To anyone that has any contact with children, as well as any sort of vehicular transport of them, they know, there is indeed a dark side to this whole “begetting” of children situation. That dark side being, of course, car seats.

Car seats! How I loathe and love you all at the same time. You protect my children from harm, and for that I am forever and ever grateful. But why do you have to be so puzzling, beefy, and impossible to move? Even the ones that advertise themselves as “easy to install” and “tighten with a click” are simply liars. Liars. There is a reason there are several places you can go and have your work as a parent checked when it comes to car seat install; any type of academic prowess has no meaning or bearing on your ability to install the seats. I have seen highly intelligent grown men and women (who shall remain nameless) reduced to tantrums and lament trying to install a tiny car seat. Was that a click? Is that the click we are supposed to hear? Listen! Did it click? Is this moving side-to-side more than a quarter of an inch? How much is a quarter of an inch? Is this thing level? Wait. Was that the click?

You guys know what I’m talking about.  

And that is why once my husband installs the bulky seats, I vow to never move them. They become permanent fixtures in my vehicle, much like the straw wrapper trash that is perpetually strewn about. Wanna carpool? Nope. Because that would mean I would have to move my car seats, and that would take approximately one decade to remove and reinstall, and even then, I am not 100 percent confident they would be installed right.

Last week, however, I was forced to do this very thing. I had purchased a large mirror for our house, and I was so excited to get the mirror home. My husband (wisely) advised me to just pay the delivery fee to get the mirror moved, but brilliant me balked at the idea and proudly said, “No! We can do it, Jon.” Which is just really code for, “You can do it, Jon.” With a sigh, he acquiesced and asked me to clean out the car, including the car seats, to make room for the mirror, so he could quickly run to the store and pick it up since he was short on time. I happily agreed.

Car seats! How I loathe and love you all at the same time.

At first, I felt victorious. I cleaned out the whole car first, and then started in on removing the car seats. I unhooked all the straps, pressed all the right buttons, and out they came. But what awaited me when I looked under the seats once they were removed … dear reader, I was not prepared. You see, often times, when there is crying or screaming in the backseat, I put the fire out by merely throwing a snack back there. In fact, currently I keep a Costco-sized behemoth jar of animal crackers in the passenger seat and pass a handful back if/when all hell breaks loose in the backseat. I always thought it was a genius move, until the moment I removed the car seats. In that moment, I questioned every parenting decision I’ve ever made, because what I found was truly heinous: A mountain of undeniable moldy, moldy snack remnants. Crumbs of every shape and color. Debris of all kinds. A science project of disgusting.

I wanted to take a picture to show my husband, but then I quickly realized that was a bad move. Why would I ever want concrete evidence this ever happened on my watch? So, instead, I quickly got to work (unfortunately, without a much-needed hazmat suit) and cleaned, bleached, and destroyed all the evidence. I took all the covers off the seats and washed them on the “sanitize” cycle on our washer and dryer and pretended it all never happened.

But, for some reason, I just cannot forget. I cannot forget the filth that was residing just out of sight, but ever-so-close to my children on a daily basis. If only I would have moved the car seats every once in awhile, I would have seen the build up and removed it before it had a chance to decay and mold. If only I wasn’t so overwhelmed, intimidated, and fearful of the monstrosities that are car seats in this 21st century, I would have peered back there and solved the problem before it began. But, alas, such was not the case. For months and months, I drove around with a clean exterior, but, unbeknownst to me, a rotting, disgusting interior.

The more I thought about it, the more this whole debacle became such a metaphor for so many things for me as it relates to life in general. I can so easily become overwhelmed by a problem or issue and just throw quick, easy fixes at it. But if I do the hard work now, wrestle the issue or situation out of the way, and clean up the debris and decay it hides in its shadow — it won’t have time to fester. And thus, I won’t have such a vile, gag-inducing, noxious mess to clean up down the line.

I’ve started checking my car seats once a week. It hasn’t been easy. The convoluted straps and buckles of the labyrinth of car seat engineering and I have become one. I’ve even washed the car seat covers twice since. And you know what? No one else has noticed. No one can see a change. But, I can. I know there is no longer decomposing debris in my car or in my life anymore, and that peace of mind is so worth all the unnoticed heavy (car seat) lifting.  

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