This post is part of the Attachment Parenting Month blog carnival, hosted by Attachment Parenting International.

Learn more by visiting API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International.

The car seat has never qualified as a “happy place” for my daughter. At two years old, she has no problem letting me know that she isn’t interested in riding in it. She often slides out before I can even fasten her in. And a [fun-for-her] game of chase ensues inside the car.

We’ve tried everything from letting her play inside the car first to giving her something special to hold as a distraction. We make sure she is not hungry or thirsty and that her diaper is clean. Whenever possible, we make sure she has had plenty of play and sleep before even short car rides.

None of these efforts have changed how she feels about the car seat – she does not like it!

One night last month, her typical frustration with the car seat transitioned into pure misery. I spent 30 minutes begging trying to convince her to get in the seat. We had to go. It was only a ten minute drive home, so I fastened her in as she cried and screamed “NO!!!”

The ten minute drive home felt like an hour. The cries from the backseat were heartbreaking. My mom was sitting back there with her, trying in vain to console her. The choking cries even had me asking my mom if she was throwing-up.

When we got home, I took her inside and snuggled her until we were both breathing easier. I sat there wondering, “What are we
going to do about this?”

Then, I spotted her panda bear. My husband’s earphones were also within reach. I wrapped them around “Panda” in the same way her seat belt holds her. I took the barrettes out of her hair and used them as the buckles.

“Hi there, AE,” I said in my best Panda voice. “I see you are sad. What happened?”

The beginnings of a smile started to appear, but she was quiet. In my regular voice I told Panda that she had to ride in the car seat when she didn’t want to.

“Oh, I used to feel that way sometimes, too,” Panda replied empathetically. “I didn’t like be confined by my seat belt. Can you see how it goes over my shoulders and legs?”

A light started to shine from her still bloodshot-from-crying eyes. I asked her if she wanted to touch his “seatbelt.”

“When my mommy or daddy would put me in my seat,” Panda continued, “I would cry and cry.”

Now she was really getting into it. “Bear. Sad. Car,” she told me, as if to explain to me what he was saying, and she herself was feeling.

“But you know what I realized?” Panda continued, “The car is how I get to all these fun places and home again! And my seatbelt keeps me safe in the car.”

Then panda asked her, “Where do you like the car to take you?”

She wasted no time in replying. “Whole Foods. Aunt Steph and Auga – walk. Playground. Gym. Music. Church.”

“You ride in the car to all those fun places?” Panda asked. “Well then, you’re going to need some fun things to do in the car
to make it more enjoyable.”

Her eyebrows raised in anticipation of what he might suggest.

“You know what I do?” Panda asked. “I sing songs. And, do you know what my favorite song to sing in the car is?”

She was ready with a guess before Panda even finished the question. “ABCs?”

“Why yes it is! Want to sing it with me now?” he asked.

And then we did. And, I have to admit, Panda and AE were quite the singing duo.

It’s been a month since Panda told us how he felt about the car. We still talk about that encounter, and sing our ABCs as she [almost always] gets in her seat without tears.

I’m so thankful for the gift of play! May it teach, heal and produce giggles in all our lives this week and always.

How have you used play with your kiddos?  Was it as fun for you as it was for them? I’d love to hear your stories!

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This article has 5 comments

  1. Stephanie Reply

    Great idea!! My son is not a fan of getting into his car seat, either! He is not as verbal as AE, but I’ll have to give this a try. I suspect he can sense that I dread getting in the car, which probably makes it even worse for him! Hopefully this will give us both some peace about loading up for car trips.

  2. Pingback: Attachment Parenting Month 2011 Blog Carnival

  3. wendylori Reply

    I loved reading this post and was laughing along while reading. We often find ourselves doing similar things with our 3 year old, since he seems to open up and accept empathy more readily from something he is not momentarily angry at (could be anything… even my fingers pretending to be a lion). Thanks for sharing!

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