What can I say, I’m a safety girl.

If you’re anything like me then you probably apologise more frequently than you blink.

I apologise when people bump into me on the tube. I apologise when I take too long to answer the phone. I apologise when they can’t open my front door. “Yes, it’s because we live opposite the brook, sorry, it sticks horribly.”

As a parent, I have an apologetic reflex. Seriously. Today Flea went out horse riding with her best friend from school, and aforementioned best friend’s parents.

Flea came back from the trip full of beans and I thanked the friend’s mother profusely, apologising (of course) when she expressed surprise that Flea has never tasted Coke (“Ah, yes, it’s easy when you’ve got one, isn’t it? Sorry, she just prefers milk, really.”)

I’m very English, basically.

But chatting about her day a few minutes later, Flea mentioned casually that after horse-riding, they had gone to the playground, and her best friend’s father had told Flea she didn’t need to wear a seat belt, because they weren’t going far. I’ve chatted with her about it a bit, and ascertained that yes, they did drive in the car without seatbelts on.


On the one hand, I know where they drove, and I know it’s a slow journey and best friend’s father is right, it really isn’t very far. But I also know, had I been in charge of someone else’s children, they’d have made the journey on foot, or they’d have been strapped in to a car.

So now I have to make the really awkward phone call where, no doubt, I will apologise if I seem neurotic but actually, yes, I am going to insist that if my child is in a car, she is belted in at all times, please. Although part of me is tempted to just tell Flea to insist next time that she’s belted in to her seat, she’s five, and I rely on the adult taking care of her to – well – take care of her basically.

What do you think? How do you approach parents who do things you wouldn't do?


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. Limertilly
    27th August 2010 / 8:24 pm

    there’s also the point that that is actually illegal – and in that case, because the passengers are children, it’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure they’re all belted in. as a not parent, i can only assume that i would be cross as hell if my hypothetical child was in this situation and i really wouldn’t care how long a drive it was. when i was a kid, my parents wouldn’t even put the key in the ignition til we were all belted in.

  2. 27th August 2010 / 8:32 pm

    Just infuriating for you. Why on EARTH did he think this was a good idea? I am MORE careful with other people’s children, always check if they are allowed biscuits etc etc. I think that’s the responsibility that we have when we care for other people’s children.
    Distance to be travelled makes no difference. everyone buckles up for every journey. It’s the single most effective thing you can do to reduce the chance of serious injury death in the event of an accident. And it’s the law. WHY would he teach a child that it’s ok not to buckle up? It IS NOT.
    And they’ve put you in the position of having to make ‘that call’ through no fault of your own.
    Utterly stupid of them and so annoying. Poor you!

  3. 27th August 2010 / 8:33 pm

    Oh I would not have been a happy bunny in the slighest. Seatbelts are a non-negotiable in my book, as are booster seats, which is why I bought spare ones. I carry my most precious cargo in the car with me, I take no risks! I am also the mummy that took the pead first aid cource when Maxi was born and have since renewed it.

  4. 27th August 2010 / 8:38 pm

    I absolutely would not allow children in my care to go in a car without a seat belt – There’s a reason it’s illegal!
    It’s one thing him saying it’s not far or it’s a slow drive but it only takes one reckless driver to crash into his car and I wouldn’t even like to think what could happen.
    I bet he had his seatbelt on!

  5. 27th August 2010 / 9:20 pm

    It’s been said – it’s illegal not to have seatbelts on, it’s also about a non-negotiable. Flea may be very responsible but I still think that even from the perspective of bending rules it’s important for a child to know that some things are black and white.
    Above all, it’s illegal though to drive without seatbelts on, even if you’re going at 5 m/h.
    And the coke thing… I don’t think I had coke until I was a teenager and then didn’t like it much. We’ve never as such prohibited it, but my daughter so far never even thought about asking to drink it, it’s an adult drink like beer and wine to her and that’s that. I was shocked today at the nursery fun day that the only soft drink served was Irn Bru – call me what you like but I don’t think it’s appropriate for under 5s to be encouraged to drink caffeine and sugar containing soft drinks.

  6. diane
    27th August 2010 / 11:42 pm

    Honestly, I’m horrified and wouldn’t let her go anywhere in a car with them again. (I realise this makes life difficult, but…)
    Dreadful enough to put your own child at risk in this way; a new level of horrifying to do it with someone else’s kid.
    Even if he’s a careful driver, other people might not be. And he will always regret it if something happened to a child in his care.
    If you phone and ask them not to do it again, can you be 100% sure that they won’t? Perhaps Flea is feisty enough to stand her ground, but she shouldn’t have to.
    Ps: Re coke and lemonade etc, I was always allowed them at other people’s houses/in pub gardens etc but never expected them at home (’til I was a teenager).

  7. muummmeeeee!
    28th August 2010 / 8:34 am

    That’s outrageous! The coke I’d forgive but being in the car without seat belts I definitely would not! I’m an over-the-top apologist too but I’d definitely make that call and insist in future that he makes my child buckle up!

