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She was waiting for her younger daughter to turn one. Now she can legally switch her baby from the infant car seat (stage one car seat) to the front facing car seat (stage two car seat). She was so looking forward to this day. From now on, when she is driving, if she tilt the rear view mirror ever so slightly, she can see the beautiful faces of both her darling daughters. No more wondering if the child is awake or asleep or worrying if the child had spit up. Also once when she was negotiating a tricky curve to enter the highway, the infant car seat, for some reason, had tipped. The baby was still secure, but the shock from the movement had set the baby in to a frantic wail. That gave her quite a scare. Ever since she had been very conservative in driving and was looking forward to this day where she can move her baby to a new car seat.

Finally the day arrived and she went to the store to get a new car seat. She wanted to get something similar, if possible the same, front facing car seat her elder daughter uses. She knew how children are and she wanted to avoid preference conflicts that might show up in the near future! But much to her disappointment, that particular model, she had picked up one year earlier, was not to be found anywhere, not even in the manufacturer’s website. After analyzing and over analyzing, in the best interests of her daughters, she decide to buy a booster seat (stage three car seat) for her elder daughter and put her younger daughter in her elder daughter’s car seat. So she came home with a new car seat for her elder daughter!

She knew how children are and how they hate surprises. So she prep-ed her elder daughter for a day, showing her the new car seat, speaking to the child in high pitched voice full of enthusiasm and heavily marketed the new car seat. She put the new car seat in her pooja room, asking the good Lord to bless the car seat, and to protect the precious commodity it is going to carry from now on. All the rituals done with, she installed the car seat and was looking forward to start using it from the next day onwards.

The next day she woke her children, telling them that today’s ride to the day care was going to be different because they are going to sit in new car seats. They all left home in a hurry, but happy – a mother and two happy children, all smiling and waving good bye to the father who was also leaving for work.

As soon as the van’s door opened her elder daughter ran to the car and stopped short. The child was puzzled that her car seat was missing. The child was even more puzzled to find the car seat on the other side of the van where her baby sister sits. So the child ran to the other side and tried sitting in HER car seat. But her mother gently stopped her from doing it and put the baby in HER car seat. The child started telling the mother, “Amma, my car seat. This my sit down”. The mother was not yielding, she was smiling and pointing to a different car seat. But THIS was HER car seat. The new one had a different belt system, it was nothing like her usual one. The child had just learnt to wear her seat belt all by herself. The child wanted to get her point across, she started crying, and screaming, “This my sit down”. The child tried telling her baby sister to get down, but babies…bha…they never understand anything. So the child tried moving the baby so that she can sit in her car seat.

Now the mother was starting to get impatient. She had so dilligently explained the change because she wanted to avoid what was going on right now. And it was getting late. So she grabbed the sobbing child and thrust her in the new car seat telling through clenched teeth, in a stern voice that this is to be the child’s new car seat from now on. The child started crying louder. She, as a mother, could almost understand the unspoken words the cry meant. “When you told me about this new car seat did you ever see me acknowledge it? Didn’t you get the message when I turned my head and walked away pretending that I didn’t hear you? You adults expect us, little children to be flexible. But you never practice what you preach. Can your hypocrisy get any bigger? Is it because we are little and helpless that you try to enforce such great control over our lives? For the past one year I have shared so many things with my baby sister. Now my stuff is being snatched from me and given to her. How much more do you guys expect me to put up with?”

A change now would mean pulling out the infant seat from the garage, installing it and reconfiguring the old car seat to accommodate the bigger child. But it was getting late. So she decided to go on as planned. Yes, the child was crying, but she thought playing her child’s favorite nursery rhyme CD would calm the child. The idea was a flop, the child’s wails drowned the nursery rhyme. The child was squirming wildly and attempting to get out of the harness.

Within a matter of 7 minutes, the smiling happy family that left home reached the day care in an angry, distraught, tense and stubborn condition. She tried to kiss the child good bye, but the child just pushed her off and ran in to the day care, hugged a three- year-old who happened to open the door. The child complained to the three-year-old, “M, M, that is my sit down, that is my car seat” and ran and hugged her day care provider and just sobbed uncontrollably. She left the day care a very hurt mother.

Disclaimer: All the characters and incidents depicted in the story are real.

Cast and credits
Self: Hurt mother
Toddler: Upset child

Epilogue:As soon as I dropped her in the day care, I drove to the store, returned the booster and picked up a stage two car seat for infant. Did all the adjustments, readjustments and put everything back in place. The booster used the regular seat belts and though toddler was not able to unbuckle herself, she kept tugging and pulling and had the belt wrapped all around her. It made me uncomfortable. For now, I think a five point harness will be a better choice a squirming toddler.

Toddler refused to smile at me when I went to pick her up in the evening. She came to the car, inspected everything, made sure that what ever was done was duly undone and then ran to me and gave me a hug.

Lesson learnt: You guys tell me.