Dad for Beginners

Amateurism at its best

Material Goods as a Demarcation of Child Age: Infant car seat v. toddler car seat, a study in true linguistic absurdity


All U.S. state governments have child safety seat requirements. While the purpose of protecting children as they age and grow is the same across all states, the miniscule differences are nauseating. You can learn about what your state requires here:

What I’ve learned recently is that, colloquially, there are distinct differences between baby, infant, and toddler. What I’ve also learned, logically, is that none of those terms really makes any sense insofar as they do not really describe an identifiable change in the condition or size of the person at a specific time. They are generalities that society has determined are sufficient gradients of the growth of a baby before it reaches childhood.

There are no “baby” car seats. Car seats are for infants and toddlers. Two words that seem to exist exclusively within the realm of government compliance and consumerism yet have permutated into colloquialisms for talking about babies in general.

car seats

If an infant seat could talk, it would say, “turn me around and put a baby in me.” Kind of like my wife did with me.

However, infant car seats and toddler car seats are markedly different. Infant car seats serve as more of a “cradle” and are placed in the vehicle backwards. Toddler seats face forward and are more akin to normal, human car seats. When your child outgrows the infant seat and is ready for the toddler seat, he has thereby graduated into a new classification of tiny human.

It seems that perhaps the best way to distinctly classify someone as a “toddler,” is when they outgrow the infant seat and need the larger toddler seat. Other than benchmarks of the size of the child for consumer and legal purposes, the terms have no meaning. Adhering to this precedent indicates that childhood does not actually begin until a child is able to spurn the toddler seat and sit in the vehicle like a regular person. Maybe this very article can serve as jurisprudence for the pro-choicers.

While I do not condone abortion or improperly outfitting a child in a safety seat, it is remarkable how society in general has accepted arbitrary colloquialisms of consumerism and compliance to refer to contrived eras of child age. The words “infant,” “toddler,” and “child” are fluid but in such a strictly regulated society, they’ve become inflexible. As my ultimate act of protest and revolt, when the hostess in a restaurant asks, “two and a half?” or fails to acknowledge my child at all, I invariably ask her how her career as a hostess is working out and tell her that her parents didn’t love her. I’m bitter now. Thanks, America.

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