We're having a baby. By "we," I mean my daughter and her husband.
A new baby means, of course, a new child-safety seat for the car. I've been using an old Cabbage Patch doll to make sure I know how this new car seat works. (Remember Cabbage Patch dolls? This one was my daughter's, which my wife insisted we save, in the warehouse we call a basement, for our grandchildren.)
The car seat comes with a 68-page manual. The one we got our own kids years ago had, I think, a sticker that said, "Insert baby here," with an arrow: "This end up."
The seat we just bought is a top-of-the-line Britax (pronounced with a long "i") Convertible infant protection system. Very impressive. Car-seat technology has clearly come a long way since my kids were little kids. This model is called the Advocate 70 CS. Yes, "Advocate" — not only is this seat going to protect my grandson in the event of an accident, it actually sues whoever hits us.
In retrospect, I feel bad. By comparison to the 70 CS, my wife and I, who bought the best car seats available at the time for our kids, might as well have been strapping our offspring to the hood of our old Volvo with duct tape.
Not this time. After exhaustive research into design, crash test data and recalls, I called my daughter to make sure it was OK to buy this particular model. "Sugar," I began. (I know. Don't you hate it when parents have nicknames like that for their kids? The day she was born, it made sense. Thirty years later, now that she's a retired champion Sumo wrestler, not so much. Just kidding. She's gorgeous, proving that even beautiful women can have successful wrestling careers. In fact, she's a writer and sells books at the best, if not the biggest, bookstore in Manhattan.)
Anyway, I reassured her, "If my grandson is in this car seat, and another meteor like the one that killed the dinosaurs strikes the earth, he'll be the sole survivor." Level-voiced and absent any reaction to my feeble attempt at humor, her response was matter of fact: "That's the entire idea, Daddy." Hmm.
Protect "the kid" at all costs. So my wife and I splurged and bought the Advocate 70 CS which has, it turns out, more "crush zones" than the Subaru Outback he'll be riding in when he visits us. (Don't believe me? Go to http://www.Britaxusa.com, and watch the video for yourself.) It's so safe, my wife and I are thinking of getting two of them for ourselves.
By the way, you'll notice, if you watch that video, that the seat is basically a rip-off of those NASCAR driver's seats. You know, the car loses control, flips several times before hitting the wall and careening back across the track into the infield, and the driver (imagine my grandson wearing sponsor logos all over his bib) gets out without so much as a chipped tooth. Maybe I'm overdoing it, but that's what I want for my grandson: A NASCAR sponsor to help pay for the Advocate 70 CS.
We did, at least, draw the line when it came to accessories. We passed on the cup holder, for example. (For what, a sippy cup?) And we declined the "International Security Option." The option includes two ex-Navy SEALs, one to sit next to my grandson, the other to run along the outside of the car; and a fashionable camouflage "onesie." Very nice, but too expensive and a bit over-the-top. Even for me.
Are we overdoing it? Sure. Does it feel good? Absolutely. The thing is, while the Advocate 70 CS comes with a 68-page manual, our grandson doesn't. Neither does being a grandparent, for that matter. It seems we'll just have to wing it, relying upon the old standards: love and common sense. Fortunately, my grandson will be exceptionally bright and will be able to read at birth. Yes, at birth. "Hey, Doodad" — which, unbelievably, is what my daughter wants him to call me — "need help installing my car seat? Gimme that manual."
Les Cohen lives in Ellicott City. He blogs at http://www.WordFeeder.US and http://www.MyKidsGaveMe.org.