It seems like not even that long ago, I was wringing my hands over letting my older daughter move into the front passenger seat. 

I’m a car seat safety fanatic, the kind of person who used to carry an inflatable booster seat in my purse just in case – and the kind of person who had read the latest safety data on inflatable booster seats back then (they got the highest marks) and has also read the more recent safety data, which calls some of that into question, despite the fact that I no longer feel the need to carry an inflatable booster seat around. 

My younger daughter, who turns 11 next month, is still in a booster seat, even though she grumbles about it. She was rear-facing for a lot longer than she wanted to be, too. Sorry not sorry, kid.

I refuse to drive anywhere, even down the block, until I have asked, “Everybody buckled?” and received affirmative answers, even though seat belt sensors have rendered that question largely obsolete. 

I had vigorous arguments with my dad, circa 2008, about why I would not permit him to drive my daughter around in his pickup truck with absolutely zero safety features and no backseat and why it would not be OK if my stepmom just held my toddler daughter “really tight” on her lap while driving on the interstate. That doesn’t even touch on the concern of when it would be all right with me for her to ride in the bed of the truck, the answer to which would be “about half-past NEVER.” 

And yes, I rode in the back of a truck on country roads in North Carolina and there is a picture of my mom holding tiny infant me in her arms in the front seat of a car, beaming proudly. But just because I didn’t come to death or serious harm doesn’t mean it was safe, then or now. 

My older daughter, though, suffers from horrible motion sickness and at age 12, she was already taller than me, so when she was around 12.5 (June 2019), I started letting her sit in the front. In August 2019, Louisiana passed a law that kids had to be 13 to sit in the front, and I will be honest: I let her sit up there illegally from August until her 13th birthday in December … but I didn’t feel great about it. 

Now, though? 

Now, God help me, she is in the driver’s seat

We started driving around the cemeteries and empty parking lots. Then we slowly navigated around City Park and a few quiet city streets. Her driving instructor took her on the Earhart Expressway and Veterans, and while my nerves aren’t yet good enough for that (my nerves are barely good enough to drive on Vets myself), I did let her drive from our house in Broadmoor to the Petco on Tchoupitoulas and back.

“You’re brave,” said my friend whose older child is 9. “I couldn’t do it.”

But my kid is 16, and I can’t hold back time. All I can do is just hope I have taught her well enough that she will make safe choices. 

I’m still missing my days of obsessively researching booster seats, though, and having that be enough to feel like I was keeping her safe. 

Tips from seasoned parents are always welcome at