Here is a moment that a) is terrifying, b) most parents experience and c) none of us really talk about: The first time your toddler works out how to get out of their seat belt.
For me, it happened in peak hour traffic on the M1.
Claire is nearly two, and she has what you might describe as ‘an independent spirit’.
I am not complaining about that. I’m keen to encourage it, in fact, despite how trying it might be when you need to hustle out the door but someone Will. Not. Eat. Their. Damn. Breakfast.
That spirit is very very trying at 100 kilometres an hour surrounded by cars, trucks and buses on one of Australia’s busiest roads.
But, out she wanted, and out she got. Her arms wriggled out of the straps, she was bent over sorting the toys on the seat next to her like it was no big deal.
Alys' spirited daughter Claire. Image: Instagram @alysj
My son cried out, “Mummy, Claire has her arms out of her seatbelt”. Knowing there is NO WHERE to pull over on the M1, one glance at the back seat had my heart in my mouth.
“SIT STILL BE QUIET DO NOT MOVE”, I roared to the back seat.
I must have made an impression, because instead of laughing in my face, which is her normal response to my firm requests, she sat flat back against her car seat and burst into tears.
It was an everyday incident, but, it caught me off guard and made me see my own complacency. I get the kids in the car, get myself in the car and get on my way as quickly as I can.
I’ve stopped taking the time to make sure they’re strapped in properly and I haven’t taken the time to reinforce in an age appropriate way that staying in their child car seats is one of those things that mummy cannot compromise with. I know I’m not the only mum who’s going to be rejoicing when the latest song by The Wiggles, in partnership with Transport for NSW, launches on the 28th of October. With its catchy tune and vital message for child restraint safety, it could have saved me a lot of trouble (and I know it will in the future).
That day on the M1, I was on auto pilot.
I’m not alone in this.
Research conducted for Transport for NSW shows that parents see ‘near enough’ as ‘good enough’ when it comes to strapping in their kids. We all intend to do the right thing, and we all know how important it is to get it right, but the reality of daily life has left us pushing through the to do list by routine.
It's important to take the time to ensure they're strapped in properly. Image: iStock.
And that’s dangerous. Between 2010 and 2014 there were four deaths and 50 injuries of child passengers because child restraints were not worn correctly.
Being on auto pilot is potentially fatal. Luckily this time, she sat still until I could pull over and get her strapped back in.
There are two things I need to do now.
Firstly, I have to change my approach. I need to stop my speedy strap in habits, take the time to make sure the kids are strapped in correctly, that the straps are firm, there are no twists and that she can’t wriggle out.
Secondly, I have to start teaching my kids why it’s so important to wear a seatbelt. I’m not just strapping you in to stop you from getting to your toys, I’m strapping you in to keep you safe.
Like every two-year-old that has ever lived in Australia since the mid-90s, Claire is OBSESSED with The Wiggles. For real, she can’t get Cornflakes onto a spoon and into her mouth without losing her food, but she can mash her hands together for 'Hot Potato, Hot Potato'.
The Wiggles and Transport for NSW have teamed up to create a new song to help kids understand what’s happening when they’re being strapped in. This is pure genius for busy parents of independent toddlers. Because, when you need to get a kid that wriggles like a jellyfish into the car, there’s nothing quite like The Wiggles to help you get the message across.
There’s no need to wait for the perfect car-ride song to keep everyone entertained and safe, either. “Buckle Up and Be Safe” will be available for the enjoyment of your family on the 28th of October, 2016
Next time you’re buckling the kids up, you’ll have these handy lyrics to guide you and your little ones through the process:
Is your seatbelt fastened?
Are the straps tight and straight? No twists!
Are you buckled up?
Now we’re ready to go.
How do you keep your kids safe in the car?
Are you buckled up? To keep little passengers safe, make sure you have the right car seat, it’s fitted correctly and you know how to check it properly. Find out more at childcarseats.com.au. They’re counting on you.