One of the outcomes of today’s overzealous parents is the Niche Parent who focuses on one particular parenting skill. These are the parents who are MORE than happy (and if you’ve met one of them, you know what I mean) to discuss various breastfeeding tips or how to cook the perfect placenta soufflé or how to get your baby to sleep through the night. I’m not sure exactly where the urge comes from, and if the people who fixate on these things are just natural overachievers or extremely bored (or a combination thereof), but I’ve noticed that a lot of moms of late have been leaping into action as advocates with parenting “expertise.”
Now, I’m not discrediting the people who are trained and/or certified in doing whatever it is they do. I’ve heard stories about lactation consultants and sleep therapists who have helped parents tremendously, and I’m not suggesting that advocates aren’t encouraging and necessary. We all need help from time to time, and it’s nice to know there’s someone out there who has a skill set specific to our needs in almost facet of life and health.
However, there’s a difference between being a trained specialist who helps people that actually want the help, and being a person who nags, lectures, or brags about knowing every freakin’ thing there is to know about cloth diapering. One of the areas of “expertise” that seems to be a growing field is the Car Seat Specialist. Everywhere I turn these days, there’s a mom fluent in car seat safety who is “instructing” her friends (and/or strangers) on the constantly-changing guidelines and regulations that actually drive many parents crazy. While some moms are mourning the loss of yet another car seat due to a recall, or buying yet another car seat to accommodate their 8-year-olds, or simply going about their business by practicing daily car seat safety, other moms are gleefully researching and espousing on every nugget they can find on up-to-the-minute car seat know-how.
As far as I can tell, there are two types of car seat fanatics: the parent who lectures on car seat safety, and the parent who gets off on car seat safety. They’re pretty different breeds, but both have a common interest in ensuring the protection of children in transport. And while I respect the safety stance, I find both types of “expert” to be overly emphatic and obsessive. I’ll be running a post on The Lecturer over on STFU, Parents, but first, let’s take a look at the mom who gets her kicks by talking about car seats as if they’re her new favorite toy.
1. Casual Updates
The first way you can tell a person is a fanatic is if she randomly updates her status to include exciting tidbits that translate to, “I am in the same space as a car seat right now. :)”
2. Preachy Updates
I understand Kaye’s concern here, but it also kind of sounds like she was on a forum board for other car seat fanatics and indulging in her obsession by shooting down strangers on the internet. I’m not sure that’s any more productive than writing a status update about it after the fact — which is to say, not very productive at all. I know that if she’s “helped save just one life, it’s all worth it,” but again, we’re talking about a stranger online, not a stranger in a parking lot.
Kaye wishes she could “get people to understand” something that they’re perfectly capable of figuring out themselves. Being an advocate is wonderful, but being a busybody or a know-it-all is annoying. I would joke about Kaye being the Car Seat Police, but what’s she patrolling isn’t even illegal.
4. Overachiever Updates
OK, OK, we get it; Kaye is the World Champ of Car Seat Trivia. She’s got the knowledge and the passion, and she’s got the 14-page FAA document memorized to prove it! You think Kaye’s car seat trivia only extends to automobiles? Wrong! Just ask her about how to install a car seat in a horse-drawn carriage. That’ll get her talking for HOURS.
5. “Helpful” Updates
I’d rather have someone inspect my home for bed bugs than have Kaye do a “car seat check” for funsies. At this point she sounds THISCLOSE to passing out custom bumper stickers advertising her advanced understanding of car seat minutiae.
6. Woe Is Mom
After all the time spent staring at, fondling, and cuddling various car seats, it’s finally come to this. Kaye’s going to have to start choosing between being present for her kid’s big milestones or spending time with a Graco. It’s a tough decision, but I have confidence that she will do the right thing and spend less time in the garage with a glass of wine and lite FM. Besides, her kid will still be using a car seat for at least seven more years. That should give her some peace of mind. Maybe by then, she’ll have outgrown them, too.