I turn 37 weeks tomorrow, which has catapulted me into full-on nesting mode, attempting to tie up every loose end in the history of the universe before Baby Brother's June 29 delivery date. Last week we focused on car maintenance and child seating; the Cobalt needed about $360 worth of repairs (mad props, savings) and over the weekend Luke cleaned out both vehicles and experimented with car seat arrangements for the first time since February. At that time, we made the decision to transition Kara into a high-back booster (sans five-point harness) to make room for the baby's infant bucket.
Come Saturday, though, we just couldn't do it.
Despite my initial confidence over this set-up, I became increasingly more anxious about it since reading about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's updated guidelines for child restraints back in March. While Kara does meet the height and weight requirements for a booster, she is still only three years old and isn't even close to outgrowing her current Britax Marathon. But keeping her in the Marathon would require us to buy a new car, and despite having an excellent reason to justify such a significant purchase (SAFETY), we simply cannot afford to do that. In my Google research I learned about a slimmer seat with a five-point harness by Sunshine Radian that looked like it would fit and also received favorable reviews on several third-party sites, but the seat isn't sold at any stores in our vicinity, so we'd have to order it online, and what if it didn't fit, and man, these things aren't cheap. We looked into other options for Kara, but all seat specs were similar to the Marathon's. We looked into other infant seats, but the Baby Trend Flex-Loc handed down to us from my friend Jenn has the smallest dimensions we've seen. Nathan's Britax Roundabout wasn't worth messing with because it's already plenty slim and fits his measurements perfectly.
We may as well give the booster a try, Luke and I would say in the end, each time the topic came up, and it came up many times. We'll stay off the highway while we test it out. Our longest drive in town is less than ten minutes. It will be okay.
But again: we just couldn't do it.
Luke spent all of Saturday morning once again trying to get the Marathon in safely and securely, but again it was all in vain. Despite your best efforts, you just can't force a square peg into a round hole. When that didn't work, we pulled out the booster.
It wasn't in the car five seconds before a horrible knot began forming in the pit of my stomach and I was sobbing to Luke that we had to order the Radian.
The Marathon brushed against the door of the Outlander, but just barely. The Radian would save us a precious inch and a half of seat space; we shouldn't need any more than that to make it fit, I said. This is our daughter's safety we're talking about. Please, please order the seat and save me from having a heart attack already.
Luke just nodded. He didn't need any convincing. He was nervous for Kara, too.
The Radian should arrive before the end of the week.
Buying the seat doesn't change the fact that we'll need to buy a new car once the baby outgrows the infant bucket, but we'll be in much better shape financially by then. I'm getting a raise at the end of the month that should absorb most if not all of the anticipated budget increases incurred by Life With Three Children. Tax refunds arrive in late winter, and our credit card debt will be gone by spring, at which point I should be due for another raise. We can plan to make room in our budget for a car payment by then.
In this scenario, I can tell myself It will be okay and actually believe it.
Of all the worries I've had over my three and a half years as a parent, I don't think any of those experiences came close to the level of intensity of this one. Not even nursing. When choosing formula, I felt guilty over denying them the optimal choice in baby food, but at least we could afford to pay for it. Luke and I hate that we can't take on a car payment to get the best ride for our family; that guilt coupled with visions of our child's body being torn to shreds in an accident? If we had gone with the booster and something would have happened.... Well, there are no words.
Parenting is so much harder than you think it will be when you're first starting out. Luckily, there are also no words to describe its joy.