Car Seat Safety Checks

Did you know the local fire station will check you car seat installation?

My wife and I first heard about fire stations offering free installation and inspection of car seats when we were going to parenting classes at the county health department while she was pregnant. Car seat inspection is one of many services fire departments offer besides fighting fires, checking smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and more. Our daughter was still in the NICU when my wife had the car seat installed in Kansas City, Missouri. I was already back at work in Manhattan so I missed out.

We saved a bunch of money leading up to our daughters birth, and had some home improvements planned before she arrived, but I was scrambling to get things done when she arrived 11 weeks early. When I borrowed my wife’s car to pick up some kitchen cabinets in the back of her Honda Fit I removed the car seat to drop the seats and make room.

I was fairly confident in my ability to reinstall the car seat, but let’s be honest; being father-knows-best, it’s not like I pulled out the instructions and made sure I had the seat correctly installed.

So during our trip to Kansas City for Thanksgiving and upon my wife realizing I had removed and reinstalled the carseat my wife was distraught. As new parents any little concern about the safety of our daughter can become an overwhelming worry. And any little criticism of dad by his partner can feel like a gut punch to the ego. Certainly, I am competent enough to install a car seat. Right?

However, putting ego aside, lets look at the facts:

I wasn’t there for the installation.
I never read the manual.

Now this post is not to provide you step by step instructions on how to properly install your baby’s car seat. I recommend you stop by your local fire station and find out. The fire fighter inspecting your car seat took several days of classes to get his certification. If anything, this is post on how to win at dadding and be a good partner.

So before we could get in the car and head home, Dad had to make a trip to the local Fire Station. And I am glad I did.

Driving to the fire station I wondered if I did indeed have the car seat properly installed. And if I did would I point it out to my wife and say, ‘Look everything was fine.’

Nope. That’s not the kind of father and husband I want to be.

The visit to the fire station was more than just a check-up. In about 15 minutes the fire fighter explained to me everything I needed to know about my car seat and keeping my daughter safe, including what I need to look for to ensure that not only is the seat installed correctly, but that my daughter is strapped in right. Turns out there are two ways to install my car seat, either with just the seat belt, or with hooks and one of them is more secure than the other. He also instructed me on how to handle situations that never occured to me to think about. My car seat carrier can also strap into a car without the base if for some reason we needed to ride with someone else or take an Uber. And of course he inspected the car seat to see if it was properly installed.

By the Grace of God it was.

And that had nothing to do with how great of a dad I am. It was just luck. And I am grateful that I put my ego aside to make sure.

Good vs. Bad

For most of my life I sorted everything into two categories. Good and Bad. There is a varying degree-really bad, very great, the best, the worst-but everything fit somewhere on that spectrum. There is of course, okay and neutral, but who fondly looks back on the neutral old days or fears an okay situation?

I should be afraid, or maybe feel this is the greatest time of my life. I do and I don’t.

A few years back when I was trying to figure out why I was such a catastrophe in my own life and the lives of those around me I turned to faith and spirituality in a desperate attempt to alleviate the suffering for both myself and the suffering I caused others. I read this story and suddenly life made sense.

Once upon a time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.

And such is life. This is the Tao.

Life is full of good things and bad things, when life is looked at in isolated events. Taken as a whole it becomes more difficult to see what is good and bad. One way I have applied this in my life is that the things I have typically categorized as ‘bad’ are challenges. I should not miss the point that challenges are meant to be overcome. When I overcome a challenge I see growth and that is typically categorized as ‘good.’

The conclusion becomes obvious that one situation cannot occur without the other. Gradually I learned to face my fears and accept life’s challenges. And the greatest time of my life is every day I get to live on this earth.

Back to Winning at Dadding

Newborns and Stress

No matter what the status is of your relationship with your partner you have the responsibility of being the best you in that relationship. Especially during the newborn phase of your child’s life.

During the first few weeks of pregnancy your partner is vulnerable to PPD (Postpartum Depression) a condition that affects more than three million new mothers every year. It is a mood disorder that where a new mom can feel hopeless, anxious, and overwhelmed. You might see unusual crying and anger. She might have a persistent doubt that she can take care of the baby and in very serious cases may have thoughts of harming herself or the baby.

The most important thing you can do as a new dad is to listen to her and be supportive. Supportive also means listening. If she tells you she is feeling this way, do not get angry at her. And most importantly, don’t try and diagnose her. You learned about this on the internet, you are not a doctor now. Only a doctor can diagnose her and only a doctor can fix her. Your role is to change diapers, feed your baby, and keep them safe. And be supportive of your partner.

Dad’s can get PPD, too. So be mindful of your own thoughts and feelings. If you feel like your adjustment to fatherhood is not going well reach out for help. Talk to your friends, especially friends that have kids. Talk to your parents, your siblings. If you are going through this adjustment alone then reach out to someone. And if you think you are showing signs of PPD then reach out for professional help.

There is also just the run of the mill stress that comes with being a new parent and that’s the experience I can share with you. No matter how much you prepare for a new baby, you will never be fully prepared. Preparation will make life easier, but this is my first kid and sometimes I feel like I only have one shot to get it right. There are many things I have learned to do over the years. At first they are difficult but with practice and repetition I usually get the hang of it and life’s a breeze. Deciding to be a parent is deciding to tackle one new challenge after another.

Sometimes knowing the magnitude of responsibility I undertook can be overwhelming, but I started reaching out early to friends and family. I listen to them share their experiences and add their insights to my repertoire. A lot of things in life are trial and error, and the fear of failure can be great at times. But I have to remind myself that I am not incompetent, I can figure things out and I can ask for help from other people who have been through this before.

The Upside of the NICU

My daughter was born eleven weeks early. My wife was diagnosed with preeclampsia and it escalated quickly. We did everything we could to prepare for our babies birth – classes at the county health center, saved every extra penny, read books, listened to podcasts. Then all our expectations or preperation for her arrival felt useless. We had to take everything one day at a time and adjust to life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Everyone is healthy now and are happy to be home but I do miss the support of the nurses and doctors to explain what was normal and what was not. I think the positive side of my daughter being born premature was that the transition from life without a baby to life with a baby came with tons of support.

NICU

By the grace of God our little angel got to come home, and as tiny as she may be, she’s the biggest thing in my life.

And that’s the point. I don’t want a t-shirt that says World’s Greatest Dad. Rather I want to share with the world what it is like to be a grateful dad.

Had the experience of bringing a newborn home been something like coming home three or four days after she was born and walking around the house wondering, “Now what do I do?” I think psychologically the situation would be more difficult. As scary as it was to be in the situation we were in I could at least talk to someone about what was going on, what was ‘normal’ and what to expect. If the nurses and doctors weren’t panicking then I probably had no reason to panic.

And now that we’re home, changing diapers, feeding her every two hours, listening to her cry… I feel calm. I have faith that everything is going to be okay. And I am grateful that I get to change diapers. I get to give her a bottle. I get to listen to her cry. And I get to lose sleep. Because none of these things were guaranteed. And they never will be.

So remember to be grateful for every moment, as difficult as that may be when feeling tired and overwhelmed.

Every day is a gift.