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Mommy guilt part II

Motherhood teaches you a lot about yourself, about character flaws you didn't realize you had previously. For one, I've had to develop a thicker skin. I know, more than once, I had to consciously not take it personally that our son decided to say "Dada" before "Momma." Ironically, when he said "Dada," he wasn't even spending anytime with Daddy. Daddy was out to sea! As a logically thinking parent, it is wonderful that your son is saying Daddy. As a tired woman balancing a toddler, the Navy, and living away from family, why can't your son recognize all the hard work you put in and say "Momma"? Not only have I needed to put small things like that in perspective, but the larger things have forced me to thicken my skin and stand my ground as well.

We recently went to parent orientation at my son's preschool. The teacher explained that on the first day, the students will be given a card to write their name on that will sit on the front of their desk. My heart sank. My four-year old should already know how to write his name? She went on to explain that many students do not yet know how to write, which is perfectly normal, and that by the end of the year each of the preschoolers will be able to write their name. I saw other moms smile and nod, content that their children-- who may or may not know how to write-- will be able to write their name at the end of the year. Where was my mind still? "Why haven't I taught him to write his name yet?" I am in the midst of reading The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell. In Chapter 3 on page 39, she writes as she realizes the fact that she had yet to teach her daughter cursive in third grade, "I was almost hyperventilating over the panic attack that ensued-- if I could forget cursive, what other venal or mortal oversight was I capable of? Would my daughter ever recover? What doors were now swinging shut because of her mother's incompetence?"

And it happens with our 16-month olds as well. Now that they are toddlers, there are expectations on their development from seemingly everyone we meet. "You have beautiful boys! What words do they say?" "They are darling. I remember my son at that age loved rectangles." "How sweet! Twins? My sister's toddler twins love counting everything."

I've written before about "Mommy guilt." I don't feel like Mommy guilt really covers the depth of the feelings you get when you are faced with a parenting situation you aren't sure of. Should my child already know how to count to thirty? Should he know how to write his name? One of my 16-month olds says sit, shoes, and Momma. The other only says Momma, though I think I've heard him say, "Up, Momma," once. And possibly "ay" for "eight." Should my 16-month olds have a better vocabulary? Should the know to hold still for diaper changes? Should the be able to put a puzzle piece in its proper place?

Other times, there are restraints on you that you can't control, such as finances. I absolutely love our stroller. I have written several blogs mentioning how much I love our stroller and give glowing reviews of our stroller when stopped out in public. We only own that stroller because of the generosity of my family. My granny and my parents purchased a large portion of the stroller and we bought accessories for it along the way. But we were on our own for carseats. Every mom seems to own Britax carseats. They receive glowing reviews. However, I cannot afford a $229 infant carrier. For my oldest, we bought a Chicco travel system. Our travel system was about $300, at the time. This came with a stroller, a carseat base, and an infant carrier. The price online, now, is $349.00. When he outgrew his infant carrier, I bought the best convertible carseat that we could afford for him, a $160 Safety 1st Alpha Omega Convertible Carseat. I felt great about our carseat choices with him. I talked to my "mom friends" to see what they recommended. I talked to our pediatrician, bought the seats and moved on with my life. When I had twins, I spent much more time researching carseats. We were still confident in our choice of the Chicco infant carriers. We purchased a second one at an online baby sale on Target.com. It was about $130 for the carseat and carseat base. When it came time to buy convertible carseats, what was the best convertible carseat? A $344 Britax Boulevard? And what about the high-end Clek Foonf selling for $474 at our favorite baby boutique? I've never even heard of that thing, but was it better? We were always happy with our Alpha Omega for our oldest. He was actually still using his Alpha Omega Safety 1st carseat when we were carseat shopping for our twins, meaning we needed two new convertible carseats (not that you would neccesarily want to hand down a convertible carseat used by a toddler for almost two years). And buying a used carseat isn't something that we are comfortable with. Even our "reasonably priced" Safety 1st Alpha Omega carseats tallied $320 when buying two, on top of our monthly double diaper bill and expensive formula. All this input and I even began doubting whether or not I had bought the best for our oldest! It was exhausting. Finally I threw the extra input out the window, followed our budget and my gut, and bought the Safety 1st Alpha Omega Convertible Carseats at our wholesale store for $80 a piece with a coupon. Fabulous. $160 for two carseats. And a carseat that I was satisfied with for two years with our oldest son!

