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Booster seat laws will destroy my daughter’s dignity

If my daughter has to wait until she’s 4 feet 9 inches tall to get out of her booster seat, she should resign herself to the most mortifying freshman year of high school ever.

I still remember the day that I realized my long-awaited growth spurt was never going to come. Mortifyingly, it wasn’t until my senior year of high school, when I was shopping for a dress for prom. The dress itself was no problem, I was handy with a sewing machine, so I could take the necessary 10 inches off the hem if I needed to. It was the shoes.

After searching everywhere for shoes, I found myself in the children’s department of a J.C. Penney’s, face-to-face with a pair of strapped sandals designed for the under 10 set. They had an adorable flower on them and a dazzling array of rainbow sparkles. It was then that I realized I was finished growing.

I stand at a lofty 4 feet, 10 inches. OK, a lofty 4 feet, 9-3/4 inches, if I’m being honest. My daughter, I am coming to realize, is unlikely to outpace me. Her pediatrician tells me it is highly unlikely she’ll hit the 5 foot mark herself. Fine. Being short is nothing to be ashamed of. We short women date whom we please and kick ass at limbo competitions, so I’m not concerned. Or I wasn’t, until I had to buy a new booster seat.

The old one had become progressively skeevier, as children’s things do, crusted with snacks and juice spills and the smell of car funk. Soon, I thought, I won’t have to do this anymore.


Except that as I was exploring my options, I came face-to-face with my state’s car safety laws, which read:

“After age 4 and 40+ pounds, children can ride in a booster seat with the adult lap and shoulder belt until the adult safety belt will fit them properly (usually when the child is 4 foot 9 inches tall, 10 to 12 years old).”

I’ll admit that I laughed. At age 10 I was still somewhere in 3-foot-tall land, and I suspect my child will be, too. Then a sobering thought struck me: If we have to wait until the adult safety belt properly fits her, we will be waiting forever. I know this because I am a grown-ass woman and my seat belt doesn’t even fit me right. This is one of those things that is unlikely to ever, ever happen for her.

Suddenly, I had visions of my daughter at 17, heading off to college in a car of her own, suitcase in one hand and hot pink booster seat in the other. Poor thing. She’s in for a lot of humiliation.

In truth, I’m obviously not going to make her sit in a booster seat forever. Realistically, it’s preposterous to imagine that she would be required to. I’m just not sure when we’ll be able to safely flout the law of the land. Age 10? Age 12? When she goes to her first boy-girl party? After we purchase an honest-to-god bra for her?

I’m by no means a paranoid helicopter parent, but I am a morbid one with Google at my disposal. I’ve explored the option of disabling my own airbags because the risk of my own decapitation is actually — horrifyingly — a possibility. It’s essentially like being a fifth grader in the driver’s seat.

But don’t worry. I’m not going to project all of my own weird phobias on my kid. All I need to do now is figure out the point at which I will be least likely to get in trouble for flouting the law to salvage her dignity.

More on car safety

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Child safety locks: When should you disable?
Child Passenger Safety Week: Safety tips for parents

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