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Why You Need A Degree in Car Seat Installation

November 27, 2011

There are many skills you need to acquire before you become a parent.  Some of those are what you would call soft skills, such as the ability to deal with the emotional aspects of things your children throw at your or ask you to assist them with.  The other skill set required is what you would call the hard skills of parenthood, the specific technical knowledge or aptitudes that one needs to manage the wee ones in our care.

When you’re expecting your baby to arrive you may take things like prenatal or baby care classes.  You may take a first aid course and read lots and lots of books.  You’re designing a self-directed crash course on parenthood.

Let’s just say that I’ve have some education under my belt.  Twenty-plus years worth.  Let’s just say that I love to read and research obsessively on most things related to parenthood.  I often have too much information which leads to decision-making paralysis.  Let’s just say that I think of myself as being pretty intelligent, capable and resourceful.  I can figure pretty much anything else with the help of the internet or a book.

Except car seats.  Oh I lament car seats.  One needs a PhD to efficiently and effectively install a friggen car seat!

Our first car seat was an infant bucket seat.  I read the manual.  It didn’t make much sense, but I’m a hands on gal, and I was able to drag my then 35 week pregnant self outside to the car in March and figured out how to install it.  Just to be sure, even though I was pretty confident, I went to a car seat tech to have it checked out.  Other than being too loose, which I suspected, I had done it all correctly.

At the time I thought that seat was pretty complicated.

In September we purchased our second car, and with it, we had to purchase a second car seat.  I researched all of our options and settled on the Sun.shine Radian Kids XT.  The plan was to install this short-term in Wifey’s car, and then move it over to my car when Baby A. outgrew the infant bucket seat.  We needed as much space as possible in our bigger car to cram all three kids in the back seat, and Wifey’s car is a subcompact, so she really needed a smaller seat.

I read through the manual for the Radian, and it was a slog.  I spent two hours trying to figure out basic things on the seat before I event attempted the install.  I had to determine how to affix the rear facing base, adjust the shoulder straps and seat buckle, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out where the LATCH strap was stored on the seat.  At the time, I chalked it up to sleep deprivation making me an idiot. I was so exhausted and frustrated by the simple set up process that I waited until the next day to attempt the install.

There were no problems getting the seat into the car.  The impossible part was getting it to be secure enough.  No matter how I knelt, sat, wiggled and pulled on that seat, I couldn’t get the LATCH strap tight enough.  After an hour, I gave up and left the heavy lifting part to Wifey (which she did, without a problem).

Fast forward two months.

While the Radian was nice for the baby, it meant that the passenger riding in the front seat of Wifey’s car was eating their knees and their head was precariously close to the windshield.  We got a second seat for Wifey’s car – a Roundabout – that was specifically meant for subcompacts, and Baby A was on the verge of outgrowing her bucket seat.   The only thing we had to do was move and re-install the Radian in my car, and install the new seat in Wifey’s car.

Tick tock.  Tick tock.  Chirp. Chirp.  It’s snowed once and we don’t have a garage.

I read the manual for the Roundabout and it was even murkier than the one for the Radian.  Wifey read the manual for the Roundabout and admitted that even she was confused.  We put this task off, and off again, and off again.

Fast forward to this morning.

I had emailed Wifey a video of the Roundabout install, so she took it upon herself to go outside full of ambition at 8:00 am to attempt these car seat installs.  I intended to leave with the baby at 8:40 am to attend a Yoga class.

In no time, she had the bucket seat out of my car and the Radian installed.  She then started futzing about with the Roundabout in her car.  It started to rain.

I came out to inspect and load my gear into my car.  The Radian wasn’t so perfectly installed.  There were about 5 minutes left to fix this issue if I wanted to be able to get to my class.

We contemplated re-installing the bucket seat, only Wifey had already put it to the curb for garbage pick up and it was wet from sitting in the rain.  I would like to say that I was collaborative in my approach to this resolving predicament, but I was pretty darn irritated.  Who attempts a car seat install without an entire free day to trouble shoot?  I was kicking myself for not saying something earlier.

We managed to get a passable fit on Radian, but still needed to be worked on install, and I headed off.

The rest of the install saga went as follows:  Wifey spent an hour getting the Roundabout to be tight enough in her car.  It was brilliant side to side.  It took me 2 seconds to determine that front to back it was too loose and we’d need to tether it. I spent another significant period of time trying to figure out what to tether it to and how to do it properly, only to find out that we were missing one of the pieces required to tether, and now I’m trying to locate that piece.

We also needed to change the harness height on the Radian and install a tether.  I had to undo the LATCH to alter the straps, so we had to reinstall the seat before we could tether it.  The tethering part was easy, until I realized I had to take a plastic piece off of the seat, so I had to re-do the tether a second time.

We’ve spent about 5 hours today between the two of us researching and futzing with the installation of two car seats.  Both of these are on a LATCH system, and I cannot even fathom trying a seat belt install.  Or a middle seat install.  Or anything else related to babies and car seats.

Seriously, before becoming a parent, get your PhD in car seat installation.  I hope it’s a really long time before we have to turn these seats from rear to forward facing.

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