Monday, September 01, 2008

You Know You’re a Parent…

...when you are easily confused.

With a second daughter about to come home, I made the decision to upgrade the car seat that daughter #1 sits in. She is petite, but too tall to fit into the 5 point belt system on the current seat and using only the lap/shoulder belt as a booster leaves her virtually floating behind the car’s seat belt. So I set out to find a seat that has a 5 point belt system for children over forty pounds, of which there are only two, both expensive and difficult to find. Fortunately, I tracked down the model I wanted at a local store and armed with gift cards from co-workers, a sale flier and a 20% off coupon, I was well pleased with myself for having saved so much on an expensive item. But once having purchase it, my mood quickly deflated as I then was faced with having to install the beastly thing.

I read the instructions; a booklet consisting of thirty-eight pages! Thirty-eight pages of instructions for a car seat? Their kidding, surly. I read it cover to cover, glancing furtively every now and then at the seat, sitting there mocking me with its many shiny new buckles, pockets and straps. Then I read it again. I checked to be sure that I was reading the English version of the instructions and not the Spanish. Yes, it did appear to be English, but still it didn't making sense to my befuddled brain. Each time I had reached the end of a step, the step proceeding had gone from my head. Here is an example of just one part of one step so that you can see what I was up against:

Route the child’s right latch connector through child’s left belt slot from the front to the back of the child seat shell. Route the child’s right latch connector across the back of the child seat shell. The latch strap must route over the harness straps on the rear of the child seat. Route the child’s right latch connector through the child’s right belt slot to the front of the child seat. Route the child’s right connector around to the outside of the child seat shell.”

That was just step 4g in Chapter 6. If that made sense to you, then you are a far better person than I and should be elected to solve all of the world’s problems immediately.

So I then tried to read and complete just one step at a time. I became entangled in the many buckles and belts. I struggled with space even to move since the seat alone took up half the back seat and I kept having to turn it back and forth from front to back in order to complete the steps, and oh, did I mention that I have a two door vehicle? So there I was, squeezed onto the floor of the backseat, kneeling amongst crushed Cheerios and broken crayons, booklet in one hand, hammer in the other (yep, this seat installation required a hammer, probably in case you reached such a state of frustration that you could whack something to release the tension), reading glasses perched on my nose because the print in the instruction booklet was so small that I needed reading glasses in addition to my contacts in order to see the print. My daughter, ever one to be helpful, stands outside giving unsolicited advice in between her repeated inquires as to whether I was finished with the installation so that she could try out her new seat.

I began at six in the morning so that I wouldn’t be steamed alive while attempting this, it being summer in the south after all, but it’s taking so long that the sun begins to rise past the treetops and so does the temperature. It is at this point in my frustration that I fall to my knees (oh yeah, I am already on my knees amongst the Cheerios) and lament, “Why oh why, should it take the I. Q. of Einstein in order to install a piece of child related safety equipment?! Surely one shouldn’t need an advanced degree in engineering in order to keep one’s child safe? ”

Because it isn’t just the car seat that I have been struggling with as I get ready to travel around the world and back to adopt my second child, there has been the child safety gate for the stairs that came with a box of screws, some unrecognizable plastic pieces and two sections of gate, but no instructions! So there it sits useless at the top of the stairs.

Then there is the stroller, which, I must admit have come a long way in the 7 years since I last used one. It also came with a book of instructions that required a sit down, but didn’t actually instruct. It’s a stroller, not to hard to figure out how to open and close it, but it also has a sun canopy and the instructions said to “Attach canopy to stroller”. Okay, easy enough, but it didn’t say which way up and where the canopy was to be installed, it just said, “Attach canopy to stroller”. I know, I know, you're thinking to yourself, “this woman is an idiot! How hard could it be?” And yes, it should be quite simple, it's a stroller, there is only one logic place to attach it but I tried it one way and should a child have actually been sitting in the seat, the canopy would have worked well as a gigantic nose guard, but not to shade her from the sun. So I flipped it over and tried it the other way, but now it just stuck straight up and worked only to block my view of where I was going. So currently, stroller is canopy free.

And then there is the lovely gift that was given to me by a co-worker, a shopping cart cover. I didn’t have one of these with daughter #1 and always wanted one. I mean, do you KNOW what is on a shopping cart? It isn’t like they wash those things you know, they are rolling vehicles for homicidal germ gangs! So I was quite excited to discover that it was very simple to use, basically you drape it over the cart seat and put the baby in. Fantastic! I love it! After playing with all the little toys that were attached to it to occupy the wee one while shopping, I consulted the box to see that it conveniently rolled up for travel and the belt that holds baby to the cart, doubles as a handy sling to carry the cover to and from the store. How cleaver, I thought to myself. Then I tried to roll it to make the carrying sling possible. One way. Then another. And a third. I looked at the box. I sheepishly looked for instructions. Instructions for heaven's sake for what is basically a blanket? Great, my intellect has now sunk lower than a worm's belly button. And what did the instructions say? “Roll up seat cover and use strap to carry.” Brilliant, how?! You aren't telling me HOW to roll it in order to use the strap to carry it! You will be relieved to know that I actually beat this one - I took a deep calming breath and really tried to engage my worked, I got it rolled and ready. Turns out, it must be rolled into thirds first, silly me. Of course I am now terrified to actually use it for fear I will never be able to get it rolled properly again and I will have failed as a modern mama. Imagine my embarrassment should I be caught in the parking lot of the local Stuff-mart stomping upon my lovely cart seat cover in a fit of frustration.

I usually consult instructions as a last resort, I rather like trying to figure things out and if I get stuck, then I will refer to the directions, but lately this has been more of a hindrance to completing a project than a help. So here is a message to all you technical writers out there...have mercy! Please pity us poor, befuddled parents! Lend a helping hand to those of us who are instructionally challenged! Just keep it simple will ya for the love o' pigs?

(*Note: I just discovered online that there is an Ease Of Use Rating System for car seats and I looked up the one I bought. It got only 2 stars out of a 5 star system over all and the instruction booklet got only 1 star! So see? it isn't my Parent Brain after all. I feel so much better. Wish I had discovered this rating system before I bought the seat!)

KKW ©2008


Jenna said...

Ugh - I hear you! It is a monumental feat of strength and patience putting together baby/childrens products. It took Buck two days to put together Liam's excersacuer - poor guy! It was an odessey the other day just to get the cover off of his high chair to wash it! The snaps! The buckles! the elasticy loop thingies! blerg.
Hey - I'm so excited you're reading "Twilight" too! I started over vacation, and now I'm on "Breaking Dawn". I was seriously prepared to hate this series...bought Twilight because I was curious to see what the hype is about, and ended up loving it!

Love said...

Hello! I'm Love Snyder. Steve H. said together, your family and mine make up our travel group and that we should get to know each other. He gave me your roobee e-mail which bounced. I searcehed for your name and found your blog. It sure sounds like the right person!
We are from Kentucky. We are adopting a girl, nearly 3, from Zitong CWI, Mianyang, Sichuan provence. My attempt at blogging is at

and my e-mail is |

Beverly said...

take it to the fire dept or the police station. I think they can install it.

Twice Blessed China Mom said...

Our local police department installs the carseats for us. I could have kissed the guys in blue!!! They worked hard to make it totally safe. I was grateful then, but after reading your post, I'm even more grateful!!!!