  8. 28th August 2010 / 9:09 am

    Completely and utterly unnaceptable. Seatbelts and booster seats are essential (and obligatory, of course). I tell my FIL off if he starts driving before everyone, but especially the girls, is strapped in. As I explain to Rosemary, who hates being strapped in, it doesn’t matter how careful and good a driver Grandpa is, there are other drivers who aren’t.
    I don’t think you can avoid the call. If this were Rosemary, I might queston the veracity of her statement, as she loves making up stories at the moment, but from what I know of Flea, I don’t think she would make it up.
    Good luck!
    Oh, and, coke? Coke is for adults, like beer and wine! I had it from around 5, I think, though, in the pub, with a packet of salt and vinegar crisps.

  9. 28th August 2010 / 10:20 am

    Thanks for that – it’s good to know even people who don’t have their own kids think it’s a bad idea, suggests I probably am not being too neurotic.

  10. 28th August 2010 / 10:21 am

    Thanks – call has now been made, it was all very awkward, but I tried my best to be diplomatic about it. Ugh.

  11. 28th August 2010 / 10:21 am

    Exactly – I’ve collected his child and he has watched me take a spare booster seat out of the car boot and put his child in it, so it isn’t fair for him to do anything less for my child! Grrr. And I totally agree on the first aid, I did one with Flea too.

  12. 28th August 2010 / 10:22 am

    I didn’t ask him, but you’re probably right!

  13. 28th August 2010 / 10:23 am

    Thanks for that. When I called I said that I was concerned Flea understands you ALWAYS wear a belt so while I’m sure his judgment was right, I’d appreciate him being more consistent just to help me out. Which was a bit of a cop-out, but seemed to go down okay.
    And yes, I didn’t mention how surprised I was last week when I took the two of them out for lunch and her daughter ordered a Coke with her food!

  14. 28th August 2010 / 10:24 am

    Flea begged and begged to taste Fanta in our local cafe and I did relent around the time of her birthday. She took one mouthful and said, “Ugh, bubbles” and never asked again – success!

  15. 28th August 2010 / 10:26 am

    Thanks Diane, I agree and have talked to Flea to ensure she always insists on being belted in. She must have queried it at the time, I think – she gets very upset if I start to pull out of the garage even, before she’s got her belt on properly.
    Coke and lemonade – we never had it as kids, certainly, although we had a ‘pop man’ who used to deliver really rubbish fizzy drinks once a week when we were teenagers.

  16. 28th August 2010 / 10:28 am

    Honestly? I just don’t think it would have occurred to Flea to make something like that up – she’s not really reached that stage yet, her fibs are still really just to try and get herself out of trouble, rather than getting someone else into trouble, iyswim.
    I can’t remember when I first had Coke – I think from about 8 or 9 on lunches out etc, but we drank Fanta far more than Coke.

  17. 28th August 2010 / 3:08 pm

    Oh I would be so upset if that was Zack. He knows he has to have a seatbelt on if he’s in a car. I would never in a million years agree to drive a child anywhere without a seatbelt on. I’m glad you called them up, even if it was in the “can you help me out/consistency” thing. At least now they know.
    Good for Flea to know that it was wrong imo. x

  18. 28th August 2010 / 3:47 pm

    Of course I am with you on the seat belt issue. But with the Coke – I do get a bit tired of anti-Coke, anti-Fruit Shoot sentiments – if you have a child like mine who drinks roughly 5ml of liquid a day if she can get away with it, you’ll do anything to get more down her. And so you check it out with her dietician. And he is completely unworried by this under the circumstances – far less worried, in fact, than other children’s parents.

  19. 29th August 2010 / 10:58 am

    I’d have been upset on both counts, the seatbelt and the Coke. The Coke not so much, obviously, but it’s not exactly something 5-year-olds should be connoisseurs in. The no seatbelt thing would’ve made me furious and I’d be hesitant to let my child travel in their car again unless I’d seen them buckle her up with my own eyes.

  20. Nikki
    29th August 2010 / 8:45 pm

    I think everyone has backed you up on this Sally, but I can’t help but be interested in finding out what the parents response was on the phone? Did they deny it?
    On the extremely rare occassion I’ve forgotten to buckle the kids up (once that I can recall) the kids have shouted and alerted me to it b4 I’ve moved the car an inch. Safety is first and foremost in their minds – and ours. I am always more careful with other peoples kids than I am mine even – and I’m a terribly over-protective Mum! Unforgiveable if they didn’t insist on that.
    Regarding the coke, hmmm. Each to their own on that I think. Our Son won’t touch fizzy drinks – he tried lemonade once. Our daughter loves lemonade and is allowed some on a special occasion and she has tried coke and liked it, but we haven’t given her any since. I would hope my child wasn’t offered it at someone else’s house – water, milk or squash first surely?

  21. 30th August 2010 / 12:13 am

    Thanks Marylin, I appreciate the support! Flea’s now been well coached that it’s okay to kick up a stink next time something like that happens.

