Q. I had an appointment and asked my friend Jamie to pick up my daughter, Erin, from preschool. Jamie agreed, but when I said, "I'll swing by with Erin's car seat," Jamie said, "Oh, no, you don't need to, I'll just strap her in. It's only a mile." Nevertheless, I didn't feel comfortable with Erin's not being in the car seat, even for just a few minutes, but addressing this with Jamie was awkward. I got the feeling she thought I was uptight. Any advice for the future?
A. This won't be the last time a difference in parenting choices challenges a friendship: One mom dispenses Oreos while her buddy believes in healthy snacks only; another parent allows her child to watch hours of cartoons, while the kid next door can only view educational videos. Even though in most such situations there's no right or wrong position, many parents too often get their noses bent out of shape when they think their parenting ability is being questioned.
Generally, we suggest going with the flow rather than risk insulting a friend (really, your child will not be damaged forever if you let her buy a cheap trinket at the zoo like her friend). Which brings us to the car seat issue. Our tolerant live-and-let-live attitude goes out the window when it comes to child safety: Serious accidents happen even in slow-moving vehicles. If your daughter got hurt because you hadn't insisted on the car seat, you'd never forgive yourself.
We strongly counsel you to take a tactful stand should this ever come up again. The old blame-it-on-yourself trick ("Oh Jamie, I'm just a freakin' nut about car seats, so I'll just run it by") should be enough to quell any potential crisis between friends.
Kathy Bishop and Julia Whitehead are the authors of The City Parent Handbook: The Complete Guide to the Ups and Downs and Ins and Outs of Raising Young Kids in the City (Rodale).
Originally published in American Baby magazine, July 2006.