The one parenting technique we SHOULD judge other mums on

April 8, 2017
As mums, we’re meant to support each other. We’re supposed to have this all-inclusive ‘Hey! We’re all doing our best!’ mentality, whether we’re working or staying at home, breast or formula feeding, co-sleeping or joyfully putting them in their own rooms, baby-led weaning or pureeing, baby wearing or stroller loving. While there are definitely tribes in motherhood, the ideology that we’re all expected to prescribe to is this: we’re all in it together. No judging. Do not be a judgy mum.And I’m trying. Really, I am. Do what you like. But there’s one parenting ‘technique’ that I can’t overlook. That I can’t forgive. And neither should you.

I’ve just picked up our 2-year-old from nursery. As we were leaving I said thanks and exchanged smiles with another mum who held the gate open for us. We were parked next to each other, and as I loaded Phoebe into her car seat, she drove off. So speedy, I thought, and watched her drive down the road. And then I saw why – the little girl was just put in the back; no car seat, no seat belt, just standing between the two front seats, as her mum accelerated away.

I considered catching her up, thinking there might be a traffic light where I could pull up alongside and tell her what I thought. A whole imaginary conversation taking place in my head, where I’d firmly, politely tell her that she was endangering her daughter’s life, and she’d nod along, grateful for the enlightenment. Yeah, right. It would likely turn nasty, and I’d have to see her every day at drop off.

And here’s the thing. I WOULDN’T be enlightening her on the dangers of not using a car seat. She knows. She even had one in the back – her daughter just wasn’t in it.

On UAE roads not a day goes by when I don’t see a child on the passenger’s lap, or bouncing around unrestrained in the back, or with their head out of the window/sunroof. It’s commonplace. It’s terrifying. Frankly, it’s incomprehensible.

More ‘Baby on dashboard’ than ‘Baby on board’.

A few years ago I met Lesley Cully, who has now left Dubai, but at the time was spearheading a non-profit campaign called Buckle Up In The Back, and I was interviewing her for a feature. At that time, she was frequently going into schools to talk to children and parents about road safety, and she told me of one exchange she’d had with a mum, afterwards.

Mum: Thank you SO much for that. I try so hard to make my son wear a seatbelt, but he just refuses.
Lesley: So do you make him wear one?
Mum: Well, sometimes I do, I sometimes I don’t.
Lesley: You know what I hear when you say that? That sometimes you care if he dies, and sometimes you don’t.

Fair comment, I’d say. It’s that basic. Life or death.

As parents we’re the boss of our children. Parenting doesn’t mean being liked all the time. It means doing the best by them, to make sure they’re well-adjusted, and well-fed, and well-mannered. But, above all, safe.

So your kid doesn’t like the car seat? Tough shit. You REALLY won’t like what happens if they’re not buckled up, there’s an accident and they go through the windscreen. Because that’s what we’re talking about here: not dying on roads that are among the most dangerous in the world.

I have a friend who confronts parents when she sees them driving with children without seatbelts or car seats. She simply winds down the window and asks “Is it the blood money you want?”. My husband, meanwhile, thinks nothing of reporting them to the police, after telling them that they’re terrible parents.

Under the much-praised Child Protection Law that came into effect in June 2016, Dubai residents can inform police of incidents where parents/relatives/care-givers/neighbours/medical staff put a child’s life at risk. It also demands that all people sitting in the front of a car must wear a seatbelt, with children under 10 banned from the front seat, and parents who allow it facing a Dhs400 fine and four black points on their licence. Of course, do not take photos when driving – or share them on social media.

To clarify, the people I’m talking about are not poor people. They’re driving nice cars, and could certainly afford a car seat. That’s not the issue. It’s cultural. It’s educational. It’s ignorance and arrogance.

And that’s my frustration, that the people I’m talking about are unlikely to read this post, or hear news reports on the radio, or read the headlines. And if they do, the ‘It won’t happen to me’ attitude kicks in. That they think their love for their children is enough to protect them. That, and I’ve heard parents say this, the safest place for a child in a car is in their mother’s arms.

Well, as Buckle Up In The Back reported, 63% of all child deaths in the UAE are a result of car related incidents…

And the vast majority of these parents are wearing seatbelts themselves. Riiiiight.

As well as the dangers facing unrestrained children should the vehicle they’re travelling in be in an accident, other drivers’ safety is compromised; it’s hard to concentrate on the road with a child jumping around in the back, or standing between the seats, or sitting in the front. It’s distracting. And that’s when accidents happen, affecting innocent people.

This isn’t a call to arms, for each of us to go on vigilante missions to educate others, handing out flyers at every traffic signal in Dubai, but it’s a plea. That if you ARE reading this and you don’t keep your children safe when you drive, that you reconsider. That you take control, and be the boss, and act out of love. And while your kids might kick, and scream, and refuse, that you see it through. Because that’s what being a parent means – getting it done, for the good of your kids.

But maybe you are in a position of power. Maybe you work at a nursery that could do more to educate and enforce this among parents. Maybe you could make policy changes at a hospital, that all new babies MUST leave the premises in a properly fitted car seat.

Maybe you can just share this and spread awareness.

Stay safe,

H x


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