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The Car Seat Showdown

Remember how easy it was to buckle our newborn bundles into their brand-new car seats? I look back on pictures of taking our little ones home from the hospital and can barely believe how tiny they were on our first adventure home. It’s a classic scene, Dad driving 10 MPH under the speed limit and mom in the back seat with the newbie she can’t take her eyes off of. Let’s call this the calm before the storm because every mommy quickly learns that those little angels quickly evolve and before you know it you are caught smack dab in a car seat showdown.

What is The Car Seat Showdown?

Now, The Car Seat Showdown can happen just about anywhere and they all look a little different…

  • Maybe you are getting ready to leave the park because its almost dinner, and let’s be honest, you don’t even know what is in the fridge.
  • Maybe after running late, for the third time, in the same day, you are headed out the door yet again for who knows what.
  • Maybe you’re leaving the grocery store and it’s been one of those days when naps were skipped, routines were disrupted, and now you’re dealing with the aftermath. We have ALL been there.

Regardless, you need to get the kids in the car and buckled safely into their seat belts. Easier said than done. Sometimes, my toddler hops right in, buckles herself up, and is ready to go no problem at all. But other times, it’s a completely different story and I’m that mom trying to buckle a squirmy toddler into her carseat while she is literally screaming her head off. You’ve seen that mom before (it was probably ME).  It’s like she senses my urgency, possibly my frustration, and refuses to buckle up. These are the moments I dread, I can tell a meltdown is coming and I brace myself for a LONG ride home. 

Mom vs. Toddler

In our case, the showdown happened on our way home from the gym. First of all, GO MOM, you carved out some “me time” for yourself and the gym. Feeling rejuvenated and endorphins flowing we walk hand in hand back to the car.

Once inside the car, we decided to have a race to see who could buckle up the fastest. Now this is a classic move you may have used or even witnessed from your mom or a fellow parent. This wasn’t our first rodeo either, but I have to admit I would usually let her win because I loved seeing how excited she got after winning.  It’s like she just won an event in the toddler Olympics and she was beaming with pride. But today, I decided to shake things up not knowing the chaos that would ensue.

We got in the car, shouted GO, and we were off. I usually put on my best acting skills and fumble around with the straps and buckle to help her out, but not today. In a few seconds I threw on my seatbelt quickly and shouted “Done!”. That’s when I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw a look of pure terror creep across my threenager’s face. If the police had been called right then and there and whisked me off to jail for committing such a heinous crime, she wouldn’t have stopped them. Her eyebrows furrowed, her face turned red, and she lost it. SHE. LOST. IT. Now she could’ve been having a day, maybe she was tired, maybe she was hungry, whatever it was she went from zero to one hundred and was livid. She was crying that she didn’t win and how I wasn’t very nice and I wasn’t being a good friend. In this moment I realized I wasn’t doing her any favors letting her win all the time, I was setting her up to fail. Even through this seemingly unimportant game we often play.

My Takeway

After she calmed down, and we were “friends” again we spent the rest of the car ride having a meaningful conversation about winning and losing and the importance trying our best. As a teacher, we often call these “teachable moments” and see what lessons could be learned from of the situations find ourselves in.  As her mom, of course I want her to be successful and determined to win, but I also want her to be resilient, not give up, and know that losing doesn’t always mean failure. Maybe starting these types of conversations at this age will allow me to use them as building blocks for tougher conversations down the road. I truly think toddlers grasp on to these types of discussions and it’s never too soon to start having them.  

These days we still do the Car Seat Showdown. Sometime she wins, sometimes she loses, it’s a toss-up. But when she does lose, and says ,“It’s okay mom, maybe I’ll win next time” and sometimes even congratulates me on my victory it makes my momma heart smile. To some this may seem insignificant, but it encourages me to try and make teachable moments out of those tough moments. Come on, we’re moms, we try to find the bright side and if that means I can go to bed that night not dwelling on the meltdown, but relieved we were able to find some good in the fact that we made the most out of it then I count it as a win.

The Silver Lining

Next time you find yourself in one of those situations where you just want to pull your hair out and run for the hills, I encourage you to find the silver lining in that moment because those hard days will pass and the tantrums are temporary, but the lessons you can teach them in the midst of it all stick with them. I know that my daughter has most likely already forgotten about this “showdown” and will likely forget most of her meltdowns, and tantrums, and all the other mommy-daughter battles we’ve had, but if she grows up learning to give her best and not give up when things get tough, then I did a little something right. 

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