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.
So, in under a month we welcome our third child to our family and warn them of the impending insanity that they’ll be forced to tolerate for the rest of their little lives.
And while the occasion is certainly one for celebrating, it’s left our family with a particular dilemma – how to fit three young children in either of our cars.
My wife owns a 2009 Kia Sportage, and I, a 2011 Chevy Cruz. Both have gotten us by just fine, on our own and through parenthood with our first two. We use the one we call the ‘bucket loader’ (a Graco Click Connect) for our daughter, only putting her in and out versus lugging that bucket in and out with her soon to be two-year old self. Our son, now five is in an Evenflo (the exact model of which I can’t remember as I write this) in one car and a Safety 1st Alpha Elite 65 in the other.
It’s all been well and good and served us very well through these past several years. But baby makes three and I’m not quite sure how we’re going to pull this off.
This past weekend I disconnected and pulled each car seat out of both of our cars. I also assembled the Graco Turboboost booster seat we bought for our son, and spent the afternoon trying every conceivable combination of the various car seats, and found no way to fit three of them in either of our backseat.
We’ve visited many a website about the issue, we’ve solicited questions online from the general interwebs populace. And so far, we’re not having luck.
Yes, Helen. I’m very glad that you love the three booster seats you use for all three of your kids. But we’re talking about a newborn, a toddler, and a kindergartner, so that response, while bringing about much joy from me to you, does not help the question I posed.
And it’s wonderful, Karen, that your family loves the new SUV/Van/Car that you bought when you were having your third. I hope it serves you well. However, it doesn’t quite answer our question as to how in the world to make things work for our situation and the vehicles we have.
[All names have been changed to protect the innocent, of course.]
Now my reactions may sound a bit snarky, and I say them in half-jest, but it’s because, truly, we’re in a pickle. We can’t use three booster seats across, as only one child is in the realm of possibly being eligible for a booster and that’s our oldest. And even using a booster in one slot does not allow for two other car seats in the space provided – at least not with the car seats we currently have.
And it’s easy to say “just get a new car,” and I wish we could. But we just can’t afford one right now. While we consider ourselves very fortunate for what we have, we don’t have enough money currently to go car shopping. Both our cars are paid off, which is one of the things that made it a lot easier for us to afford moving into a new home this past year. However, my undergraduate student loans, these 12+ years later, are still a shackle that I wear that holds back the entire family. I am currently paying double the amount on each of my student loans every month, and it equals out to roughly the same as our mortgage. Even at that overpaying rate, there is still 14-16 more months left before they are paid off completely and that money is freed up. To slow down and lessen those payments means prolonging that debt (and increasing it due to interest) and taking on even more debt with monthly car payments. So that part, really is not feasible.
As I say, we’re very grateful for what we have in our lives. That said, we try very hard to budget each dollar we have, because it all has to go someplace every month. We don’t use credit cards. We don’t do much extracurricular unless it’s something affordable or free. So we don’t tend to go willy-nilly with money. It’s just all allocated somewhere.
So the best theory we can come up with for the time being is the short-term, one time pain of shelling out money to buy some new car seats that will work in combination with the booster to fit all three kids in our cars versus the long-term commitment of money to monthly car payments.
But what seats to use? That has been the biggest and toughest challenge.
We’ve been at this for far longer than now, but now it feels like the clock is ticking faster as we move more and more toward our new arrival. Any seat suggestions are appreciated if anyone’s been in a similar boat with similar-sized cars.
Because right now the only thing I’m driving is the crazy train.
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.