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I hate the car seat police

Chaunie Brusie is writer, speaker, and labor and delivery nurse. Her first book, Tiny Blue Lines, a guide to young motherhood, was released in May 2014. She writes about life as a young mom of three.

I know safety is important, but the car seat police suck

A few years ago, when I posted a picture of my kids passed out in their car seats after vacation, I got the inevitable comment about the positioning of their car seat buckles.

When I scrolled through them, I couldn't help but roll my eyes. For all those people knew, we were parked in the car and not even moving, but that didn't stop them from scrutinizing every angle of the picture in a car-seat-police version of "Where's the Danger?"

A few months ago, the tragic story of one mother who lost her son in a car accident went viral. The mother, Holly Wagner, had posted a picture of her 1-year-old son in his car seat, facing forward with twisted straps, only weeks before the accident and lamented the fact that no one corrected her errors on social media. "No one said anything," Holly told Redbook. "I wish someone had corrected me and told me he wasn't restrained properly." Since Holly's post, many parents see it as their duty to correct other people's car seat photos to prevent any further unnecessary injury.

While, of course, my heart goes out to Holly and her loss and I fully support the campaign to raise awareness about car seat safety, I have to say that I also think that we all know a few moms who seem to take their roles as the car seat police just a tad too far.

Honestly, I gave up even posting pictures of my kids in anything resembling a car seat because I know the car seat police are out there, just lurking, watching and waiting to pounce on my picture and point out every incorrectly-positioned buckle and analyze my lack of safety latches. Heck, I can't even see a picture of a kid in a car seat without my eyes automatically zooming in to the position of their chest strap buckles. Are they high enough? What horrible parents they must be!

I know that technically a comment could provide some much-needed education, but it could also very well be totally misplaced. (Please see: parked vehicle.) And unless we're also cool with policing every aspect of other people's parenting, things can also get a bit dicey. Grapes pose a choking hazard in your kid's lunch. Are the chemicals in your shampoo killing your kids? That plane you're about to board for your family vacation could crash.

My point is, educating is one thing, but I'm not sure social media shaming is the proper forum to get the job done. But then again, obviously the social media shaming I experienced got the job done, because here I am, still thinking about it enough to write about car seat safety. Maybe my real beef with the car seat police is just a slight annoyance because sometimes — and I stress that sometimes — the car seat police think of their thinly-veiled mommy shaming as permissible because it's under the umbrella of "safety first."

I'm not sure what the right answer is. Of course I want more parents educated on how to keep their kids safe and of course I want more children to remain injury-free. Maybe there could be a less offensive way to educate a parent we see making an error? A private message as opposed to blasting their parenting in the comments section? An admission of how someone once corrected us? Maybe requiring that all parents take a car seat safety class once a year?

Or maybe the right answer is simply getting rid of our hang-ups that any constructive criticism is a direct attack on our parenting, whether that be how we feed our kids, parent our kids or buckle them into their car seats.

More on car seat safety

A mom’s guide to car seat safety
Car seat safety
Britax car seats pose possible safety risk (VIDEO)

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