Sticker Shock

Continuing yesterday’s thoughts on the suburban ideal, today I have been almost obsessively pondering those stick figure family windshield decals.

Specifically: I want them. Yes, I want to fill up the back windshield of the minivan with cartoonish versions of my family.

Five years ago, this would have seemed completely inane to me. But now, I am happy. I am proud of my family and frankly it would make me smile — since we can’t be together all the time — to see a representation, however corny, of our entire clan each time I get in and out of the minivan.

For those of you who would say you don’t care to learn about my family or that those decals somehow offend your sensibilities, remember that when I’m driving behind you I am subjected to your anti-foreign car messages, overplayed puns like “Visualize Whirled Peas,” and the fact that you find Calvin peeing on just about anything hilarious. I don’t generally care about your messages either. The pleasure of the bumper sticker resides with the one driving the car.

And sometimes, things are trendy because they are good. In the case of the decals, they promote family pride, togetherness, the consistency of the family unit. Whether the decals ring true or false depends on your own family dynamic.

But the decals bring up the issue of the fine line between pride and privacy. On a purely practical level, they are probably tremendously unsafe. Your car becomes a billboard advertising your family make-up — including your kids’ hobbies if you pay an extra dollar or so per person — that basically leads the way to your home address. Who knows what kind of creepshow is lurking behind you on the freeway, or trolling through your neighborhood as your car sits in the driveway?

This will probably be the reason I don’t trick out the minivan with decals, and leads me to think about the information I share about our family online. The public forum of the Internet opens us up to an infinitely greater range of weirdos than the ones we might happen to cross paths with driving back and forth to guitar lessons. But somehow we feel safer veiled behind the computer screen than we do out in the real world. The family decals are like a live — albeit incredibly watered-down — version of the basic information we post on our blogs and on Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, discussion boards and social networking sites.

Our guard is down these days. Our virtual privacy fences are disintigrating. This has allowed a broadened sense of community and sharing, and a platform to nurture friendships, even as it may open us up to the ill intentions of strangers. Those of us who choose to participate online and in the real world face an everyday juggling act between joining the conversation and protecting our privacy. It is a balance that will take a generation to refine.


More Oxygen, Please

James loves the SnugginGo.

No lack of oxygen for Jimmy!

After our first few trips in the car, I became very concerned about the position James’s giant head was taking when he sat in his car seat. Basically, once strapped in, hishead slumped forward and his chin became pressed to his chest, which to me seemed dangerous because of the difficulty it could cause in his breathing. Although my theories are not always scientifically accurate (i.e., I am often deemed a crackpot), this one was actually backed up by a few minutes of Googling. 

Apparently, the chin-to-chest position can compromise a baby’s airway, resulting in significantly lowered levels of oxygen — obviously a problematic scenario for a growing child.

Despite the fact that poor head positioning is unsafe for babies, it is all too common in infant car seats. However, nothing in the Graco manual warns parents of the danger, and the most popular solution I found online involved a network of rolled up receiving blankets shoved behind the baby’s shoulders and knees and around his head. In addition to this get-up being a total pain in the ass to arrange every time I loaded him into the seat, Jimmy found it wildly uncomfortable. 

So, the search for an effective insert to keep Jimmy from suffocating in the car began to consume me. Finally, I found the Snuggin Go. I was a little wary of the $50 price tag, but it got great reviews from parents and was designed by a neonatal nurse (who also runs the small business that markets it), so I went for it. Honestly — and I swear they are not paying me to say this — it is worth every penny. 

The difference in James’s body and head position with the Snuggin Go insert is amazing. He is clearly more comfortable in his car seat now, his head is ever so slightly tipped back so his airway is wide open, and I worry a lot less that he will perish in the back seat while I drive around town. 

Although it had a happy ending, this whole experience me angry at the car seat companies for building such a ubiquitous product that is so lacking. The level of blind trust we have in child safety giants like Graco is alarming when you consider that their product designs ignore this seemingly basic element of infant anatomy. 

As far as I can tell, the Snuggin Go is only sold through the company’s Web site, but hopefully it will make it into stores soon so more babies can benefit.

Embracing Suburbia

Ready to Ride

James is ready to ride.

Ever since my son James was born a month ago, I have felt this desperate need to buy a minivan.

When I was pregnant, when James only existed in theory, I felt like I had chosen a great daycare, that our house was clean enough, and that my little Toyota would carry us reliably around town for another hundred thousand miles.

Now that James’s little nine-pound body is in my arms nearly twenty hours a day, nothing seems safe enough. I am second-guessing the competence of the daycare to snuggle and stimulate him enough; to eradicate dust and dander I have washed blankets and upholstery that has gone months (okay, years) without soap; and I have unwaveringly convinced myself that the only vehicle safe enough for James to travel in is a minivan.

So, it’s a toss up between a VW Routan and a Toyota Sienna, and possibly the Chrysler Town & Country (although I am not a fan of its new styling, they have some great deals going on these days). We have plans to do some test drives on Saturday.