I drove the kids home from the playground tonight, shooed everyone out of the car to go get ready for bed, and Tommy sat waiting for a little help getting unbuckled. I got him out, and stood there looking at his car seat for a few moments. I realized that it won't be long before he has grown out of it, and for the first time in a decade in a half, I will not have any carseats to buckle. At one point, we had 5 carseats at once... I am still pretty impressed with myself that I survived that time in my life and kept my sanity (well most of it anyways.)
But thinking about carseats made me think about the roles they have played in my life, and the way they map much of my history. It was a little more than 15 years ago that I bought my first vehicle independently. It was a big old Dodge pick up truck... not the extra cab type, just the single bench seat. Just enough room for me and Kaleigh's carseat. At the time, that is all I had room for in my life, emotionally. I loved the safety of that big solid truck. I loved the fact that it was just big enough for me and the carseat. Just me and Kaleigh, alone against the world. One of my best memories from those days is driving down to southern Virginia to visit my brother. Just kaleigh and I, with a bucket between me and the carseat, to hold snacks and toys. 15 hours in that truck, and we had a ball.
My next big car seat memory came about 5 years later. I still had the big old truck, but Kaleigh and I had found room in the truck, and room in our lives. Fitz and I had been married about 6 months by then, and I was due in the Spring. We had a little cottage by the Concord River, and just about everything we could need. One afternoon, I had a complete panic attack, realizing that we didn't have a carseat. No matter that the baby wasn't due for another 3 months... I needed a carseat! I went out that afternoon and bought one, and stood supervising, making sure Fitz installed it properly. And there it sat, for more than 3 months, as Margaret was a stubborn baby and refused to come out until well past her due date. But the carseat was there waiting for her when she did make her arrival.
Another year and another baby went by (yes, EJ was born almost exactly a year after Margaret) and Fitz and I began to talk about #4. It's funny to think back to those conversations, because it all came back to the carseat for me. Yes, we worried about money and space in the house, and having time for 4 young children. But the most pressing question on my mind was "Where will we fit another carseat?" That is when we acquried our first big van, and added a third carseat for baby Charlie a year later. And a fourth for baby Emma a year after that! The van filled up quickly!
Life with 5 young kids was hectic to say the least, so I was surprised when I started to feel those baby pangs again. At first I chalked it up to hormones, and tried to ignore it. But I couldn't help thinking someone was missing in our house. At the time, Fitz was working like crazy to support our ever-growing family, and I couldn't even imagine bringing these thoughts up with him. I thought it might put him right over the edge. Around this time, I realized Emma was growing out of her baby carrier carseat, and needed to be moved into the convertible. I carried the baby seat out to the shed, and asked Fitz to store it in there for me. He quickly replied to put it in the attic so it wouldn't get ruined. As I was trying to sort out the meaning of that, he yelled over his shoulder "Don't put it too far back!" And with that, I knew the sixth Fitzkid would be on the way. Not much more than 9 months later, we added that 5th carseat to the van.
With the addition of our seventh, I figured out a way around the carseat dilemma... get them when they are too big for carseats! Pipo's arrival brought many new thoughts about carseats, like "why do we need those?" and "what are seatbelts for?"I don't have that 'someone's missing' feeling anymore, and our van is feeling pretty full with the 9 of us, but the thought of no carseats someday made me a little sad tonight. The passing of an era I guess. Ah well, when I feel melancholy, I guess I can always remember back to the days of buckling and unbuckling 5 at once, and just be thankful.