The enormous Duggar clan has had to deal with a fair bit of drama and sift through tons of criticism — some of it extremely well-deserved, some of it not — and this little controversy is just the latest in a long line fire. This time, it has to do with a Duggar we don’t hear from much: 22-year-old Jinger.
Jinger was just trying to be a helpful auntie, it would seem, by taking her 4-year-old nephew Michael Duggar out for errands. But it might have been a pretty major misstep to let him nap in the backseat of the car without having him properly restrained.
The little dude isn’t even close to being properly secured: There’s no booster or five-point harness seat in sight, and he doesn’t even have the minimal protection the shoulder belt could offer him. Even hardcore Duggar-fenders on the Duggar Family Official fan page had to admit that Jinger had made a huge mistake.
Turns out, it might even be just a hair over the line that separates whoops from illegal, too. In Arkansas — where the Duggars live — the law requires that children under 6 years of age and 60 pounds must be in a federally approved car seat or restraint. In little Michael’s case, that would almost certainly be a combination seat with a five-point harness to reduce the chances of injury in a collision.
And we get it: Sometimes the pile on that follows a snap of a car seat with a strap that’s a centimeter out of place can seem a little over the top, and the eyes begin to roll. But this isn’t really that kind of nitpicking.
Even the most laissez-faire parent has to admit that they wouldn’t stick their 4-year-old in the car without buckling them in properly. The days of sprawling out on the back bench seat to get some shut-eye while Mom or Dad (or Aunt Jinger) rockets down the highway are gone. Most of us remember riding in a car sans car seat even at that age, but kids don’t do that now because we understand that it’s a really easy way for them to die. Because the fix is so simple — car seats, boosters and restraints — we just shrug and move on.
But the thing to remember is that Jinger isn’t Michael’s parent. Although she has definitely had way more experience with babies than your average auntie, her flub serves as a reminder to parents to make sure that your expectations for your child’s safety are clear when you leave them with someone else — even a family member and even someone who is doing you a favor.
There are some things you just have to accept your kiddos’ aunts, uncles and sitters won’t acquiesce to, like hand-mashing organic avocados and steel-cut oats to make baby superfood. Kids’ extended family members typically exist to show your kids how lame you are, which is why they end up tossing bedtimes, sugar intake rules and screen time limits. All of those things will usually fall into the battles-not-worth-fighting category.
But safety — particularly car seat safety — is one battle that you’ll have to pick, fight and win because your child’s life depends on it. That’s not histrionics; that’s the facts: Motor vehicle collisions remain the leading cause of death in children, and buckling up a child Michael’s age in properly fitting restraint cuts his risk of death or injury by 45 percent. That’s a number way too high to just let slide.
Hopefully, Jinger (and any other not-in-the-know Duggar chauffeurs) takes an important lesson away from all of this. Because when even your most die-hard defenders are wagging their finger at you, it might be time to take notice.
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