We’re driving home. It’s 8 o’clock. Bedtime for the boys. They’ve reached that night time threshold where children go from groggy to over-excited.
David is in the second row of the mini-van flailing his arms, and singing a song he made up about the Goldfish Cracker’s he’s sharing with Wade. I use the term “singing” loosely. David thinks shouting something as loud as he possibly can is singing.
I don’t think David inherited his dad’s vocal chords.
Oh, he’ll be on American Idol someday. One of the audition shows. He’ll be the kid that you’ll laugh at, and shake your head over, and ask yourself, “Why?! Why didn’t his parents stop him?”
I’ll tell you why.
Revenge for evenings like this listening to his shrill voice fill the van, and rattle the windows.
Wade is sitting next to David squealing and eating the crackers. The crackers that we purchased at a gas station on the way home hoping that Wade would put them in his mouth and chew them instead of squealing.
Turns out a one year old can squeal and eat at the same time. For 25 minutes straight.
Wade is also tossing Goldfish Crackers in the air.
David thought it was a good idea to let Wade hold the bag. Wade promptly dumps the entire contents into his lap. This leads to David reaching over to pluck crackers off Wades thighs. Which leads to Wade squealing even louder, because he thinks David is trying to tickle him. Which leads to David singing even louder to be heard above the squeals. And now there’s all sorts of flailing by both parties going on, and Wade is doing a regular juggling act with the Goldfish Crackers.
That’s when I look over at Dave, who I’m pretty sure considered for at least a brief moment driving the van off the road into the ditch, and say, “I just realized who was really behind the seat belt and child restraint laws.”
I came to the conclusion that night that while seat belts and car seats do most certainly save lives, they also save the sanity of millions of parents in the United States every year.
It’s not our faithful law enforcement who, concerned for our safety, lobbied for those laws, but rather a group of very smart moms and dads who were tired of saying, “Sit down, be quiet and stop hanging your head out the window. You’re not a dog!”
I’m old enough to remember what life was like before we were all required to wear a seat belt. Children were thrown in the back seat, and left to bounce around like balls in a bingo machine.
When I was a small child you were free to roam about the car, laying on the floor, in the back window, sprawled across the seat. You could even climb between seats while the vehicle was moving, much to your parent’s annoyance.
It was in fact a widely held belief that if you were in an accident your chances of survival were much greater if you were sitting on the floor of the backseat. If the car rolled? Just grab the clothes hook, and hold on for dear life.
Of course back then cars came standard with eight-track players, were the size of cruise liners, and were built with more steel than an armored combat vehicle. Which is what really kept you alive.
I can not imagine our two boys bouncing around the back of the mini-van unrestrained. Every car ride would be spent shouting, “Get back in your seat! No, you can not hold your brother out the window by his legs so he can pretend he’s flying!” If we still had them both, because there’s a good chance we would have lost at least one of them out the back door by now.
Instead I’m legally required to strap them down. And when they complain, I simply tell them they have no choice, or Mommie will go to jail.
O.K. Maybe I exaggerate a bit. But a healthy dose of fear never hurts either.
Buckle Up. It’s the Law.
And it keeps your kids in their seats.