When my two sisters and I plan an outing, it involves kids –lots of them. My kids and their cousins team up and pile into the nearest family vehicle. This family mixing reduces the amount of bickering, but it does make head-counts a challenge. “Let’s see, I’ve got four, you’ve got three, and you’ve got five—wait, where did the extra two come from?”
This is why all of us have back seat mirrors in our cars and vans. It’s easier to maintain order if you can snap “Lily, quit kicking your brother’s seat!” It’s a lot more effective than yelling, “Okay, you in the way back, quit kicking the seats!” All you get is a chorus of “it’s not me!”
Personally, I’ve got a Mr. PeekatMee back seat mirror. I chose it because I’ve had good luck with Ginger Hill products. They’re tough, easy to use, and economical. I’ve got three kids, do part-time bookkeeping work, and my husband has a good job. Still, we hang onto our money as tightly as possible. You never know what emergencies might be around the corner. We make our purchases with care. Any kid-style purchase has to survive my kids, dogs, young relatives, and any other pint-sized visitors that track their muddy feet over my floors.
The Mr. PeekatMee is a large mirror that straps securely to a back seat headrest. When I have an infant in the car, I aim the mirror directly at the baby’s face. Then, no matter how excited the other kids are, I can check on the baby with a glance at my rear view mirror. If the sun’s in her eyes or if she looks flushed, I can pull over to take care of her. Once she’s old enough to talk, I’ll switch the mirror to give me a view of the back seat in general. It’s not a perfect view, of course, but it sure helps.
To tell the truth, back seat mirrors help me stay firm on the car seat issue. For me, like most parents, it’s really hard not to be able to reach my baby. Putting a car seat in the front seat is dangerous, not to mention illegal, so into the back it goes. Now the baby’s safer, but there’s an added misery. Not only is she out of reach, but she’s out of my sight! Rear-facing car seats are the safest way to travel, no question. But that separation is difficult, especially if the baby is sick or fussy. With the Mr. PeekatMee, I can see her in my rear view and she can see me.
This way, I’m no longer tempted to flip her seat around. I can keep her safe, sitting in her rear-facing seat as long as she will fit. She’s safer, with ceiling, back seat, and the car seat protecting her on all sides. She sees her brother and sister beside her, and she can see me in the mirror.
The mirror serves several purposes. I can keep an eye on my son, who’s prone to carsickness. If my dog is chewing up the seat cover, I’ll know before he does irreparable damage. If Billy really DOES have his elbow in in Sara’s stomach, I’ll know. If she’s a lying little brat, I’ll know that, too.
(Yes, I know. Your kids would never do such a thing. Mine would. I love them anyway.)
Most of all, I can be engaged with the kids on the journey. Mind you, I’ve got keep my eyes on the road most of the time. But a few quick glances in the rear view mirror do help me connect with my kids. Word games, drilling on addition facts, the billboard alphabet game, all of these are ways to build family memories.
Car travel can be a complete bore, or it can be time when family members enjoy each other’s company. Most families spend an hour a day in travel. Which is better? Silence and privacy? Or being engaged with the family?
If you get a back seat mirror, be careful. Keep your eyes on the road, no matter how darling your baby is. Just add one small habit to the safe driving habits you already have. When you check the rear view for traffic, add an occasional side glance into the Mr. PeekatMee. Stay in touch with your family. Commute time is short, but so is childhood.