This weekend the husband and I decided to let our son sit in the front seat of the car. We held off this decision for some time because, to be honest, we were not ready for our little guy to sit in that seat. The one next to the driver–the one that means my tween is inches away from jumping behind the steering wheel.
This led me to think of all the safety rules we are pressured to follow. It is a daily occurrence that my Facebook is full of carseat rules, safety warnings and recalls, and I have not even had a baby yet. (How do new parents even pick out a carseat these days?!)
I understand that there are real dangers, and there are also convenient ways to avoid those tragedies on behalf of our children. But at some point I had to look at the law, look at my kid, and say “okay, hop in the front seat.” And I’d have to risk a little judgment and a little scary feeling in the pit of my stomach to do so.
I don’t enjoy that when I let my kid goes outside to play, (and I do so with a modicum of supervision) or when we finally let him ride his bike to the store with just a friend, that I might be looked at as a bad parent because of it. That someone will see him and wonder, “Where are his parents?” I worry enough about what might happen, while still wanting to give him some independence.
I really didn’t like that prior to our son getting to sit in the front seat, he would point out his friends’ younger and smaller siblings sitting in the passenger seats of their parent’s cars. I did not like the judgment he placed on me. Because as much as I understand parenting isn’t always being your child’s best friend, it doesn’t mean you don’t want them to like you. A little bit.
As he joined me up front, I thought of all the times I sat in the front seat with my mom, getting aspirins out of her purse for her, opening her water bottle, changing the radio station. I recall being her navigator when we’d go somewhere new (pre-smartphone days, a.k.a. the Jurassic period). I remember holding the hot pizza box in my lap on the way home. It was where we had long talks about my friends, and school. It was in the shotgun seat where I learned that my mom was a human being too, a complicated one.
I have a little co-pilot now. My 4’9”, 8 years or older, 80 lbs or more, co-pilot. (Who now thinks it’s okay to change my radio station without asking). He’s growing faster than I’d ever imagined and will probably value riding shotgun more than I can grasp. He is safe, and we are still good parents. I will even entertain that we might be cool parents after this weekend.
Letting my son sit shotgun has reminded me that I get to take the front seat in all parenting choices, as well.