• Christine Stevens

Carseat, Shmarseat: Excerpt from Memoirs of a Toddler

Updated: Oct 27

A trip to Target in the early afternoon was a pleasant surprise. Usually, at this time of day, both my younger sister (aka the Blob) and I experience ‘enforced slumber,’ which means I have very little experience of what happens from the hours of noon to 2. So when Mother announced a pressing need for a new wine opener, I was alight with anticipation.

Until we got into the car.

It is my opinion, based on extensive experience, that a car seat, in addition to being designed by a sadist who despises children, is also an assault on my personal freedom. My body, my decision, I say. And so I commenced expressing my beliefs in a firm but reasonable way.

Though I am loath to admit it, Mother is considerably stronger and is able to apply brute force in order to get me to conform to her wishes for ‘safety.’ Once I finally agreed to this most undignified method of conveyance, I settled in for the journey to Target.

Until that is, I noticed the hundreds of sharp fragments of what no doubt were pieces of broken glass piercing the back of my upper legs, bum, and back.

I screamed in agony. Mother’s heartless reply of “Oh Paisley it’s just peanut butter pretzel crumbs, you'll be okay,” only added to my suspicion that she was not, in fact, my mother but some sort of cruel Enforcer of the CarSeat Dictatorship that rules young human lives.

The only thing that gave me comfort was seeing the Blob in her enfant-terrible rear-facing car seat, staring blankly at the gray fabric of the backseat while I was afforded a view of the passing scenery as we made our way to the store.

Upon arrival at our destination and my subsequent release from the device, my mood lifted as the wonders of the postmeridian world revealed themselves.

I will skip over any details pertaining to the acquisition of necessary household items executed by Mother as I sat trapped, once again in a rolling vehicle designed to restrict personal freedom. Again, I took comfort in the knowledge that the Blob was still firmly strapped into her car seat and had been dumped, like so much baggage, into the main body of the cart, affording her a view of the world, appropriately I felt, through bars. As A Big Girl Now, I was seated in the front of the cart. From this vantage point, I could see Mother's upper torso as well as where we had just been.

To my surprise, Mother’s pace quickened significantly as we passed the toy aisle despite my very polite request that we at least look at it. Mother is getting old, so I attributed her failure to respond to a nascent hearing problem. When it occurred to me that I was in immediate, desperate need of whatever item might first catch my eye in the aforementioned toy section, I demanded Mother return to that aisle in a louder but still courteous voice. She soon saw the wisdom of my request when she noted I stopped screaming the moment she reversed course and paused in front of the rainbow unicorn plush toy display.

However, her refusal to acquire an item, any item, seemed unfair and needlessly harsh given all the confinement I had suffered at her hands. And so I wept the bitter tears of one whose hopes and dreams have been utterly crushed by a cruel and indifferent matriarchy. This had no effect whatsoever on Mother aside from her snatching a bag of Cheezits and handing them to me while mumbling “What was I thinking?” which I interpreted as a commendable moment of self-reflection on her part.

The checkout experience was unremarkable aside from the moment Mother discovered I had, unbeknownst to her, placed a few items on the conveyor belt, to which she asked, “Well what exactly were you going to do with a bag of Hot Takis, a 2-pack of Extra Strength 5 Hour Energy Plus, three Bic lighters, and a gift card to Olive Garden, Paisley? Mother is fond of rhetorical questions, I remained silent.

After our purchases were secured in the trunk, she once again attempted to strap me into the dreaded device. This time, in addition to my usual attempts at reasoning with her, I employed the ‘baby 2x4’ technique, one that had served me well when I was younger. This method involves stiffening all the limbs with such rigidity that, like a plank of wood, one can remain completely unbendable and therefore, unrestrainable.

My cries for help attracted a small crowd which caused Mother’s cheeks to flush.

However, since the whole shopping experience had already taken a toll on my nerves, after 23 minutes I became exhausted by the struggle and was forced to submit to my incarceration. Mother, speaking at a volume I almost could not hear, said something along the lines of ‘never again’ which I interpreted to mean a possible end to all this car seat nonsense. I applaud her for finally coming to her senses.

Someone must have given me a blow to the head because when I regained consciousness, I was once again in our driveway. I have no memory of what transpired between exiting the Target parking lot and home. And where was the Blob? More importantly, where was Mother? The momentary peace I felt at the absence of The Miscreant was soon replaced by the gut-twisting fear that I had been abandoned forever in this prison disguised as a Prius. And so I began to communicate my concerns at a high volume.

Once again, a small crowd gathered. Just as several cell phones were being pulled out, Mother raced out of the house, sputtering “I didn’t want to wake her up…the windows are open…I was listening for her…”

So relieved was I to discover that she had not, in fact, left me to rot in a plastic bucket inside a battery-powered smugmobile that , once we were safely inside our domicile, I bestowed a beatific smile upon her and said, “That was fun! Can we go to Target again tomorrow?”

This thought so delighted her, she nearly spilled her red juice.

By Christine Stevens

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