There are milestones in a family’s life and one of them in our family has been the shotgun seat – aka the front passenger seat for the uninformed. With the presence of airbags, kids have had to wait until they were sufficiently old and large enough to withstand the impact of deployment and it was a rite of passage amongst the older ones when they could graduate from the backseat to the shotgun seat. But what do we do when there’s a gray area?
Different states have differing guidelines on when a child is legally allowed to ride shotgun with a front airbag. While the consensus of many is that the child has to be twelve years of age, it does vary. In my instance, our state laws mandate that a child must be at least eight years of age with a minimum height of 4’9" and a weight of 80 lbs. We had previously based our decision with the other two kids on the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which suggested that it’s simply wiser to wait until the child is twelve years of age so that any question of size and weight is moot by that point. That was fine when the two older kids were well within the size guidelines, but Youngest is the Bell Curve outlier in terms of size and weight. He wears clothing sizes that are typically worn by kids in middle school and is far past the front seat parameters set by state law.
When Youngest and I were doing some Christmas shopping on Saturday morning, he asked if he could sit shotgun. Given his size – and the fact that having a kid sit shotgun happily changes the occupant dynamics – I agreed and he jumped into the front at the next stop, with the understanding that I’d check on the requirements when we got home. While he’s well past the state requirements, he doesn’t meet the AAP guidelines of being twelve years of age. But the opposition came from his older siblings who protested based upon the premise that they had to wait and it was only fair that he should as well. The logic that he’s far bigger at his age than they were doesn’t wash with the siblings and I suppose that I can understand why. But as I pointed out to them, it’s not a matter that they weren’t as mature at that age or that I might love him more – it’s the simple reality that he’s simply much, much bigger than they were.
For the record, we’ve decided to follow the AAP guidelines and have him wait until he’s older for the shotgun seat. We’ve made it clear to all three kids that it’s not due to their protest or their apparent – to Youngest, at least – status as most favored children. It’s simply the sense that the pediatricians have more thoroughly studied the issue and find it to be more than simply a matter of size. But I’ve also warned that the next milestone will soon be upon them – when Youngest physically dominates his elder siblings.