Driving Miss Baby
As a new parent there are a lot of important child-rearing decisions. Breastfeeding or formula? Cry it out or co-sleep? Name spelled correctly or phonetically? A big decision for us – should we put the Baby on Board sign in our car.
Yes, I skipped the whole debate about having a car-free baby. Maybe if we lived in New York. Or inner Mongolia.
In the industrialized city where I live, the hospital staff wouldn’t let us leave with our baby until she was securely fastened in her car seat. Not our arms.
And like every parent, I remember that first drive home from the hospital. Barely hitting the gas, afraid that every oncoming car was a short-range missile. It was a 20-minute drive that took closer to an hour. So you need a sign. A 1-800-I-Don’t-Normally-Drive-Like-This-But-These-Are-Special-Circumstances.
You drive differently with a baby. Babies are distracting and more so in closed environments. And my daughter always chooses to sit in the back seat where I can’t quite see her. Thankfully we have a special mirror aimed at my rearview mirror so I can monitor her. That rearview mirror is checked and rechecked. There’s never anything interesting in my blindspot, but in that rearview there’s a baby.
She’s usually in a good mood in the car. She’ll smile if she catches you smiling. She enjoys the gentle rocking of the road. Sometimes she’ll sleep. She loves it when I parallel park. Partly because – unlike her mother –I can and partly because she can clearly see my face reflected in the mirror. Smiling at her has not helped the accuracy of my paralleling.
Which makes me think that I need that sign. That I need to broadcast to the world that my driving ability has somehow been impaired by a little tike who divides my attention like I’m a teenager texting.
Of course, our car already says baby on board with the mesh sunblock in the rear passenger seat. Or the pack and play in the trunk. Or the toys. Or the frazzled parents. Or the diapers in the glovebox. The signs are easy to see without an actual one.