Come and knock on our door…
Just don’t make it the car door. We’re maxed out on space.
Hard to believe that just over a month ago we were still parents of two, that we hadn’t met our wonderful, second daughter, nor knew that she was even going to be a girl (we like the surprise), and that at the time we were still lamenting over how we were going to make three children (and three carseats) work in our existing (and paid off) cars.
New cars (even new-used) weren’t an option as the money just wasn’t there for monthly payments. So we read, and read, and read. And we ordered, and purchased, and tried, and returned.
And we’ve hit upon something that, lo and behold, seems like it’s working.
Meg owns a 2009 Kia Sportage, while I have a 2011 Chevy Cruze – two very different vehicles, but the parameters we’re challenged to make work with.
We knew that with a newborn baby, we didn’t want to be picking the baby up and down to get into the car if we didn’t have to, so keeping the Graco click and connect ‘bucket seats’ were huge on the priority list if we could make it happen.
We even called in my dad, who we jokingly call the master of spacial relations, honed through years of enjoying Tetris on the home computer. And between all of us, here’s what we came up with:
2009 Kia Sportage
The Graco bucket seat placed in the middle means a bit of a reach to get the baby in an out, but was necessary to get our son’s Graco Highback Turbooster seat on one side for the shoulder strap seat belt that it requires. On the other side is a Diono Radian R120 Convertible Car Seat for our two year-old girl. The Diono proved to be skinny enough to help make configurations work but well-built and sturdy enough to feel secure.
Now, all that said, it’s important to note that it IS a tight fit between the booster and the infant bucket seat. I say this because, of course, the thing with a booster is that you’re using belt buckles like you would elsewhere in the car, not latch systems like you do with the Diono on the other side. And it DOES take some maneuvering to get the buckle into the latch. Having the bucket seat base next to the booster, though, does provide some maneuverability to finagle the belt into the latch as needed. Due to where the seatbelts all fall (on the same side of the car), it meant this was the only configuration where this would work – bucket in the middle, Diono behind the driver and booster behind the passenger. Otherwise, we could in no way get the booster’s belt buckle in to click. Regardless, it does mean that for the time being, we adults will have to buckle him in and out versus doing it himself, but it works for the situation we were faced with. And will change as the baby grows and moves into other seats herself.
2011 Chevy Cruze
Faced with an even smaller backseat than the Kia Sportage, my Chevy Cruze proved a bit more challenging. But I’m glad to say that we made it work and yes, kept the Graco click and connect bucket seat for the infant in the mix.
With the bucket seat in the middle, we used two Diono Radian R120 Convertible Car Seats on either side for our little guy and now the eldest of our two girls (still weird to say that). The Diono’s thin but sturdy frame meant it fit within the confines of the backseat. It just meant that we had to ditch using a booster in my car (you’d never get to the seat belt) and use the Diono on either side and their latch system.
So, there we have it. Three seats for three kids in both cars. Yes, there was the expense of buying three new car seats (the Dionos) and one Graco booster, but that cost far outweighed what would be new car payments for each of us every month. And while we’ve been primarily using my Chevy Cruze in our daily travels since the conversion, it has (knock on wood) gone rather well.
While every car is going to be different, I hope this proves useful, and maybe provides a few options to someone out there who may have been in a similar situation.
It was pouring rain yesterday, as in severe storm-type of pouring. So, with his little windbreaker hood over his head, I hurried the little guy out to the car in the morning as we headed out for the day.
With the new car seat in place, especially with my tiny car, it takes a little longer than it used to set him in place, get his arms through the loops, and fasten him into place for our morning commute.
So, as I sat in the backseat, half of me sticking outside, I was getting absolutely drenched and did, in that split-second, what made to me perfect sense – I closed the door. I got him all buckled in, gave him a toy for the ride, and then went to get into the front seat when I came across something quite unexpected.
I was locked in.
I had my keys and remote in my hand, so I tried the ol’ ‘lock it, unlock it’ and when I went to jiggle the handle got absolutely nothing.
I tried calling my wife, but she was getting ready herself in the house and didn’t have her phone with her.
I looked over at the little guy, who laughed and clapped (yes, he’s clapping now, and I’m so glad he found daddy as hilarious as I was) and I just looked at my situation and had to laugh myself.
With my little car and his big car seat, getting to the front seat would not be easy. I tried to climb over, feet-first, but couldn’t due to the size of his car seat. I sat back down while he looked at me curiously and took off my shoes. I tossed them over and into the front seat and, as best I could with the small space I was given, tossed myself, head first into the passenger seat.
From there, I was able to make my way to the driver’s seat, get my shoes on and make our way out of the driveway and on our way.
It was certainly an acrobatic start to our day.
Since his birth, we’ve carried him around in a Graco car seat carrier, the type that has bases that attach to the car and allow you to just pull up the seat by a handle and snap in and out of place at ease. It really has been a snap for us, especially when he falls asleep, as all we need to do is pull the carrier off the base, he inside, and bring him into the house where he’d often continue to get the much-needed sleep.
But, alas, he has easily grown beyond the carrier and needed what we refer to as ‘the big boy car seat.’ For someone who had to rely on our local police station for help with the original carrier/car seats, I was quite proud of myself in handling the new installations all on my own. We’re still in rear-facing mode, but they were in, they were sturdy, and they were secure.
They weren’t without their own adjustments, though.
The most notable, of course, is that now our little guy gets carried out of the house and into the car and vice-versa, versus the carriers that allowed us to put him in the seat and carry him to the car and snap into place. At his current size of 20+ pounds, however, that was just becoming an exercise in weight training that was unnecessary.
The downside to this is that if he falls asleep, there’s no more bringing him seamlessly inside to continue his slumber. Instead, when that buckle clicks to unlock, he is awake, whether he likes it or not and immediately wants out of that seat and into whatever is going on around him.
It takes some getting used to. For example, I recently picked him up at Grandma’s house after what was a day of a very short nap, teething, and crankiness. A terrible combination and one that left him very unhappy for the first half of our ride home. With some Tchaikovsky on the radio, he slowly was lulled to sleep halfway through our journey, leaving me with quite the dilemma as I pulled into our driveway.
Here, Mr. Crankypants was in desperate need of a nap, but here we were now home, just shortly after he fell asleep. What to do, what to do. I texted my wife, just feet away, inside of the house, my dilemma.
And I decided to wait.
So, there we were. Me sitting in the parked car in the driveway, killing time on my phone, listening to Symphony Hall on Satellite Radio as my son snored away in the background.
After a little while and realizing what was going on, my wife appeared at my car window and said I probably shouldn’t spend the entire evening sitting in the car in the driveway, and helped me slowly get him out of the car in the least intrusive way possible. He awoke, yes, but with his mommy just within arm’s reach, he was much happier with being awakened had it just been his dorky daddy.