  22. 30th August 2010 / 12:20 am

    Of course are always instances where, for medical reasons, it’s easier to tempt children to drink fluids that are sweetened. In my mother’s generation, some women gave babies Carnation sweetened condensed milk to tempt them into drinking more.
    I suppose I’m a person, though, who takes the easiest path available – which is not to introduce things that I think are unnecessarily detrimental to children’s health unless there’s a compelling reason to do so. For me, yes, that includes sweetened and carbonated soft drinks. They’re not necessary, and since my child is perfectly happy to drink milk and water, then why would I give her Fruit Shoot, which is consistently singled about by consumer action groups as being of little nutritional benefit to children, containing 5 teaspoons of sugar, per bottle!
    My perspective though is that I would never have dreamed of commenting on the fact that Flea’s best friend drinks Coke – I just found it odd that her mother felt the need to comment on the fact that Flea (who has only just turned 5) doesn’t drink Coke – is that really so odd??

  23. 30th August 2010 / 12:21 am

    To be fair, Flea turned her nose up at the Coke and asked for water instead! They were very apologetic about the seat belt issue, and I have to trust a little, I guess, that my wishes will be respected next time – Flea would certainly be primed beforehand!

  24. 30th August 2010 / 12:24 am

    Thanks Nikki
    I spoke with Flea’s friend’s Mum and she was apologetic and explained they were driving at 10mph for just a minute or two. I said I understood that and I was sure it was safe, but for the sake of Flea not being confused about it ‘sometimes’ being okay not to wear a seatbelt, could she not do it again – and she was fine with that.
    Possibly, I was a bit wimpy about it, but I feel pretty ok.
    With fizzy drinks, I suspect Flea is the same – she tasted fanta on her birthday and hated it – she had been begging for weeks without realising it was fizzy, and she hates anything with bubbles!

  25. Priness_L_88
    30th August 2010 / 2:25 pm

    Short journey or not I think you’re totally right to phone them and say that she should be belted in when in the car. If nothing else it teaches her that safety is important and that you need to wear your seatbelt.

  26. 1st September 2010 / 11:05 am

    what everyone else said!! It’s illegal and it’s never OK to not wear a seatbelt. Has he not seen the adverts where the ‘journey is short’ but kids die anyway? or does he not realise that however great HIS driving and idiot could ram into the back of hiscar at 70 miles and hour and throw everyone forward!?
    I’d be beyond mad and wouldn’t even bother to be diplomatic!
    That said, my DD rides and horse riding is the scariest sport your kid can do IMO – mine has had 2 falls and even with her back protector it scares the bejesus out of me each time!!

  27. 2nd September 2010 / 9:51 pm

    I had the same situation and put the responsibility on my 5yr old son. (I’m terrible.) But then next time he went with the same woman, I told him to wear his seatbelt in front of her, pretending I didn’t know about the last time.

  28. 2nd September 2010 / 11:46 pm

    I have a car seat story! Sitting comfortably?!
    I noticed that my MIL had an old infant car seat still hanging about, and pointedly told her it was obsolete – and yet she never threw it away. I know what she thought. Essentially: she couldn’t see a thing wrong with it, so she was buggered if she was getting rid of it just coz some arty-farty Daughter in law with poncey safety ideas was kicking off. I told my husband if I ever saw Harry in it, his bollocks were history, and to get rid of it. He claimed it had vanished!
    Anyhoo. Cometh the day: I turned up at the farm to discover that my MIL had disappeared in a clapped-out old land rover – and Harry’s car seat was still on the drive. She’d put him in the old knacker! I drove 3 miles down the road at 90mph, screaming in fury, drove over 3 fields at pretty much the same speed, scattering sheep like snow, and finally arrived at where they were loading bales.
    There, I discovered that she had not only put my 3yr-old in a seat (manufacturing safety standard utterly obsolete) designed for <9kg babies, but she had managed to put the thing into the front seat of the land rover BACKWARDS. He had been facing forwards in an infant carrier. Furthermore (and you'll like this bit, if I haven't put you to sleep yet!) because she had the seat the wrong way around, the seatbelt wouldn't actually fit around the carseat and into the buckle, so she had just tucked the seatbelt vaguely around the carseat and left it unbuckled. Before driving several miles down the road. With my son. Who was perched in a loose tangle of seatbelt. In an old land rover. While she wore her nice proper seat belt.
    I ripped her carseat out of the landrover - not that that took much doing. I told her - well, I told her what I was going to do with it. And I did. I took it home, got the little firewood axe, and chopped the fucking thing in half from top to bottom. It didn't take me very long (see: manufacturing standards, above!) and by the time I had finished, I had just about stopped shaking in fear and rage.
    I will remember this when she is old and her incontinence pad needs changing.

  29. 5th September 2010 / 3:14 pm

    I’m not sure you needed to ring them Sally, mum or dad could have read your post and would see your thoughts for themselves 😉