by Jeanne Sager
Every mom has that moment when they realize something they thought was just part of parenting makes them different. For me, it's the car. I have a problem letting my daughter get into a moving vehicle with just about anyone, save for my husband and me. She's 9 years old, and I can count on one hand the number of people allowed to drive her to and fro.
Until recently, I thought this was pretty normal. Who lets their kid get in a car with just anyone?
A lot more parents than I realized.
Go to the town park, and I see little ones my daughter's age and younger pile out of the backs of cars, their teenage sitters climbing from the driver's seat. Sign your child up for a sport, and suddenly people you have never met are asking if you're interested in carpooling.
And -- perhaps scariest of all -- log onto Facebook and read status after status from parents putting out calls for babysitters, "drivers preferred."
More and more, I get the sense that parents are less concerned about who is chauffeuring their kids than they are about getting the dreaded task off their plate.
Even thinking about it gives me agita.
My teenage sitter has been with me since she was 13 and is -- by now -- more like an extra daughter than the hired help. I trust her with a key to my house and my daughter's heart.
Still, there's no way she's getting behind the wheel of a car with my daughter in the back seat. Not even now that she's 18.
If I'm more cautious than most, I have cause to be.
Mine was a rough pregnancy with not one but two hospitalizations due to hyperemesis gravidarum (aka extreme morning sickness). But the scariest day of those long nine months wasn't the first time my husband had to rush me to the emergency room to be hooked up to IV fluids.
It was the day, still in my first trimester, when my husband, my belly, and I were in a car accident.
I can still remember unclipping my seat belt, pushing past the airbag, opening my car door, and screaming at the top of my lungs at the driver who'd failed to yield the right of way at a stop sign, "Nice stop at the stop sign ... and I'm pregnant!" before collapsing in sobs.
We'd been on the way to my OB/GYN when a truck driver pulled out in front of us, and when I called my doctor's office, they said they'd move my appointment to later in the afternoon. They didn't seem too concerned about the baby inside of me, but between calls to the insurance company, my work, my husband's work, and the various other folks who have to be notified after a car accident, I chewed the cuticles of my thumbs and forefingers clean off from worry.
In the end, the fetus (it was too early to known gender) was fine, and I was sent on my way, but I've never quite shaken that fear that something could happen to my daughter in a car.
Maybe it would be easier if the statistics didn't feed into my fear.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children of every age from 2 to 14 years old." Got that? We're not talking 16-year-olds who just got their licenses. We're taking kids my daughter's age.
And it's not just fatalities. An average of 693 kids are injured EVERY DAY in car crashes in America -- to varying degrees. Those numbers don't even account for all the other dangers -- from frontovers to backovers to trunk entrapment to power window issues -- that hurt kids in cars every day.
I'm not naive enough to think I can protect her from all of the above. The car crash during my pregnancy is evidence enough that you can't control the other drivers on the road. But I know, at least, that when my husband or I are at the wheel, her seat belt is securely fastened, her booster seat properly installed, that we're following the traffic laws, and that we have enough experience in the driver's seat to act defensively if something unplanned arises.
If I can't say all of the above, for sure, about you, then you are not going to drive with my child. Not even if you are the beloved babysitter.
How about you? Who is allowed to drive with your child in the car?
Image via © iStock.com/Krystian Nawrocki