A couple months ago our oldest approached the 45-lb mark. We had a dilemma: he was over the 40-lb weight limit for his five-point harness. I consulted with several of our friends as to what they thought. We received input from a few friends that he needed to remain in a five-point harness. Several other of our friends with kids D's age or older felt we were at the point to put him in a belt-positioning booster seat, especially since he was almost four-years old. This is when we started hearing all this information about new laws in North Carolina regarding the five-point harness and belt-positioning boosters. Friends told us, "Children need to stay in a five-point harness until five-years old or 80 lbs..." My husband and I were floored at the input and seriously felt like horrible parents that we were considering to move him to a belt-positioning booster. Do we really need to buy another five-point harness carseat for our three and a half year old? Carseats with upper-weight limits between 80 to 100 lbs are expensive! So we consulted our pediatrician and researched the North Carolina state laws and what was recommended by AAA (our go-to for child carseat safety). North Carolina's BuckleupNC.org website clearly states its laws did not change. I quote, "The NC Child Passenger Safety Law has not changed." It goes on to say:
A properly used child restraint device (CRD) is required if the child is less than 8 years old AND weighs less than 80 pounds. Most parents and other care givers will be able to comply by using belt-positioning booster seats for children between 40 and 80 pounds. The child must be within the weight range for the child restraint/booster seat and it must meet Federal standards in effect at time of manufacture.
HealthyChildren.org discloses the AAP update recommendations regarding forward-facing carseats and belt-positioning boosters:
Children should transition from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness, until they reach the maximum weight or height for that seat. Then a booster will make sure the vehicle’s lap-and-shoulder belt fit properly. The shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not near the neck or face. The lap belt should fit low and snug on the hips and upper thighs, not across the belly. Most children will need a booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old
The article also quotes Dennis Durbin, MD, FAAP:
Parents often look forward to transitioning from one stage to the next, but these transitions should generally be delayed until they’re necessary, when the child fully outgrows the limits for his or her current stage... For larger children, a forward-facing seat with a harness is safer than a booster, and a belt-positioning booster seat provides better protection than a seat belt alone until the seat belt fits correctly.
The AAA Carseat Saftey How-To Guide states, "It is safest to keep your child in a forward-facing seat with a harness until he or she reaches the seat’s maximum height or weight (40 to 65 pounds) limits." Regarding belt-positioning boosters, it says, "Children can use a booster seat when they have outgrown the weight or height limit of their forward-facing harnesses, which will be between 40 and 65 pounds."

Finally, our pediatrician confirmed that our son was ready for a belt-positioning booster. With all of these facts supporting us to move our three and a half year old son who had outgrown the weight limits of his convertible carseat, we still felt like horrible parents because of the well-meaning comments of people telling us he needed to stay in a five-point harness. There was this lingering question in our minds, "Are we making the right decision?" We found no state laws requiring him to stay in a five-point harness until he was five-- not one. I couldn't even find anything mentioning a recommendation specifically mentioning five-years old. The carseat displays in every store tell us upper-weight limit or 40-lbs for a belt-positioning booster. Our pediatrician knew of no new law and told us we could move him at the upper-weight limit of his convertible carseat (which he exceeded). Mommy guilt ate away as I buckled him into his belt-positioning booster, which cost us much less than a new five-point harness carseat with a higher weight limit. On top of that, I again doubted whether we bought the right convertible carseats for our twins.

Why? Why can't I research and make a good purchase in our price range? Why can't I consult with our pediatrician and make a grounded decision? Why do the comments from people, even well-meaning comments, take root in our mommy minds and make us doubt our decisions? Of course our children's safety is a priority. We always double-check their restraints when we buckle them in (or when someone else buckles them in). It just is silly that Mommy guilt can gnaw away at me internally when logically I know I made a right decision. Why, as moms, do we allow guilt to take over when we know--we know deep down to the core of our being-- that we are making the right decision? And we know that we cannot do everything. Yes, I know that I am not required to teach my preschooler how to write before he actually attends his first day of preschool while managing a household and also parenting toddler twins while I balance my own interests and those of my husband. But it still bothers me that there may be other kids in his class who can write and D can't. And I still feel embarrassed around our friends who told us to keep him in a five-point harness, that we bought a belt-positioning booster instead. And I still feel the need to explain that, oftentimes, twins are delayed, consecutive children are delayed, boys are delayed, and they were five-weeks early. What?! My twins are 16-months old and I am already willing to give them a label of "delayed" to a total stranger just to justify why the only word they consistently use is "Momma"? And I still feel the need to explain why we ended up using formula instead of breastfeeding, even though we are long past that phase.

I don't think Mommy guilt is ever healthy. No, we shouldn't ever bury our heads in the sand and blaze our own trail. We need to support each other and hear each other's input. As mothers we need to fully understand that what works for us, may not work for someone else, or, conversely, what works for someone else may not work for you. There are some things that we cannot change. A child needs to remain rear-facing until the age of 2 or until they reach the upper-weight limit of their rear-facing carseat. To quote AAA Carseat Safety: A How to Guide:
The rear-facing position supports a child’s head, neck and spine and helps reduce stress to the neck and spinal cord in a crash. Children should ride in a vehicle’s back seat in rear-facing safety seats from birth until age 2, or until they reach their convertible seat’s upper weight limit, which should be around 35 pounds. Be sure both age and weight requirements are met before a child is moved to a forward-facing seat.
Other things, like our decision to follow the law and allow our oldest to move to a belt-positioning booster instead of buying another five-point harness with a higher weight limit, is our personal decision. It really is crazy how the devil can sneak in your head and gnaw away at your resolve. Moms are especially weak to the "what-ifs" that plague our consciousness. Good thing my next read is Every Thought Captive: Battling the Toxic Beliefs That Separate Us from the Life We Crave by Jerusha Clark...

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