don't even know how to tell this story.

My kidlet spent a day at home because there was teacher's inservice at his Kindergarten class this week;  I also volunteered to watch one of his classmates because her mother had to work. If it had been just my little boy, I would have set him down in front of Lego Indiana Jones to be a sofa boy all day long, but I didn't want her to think I was a neglectful mother, so I planned 'activities' to keep our children occupied. We colored. We fed the fish. We walked to the park and played on the swings.

During the course of the day, we had a few lulls in the pace, and at one point, my youngster asked if he could show his friend the car I was "renting." (His term for the manufacturer vehicles I am sometimes loaned to review).

My little boy gave a very good tour of the beautiful Audi  Q7 in our garage this week, and thoughtfully demonstrated the fold-down third-row seats, the two sunroofs, the side and rear window sunshades, and the cabin lighting. (This kid might become a salesperson!) But his favorite thing was the second-row center fold-down armrest with the telescoping cup holders, because it fit so nicely next to his booster seat. He folded it down, and said proudly to her: "And look at this!"

After which, she promptly sat on it.

I said, "Oh no, Sweetie, you can't sit on that!" When she asked why not, I said "It's not meant to hold your weight," (What I was actually thinking was "Oh no, Sweetie, DON'T BREAK MY LOAN CAR, THE FLEET PEOPLE DON'T LIKE IT WHEN WE BREAK THINGS IN THE CAR!) and she said to me, "Oh, I have a seat just like this in my Mom's car!"

090317-02-2004_volvo_xc90_child_safety_seat So I say, "That's great!" and then start doing a mental review of cars that I know have factory-installed booster seats in the second row. (What was her mother driving when she dropped her off?) Volvo XC90 has a great second-row center booster seat. Chrysler also offers an integrated child booster seat in the Town & Country and the Journey. Are there others? These are just the few that popped directly into my mind.

090317-03-2009_dodge_journey_booster_seat I didn't think much about it, until the end of the day, when Mom showed up to pick up her delightful daughter. I walked them out to the car, and as she and I chatted about the lovely day our two children spent together, her little Sweetie climbed into the second row of her SUV (which was neither a Chrysler nor a Volvo), and sat herself ON the center armrest. Mom reached in and used the three-point center seat belt to buckle her into place.

090317-04-2009_audi_a4_rear_armrest She's six. I have no idea how much she weighs (but I doubt it's 60 pounds) or whether she is taller than the 4'9" height recommended before transition from a booster seat into an adult safety belt is considered safe.  This is one of the first times I've had a conversation with this woman. And I was completely flabbergasted. I didn't know what to say! (Okay, okay, I know what I wanted to say, but every time my brain tried to reach for a more delicate, discrete way to discuss child seat safety, I had to close my mouth to stop from delivering the actual words -- "ARE YOU REALLY THAT STUPID?" -- which kept trying to jump out.)

I don't want to make this lady mad, it's a small school and our children are likely to be in the same class together for the next several years. I needed to take a breath, and figure out a more courteous way to mention my feelings about car seat safety with her. One friend of mine has already told me it is none of my business, and another one has told me I can't tell another person how to raise her child.

What would you have done? How do you recommend I approach this subject with her? I'm willing to take suggestions here, because I know it is important. Or, is it just none of my business?

Thanks for letting me vent.

Brandy_schaffels_s Brandy Schaffels
AskPatty Editor and Car Seat Safety Vigilante

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