“You are getting strapped into this seat whether you like it or not!”
Mrs. Cutter and I have found ourselves saying those words quite a bit over the past month. The Cutlass has decided that she no longer likes riding in the minivan and whenever we try to put her in the car seat, she fights us with all of her (considerable) strength.
We’re not sure why she’s developed this aversion, but we think part of the problem is expectations. The Cutlass greatly enjoys playing outside, and constantly asks to go out. Any time she sees someone head towards the door, she’ll pull on her coat from the hook and look up hopefully. Or she’ll walk over to our sliding door, point and ask, “‘Side?”
When we put her coat and shoes on, she assumes that she’s going to either get to play outside or take a ride in her wagon. So there’s some understandable disappointment when instead of running free, she gets crammed her into the middle car seat. Maybe she’d like it better if she didn’t have the middle seat, but she’s lighter than her brother – and therefore easier to lift into the middle – and we’ve already had some problems with the Cutlet and Cujo sitting next to each other. (Note: I don’t envision this situation getting better any time soon.)
We’ve also tried to prepare her for what’s going to happen. “Would you like to go into the car?” “We’re going to take a ride in the car?” “Who wants to go in the car?” She seems to be on board with this plan right until the time we open the van door.
This weekend, we tried two different techniques for getting her into her seat.
On Saturday evening, Mrs. Cutter was away, and I needed to bring all three kids to the supermarket. Not wanting to fight my daughter by myself, I took them all to the playground across the street before our trip. I hoped that if she was first allowed to run free, she would be more accepting of getting into the car.
For one of the first times in my parenting career, I was actually right! After about an hour of playground time, the Cutlass allowed me to put her into the car seat without complaint. On Sunday, I once again took them to the playground before a car trip, and once again, she allowed me to strap her in peacefully.
Unfortunately, we don’t always have the luxury of taking her outside to play before we have to leave. We used to try to calm her down so that she would allow us to strap her in. Since that didn’t work, we’ve moved on to the “We’re not even going to try to be nice about this” method.
We hold her down in the seat with one hand (This takes more strength than you’d think. When this child arches her back in protest, she ARCHES) and strap her in with the other. I’m actually not sure how much longer this technique will last. While we can overpower her now, she is freakishly strong, and she might actually be stronger than us in a few month. Thankfully, she usually calms down soon after we’ve gotten her strapped in, especially if we give her a snack to help soothe her.
On the other hand, sometimes she doesn’t settle down – and these times usually correspond with the times when her brother isn’t too keen on getting in the van either. (He’s generally better with it, but he’s thrown his share of fits too.) On those days, I have one piece of advice for all my fellow drivers on the road: Stay out of my way, because there’s a very frazzled father behind the wheel, and he’s not going to take kindly to anyone who might slow him down.