Plug covers, life jackets, helmets, baby monitors — as parents, our main focus, the thing that keeps us up at night, is how to keep these tiny humans alive and unharmed. We go to great lengths, and spend good money, to keep them as far out of harm’s way as possible. And car seat safety is no different.

Let’s be honest, before I had my son, I had no clue about car seats. In fact, I had to ask my brother-in-law to install the infant seat base because I couldn’t wrap my head, or my 9-month baby belly, around how it was supposed to install. But after 6 short months, my son outgrew that infant seat and then came the convertible car seat, the big boy car seat {gulp}. It was at this stage that I really started doing my research. I knew enough to know that I didn’t know enough. Long gone are the days of riding in the backseat of a station wagon sans seat belt {double gulp}.

Infant Car Seat

During my self-education, I learned that riding in a moving vehicle is the single most dangerous situation that most children are put in any time in their early lives. It’s our job, and the car seat’s job, to make that high-risk situation as safe as possible. Unfortunately, there are many times that we unknowingly endanger our children by not putting them in the right seat, not installing the seat correctly, not buckling them correctly, or moving them to the next stage of car seat too soon.

It was at this point I realized that, according to my son’s car seat manual, he was going to outgrow the rear-facing position of his convertible car seat way before I was going to be comfortable turning him forward-facing. He was my baby, he wasn’t ready for that — I wasn’t ready for that. And contrary to popular belief, most children will reach the car seat’s height limit long before the weight limit — and my boy is tall, 80th percentile tall. It was then that I decided to keep my son rear-facing as long as possible. I upgraded his car seat to a brand that offered extended rear-facing, and that’s when the judgments opinions started.

Extended Rear-Facing Car Seat

People thought I was being ridiculous. How could such a tall child stay facing backwards? Wasn’t he cramped sitting like that? Didn’t he want to face forward like other kids? My answers: He stayed rear-facing because his mom said so. No, he wasn’t cramped, he was as cozy as a clam. And no, he didn’t want to face forward, he didn’t know any different — and even if he did, my answer would still be no.

I endured the judgement jokes from people and I rested easy knowing that my son was as safe as he could possibly be if, heaven forbid, we were to get into an accident. Because when a child is rear-facing, it’s like they’re in a cocoon — with support in the back, in front, and on the sides to keep them safe. In fact, everyone in the car would be much safer if we could all ride rear-facing — let’s add that to the auto-manufacturers list of innovations!

Forward-Facing Excitement

Eventually, when he was just a few weeks shy of his 4th birthday, at 42.5 pounds & almost 42-inches tall, I finally made the choice to turn him around. He was right at the limit of the rear-facing threshold, and we were both finally ready. Turning him around forward-facing was hysterical at first. Our eye-spy game definitely went up a notch, and he was (I thought) hilariously startled at the cars driving “toward” us on the road since he’d never faced toward the windshield before.

Car Seat at 6 Years Old

To this day, at 6.5 years old, 48.5 inches tall and 56 pounds, my boy still rides in that same car seat, forward-facing and in a 5-point harness. He frequently asks when he’ll be able to stop wearing his 5-point harness and switch to a regular seatbelt. Each time, I explain to him that he’s not ready, and I’m not ready. Only second to a rear-facing seat, a 5-point harness is the next safest way for a child to ride. The 5-point harness limits the amount of wiggle room compared to a traditional seat belt, which means that children’s very wiggly bodies are kept in the correct position to keep them safe. Because if a child moves around, flops over, or somehow adjusts a seat belt into the wrong position, and an accident happens in a split second (like they do), the child can suffer significant internal damage, broken bones, or worse. This is why children need to be old enough, and responsible enough, to sit up straight and keep the seat belt properly positioned before transitioning out of a 5-point harness.

Car Accident

Let’s face it, no one plans for a car accident — otherwise they’d be called car events, or car parties or something fun & catchy. These things happen quickly and they happen hard. So, from where I’m sitting, I’m in no hurry. I refuse to give in to peer pressure or some outdated idea of what is a safe, or acceptable, car seat for my child. We’ll be here, in a 5-point harness until that he outgrows that seat or it expires — and then we will likely switch to a high back booster. And don’t even get me started on the front seat, that’s not happening until he’s 13, unless the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finds that’s too young.

September is Child Passenger Safety Month, which means it’s the perfect time to check and see if your child is in the proper car seat for their age/stage? It’s also a great time to visit a car seat inspection station to make sure your child’s seat is properly installed.

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Katee Schalau
Katee moved to Florida at three years old and was raised in Ponte Vedra Beach. She graduated from Nease High School and went on to the University of North Florida, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations. After graduating from UNF, she moved to the Midwest but longed to return to the sunshine state. In 2019, Katee returned to Florida with her son and settled in St. Augustine. She works from home fulltime in marketing for an electronics manufacturer based out of California. When she’s not at home working or writing, Katee and her son are usually out and about, exploring and enjoying fresh air and sunshine. She is excited to be a part of the St. Augustine Moms team, combining three of her favorite things: being a mom, writing and St. Augustine.