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Children and cars (possibly trivial!)

(30 Posts)
StepCatsmother Mon 10-Nov-14 09:03:07

Hi there,

I'm sorry if this sounds trivial, but I'd really appreciate your views.

I've been with my DP for 1 year, no kids of my own but he has two from a previous relationship, one is 6 the other is 9.

It's only recently (over the last 10 weeks) that I've been introduced to the children, starting as a couple of hours at the start or end of his contact time, the odd meal out all together etc. We then had a couple of full days out and the weekend just gone was the first time we've spent pretty much a whole weekend all together.

Generally it's going pretty well, the kids are very sweet, I like them and they seem to like me smile

One little thing is bugging me though and as I am conscious of my limited experience with children, I thought I'd see what others thought.

The 9 year old always wants to sit in the front of the car with dad. I have no problem with this as an occasional thing but he runs to the front door of the car every time we go to it and though he's been told by his dad to ask me first, he's usually already half way in or hovering at the front passenger door before the question gets asked. He also asks every single time we have to go anywhere in the car. It's becoming almost a 50:50 thing where on the journey out the child sits in the front, on the way back I do.

There's 2 things in this for me:

1. I feel that as an adult the default should be that I'm in the front and that whilst I don't mind being asked occasionally, I shouldn't be asked every time. I don't want to be in a position where as a new-ish person to them, I'm saying no to something frequently.

2. For longer journeys, the kids often sleep in the car, and I think it's daft for me to be trying to talk to DP from the back when I could be having a little bit of conversation with him more easily in the front. As I still find the whole days with the kids a bit intense, little opportunities to talk to him are important to me.

DP has said he'll speak to his son about this but I am not sure he thought I was being entirely reasonable! I did try to ask him if it had been him and his ex in the car would either of them have ever sat in the back for a child (as when I was little I was never allowed to sit in the front if M&D were both in the car, though I appreciate times may have changed!!) but he didn't really answer that.

Should I wind my neck in?

treaclesoda Mon 10-Nov-14 09:05:58

I think basic manners dictate that the adult sits in the front, so I don't think you're unreasonable at all in that respect.

treaclesoda Mon 10-Nov-14 09:08:26

I suppose there is also the possibility that his son might be feeling threatened by dad having a girlfriend and that's why he wants to sit there so in that case it's not really about the car at all. But that's just a thought, might not even apply anyway.

riverboat1 Mon 10-Nov-14 09:56:20

It's sensitive, I think.

I do tend to believe that the front seat should ALWAYS default to the adult rather than the child, barring special circumstances such as disability or needing particularly easy access to the driver or whatever. I can't think of a single time in my childhood or adulthood where the child got the front seat instead of an adult just because they wanted it.

But obviously this 9 year old has got used to having the front seat on all the car journeys he's had with his dad since his parents split up. So I can see why your DP is wary of ousting him now in your favour, since he probably wants the transition of you being in their lives as a stepmother type figure to be as conflict-free and smooth as possible and his son would obviously see losing the front seat to you as a negative point to having you around.

Ultimately, I do think the 9 year old has to get used to sitting in the back again though, and I think you were perfectly reasonable to raise it with your DP. Maybe the best approach would be for your DP to point out he's been very lucky that you've sometimes let him have the front seat as a special treat up to now, but we know that normally the front seat is for grown ups so that's what's going to happen from now on. Maybe he could get him a new game or something to keep in the car, to soften the transition slightly?

riverboat1 Mon 10-Nov-14 10:01:23

I was lucky to never have this problem as DSS was too young to have ever sat in the front seat when I came on the scene. Otherwise I fully imagine he would have argued until the cows came home to protect his interest in it ;-)

NiceAndAccurate Mon 10-Nov-14 10:11:26

Kids sit in the back. Adults in the front. The end.

Unless there are other problems brewing where the 9 year old is becoming resentful of your presence, then it should be a fairly easy transition. It's not fair of your DP to make you say no all the time. He needs to step up and parent his child. How easily this is sorted out will be very telling for the future.

Riverboat's suggestion of letting the child know he was lucky he was allowed to do it for so long, but that really it's not how things work is a good one.

Completely aside from that, the 6 year old will want a turn in the front soon enough. If this isn't sorted out by then, do you have to take turns with them as well?

riverboat1 Mon 10-Nov-14 10:40:28

Yes good point NiceAndAccurate, it's really not fair that DP has been making HER say yes or no to these requests, rather than dealing with the issue himself. Slight warning bell ringing there.

StepCatsmother Mon 10-Nov-14 11:15:20

Thanks for your replies, I'm glad to know my feelings aren't totally off the mark.

I think DP told the children to ask permission from me for this because he wants them to see me as an adult they have to consider and have to respect my wishes. He also said that if we eventually decide to move in together, the children need to accept answers from me as much as him. I don't think he's really thought through how it makes me feel to be saying no to the children at this early stage of my interaction with them.

Half the reason I've said yes to a few of the child's requests is entirely because of how Riverboat has put it, I didn't want him to see too many negative consequences of me being involved in their lives. I just didn't expect it to lead to requests every time!!

NiceandAccurate's comment about the other child is exactly what I said to DP - when second small person is older, do I only go in front 1 in 3 times? he did take my point on this smile

What I'm trying to work out is that even if this does lead to some resentment by the child or him feeling threatened, how is it best to manage it? I don't think it's necessarily the right answer to just give him his own way on the car issue, as surely there's a risk that he will start to push for his own way on other things? Again, happy to be told if that sounds like I'm extrapolating too much, this has been the first hiccup in all of this for me.

micah Mon 10-Nov-14 11:20:05

Unless he's exceptionally tall a 9 year old should be in a high back booster or booster in the back.

The air bag in the front could cause him serious harm if it should go off. A child under 12 should not be in the front as they don't weigh enough.

For these reasons I would be banning him sitting in the front. Buying a booster seat and installing it in the back. The six year old should also be in a high back booster.

Sod the politics, and what their friends do, or what they do with their mum. Look after their safety.

Joanofsarc Mon 10-Nov-14 11:20:15

Can you drive OP? That might take the issue away for a while until the children know you better/work out the new dynamics. And I doubt your DP will sit in the back with his son.

micah Mon 10-Nov-14 11:24:44

Isn't it the law anyway for under 12's to be on a booster in the back?

Am I the only one with a 9 and 6 year old in car seats, in the back, no arguments?

RoyTucker Mon 10-Nov-14 11:34:43

Hi OP,

This could have been my situation only with me as your DP. DS always travelled in the front (correct seat, airbag off, passenger seat moved right back) as it was just me and him, all the time. When DP came on the scene I told DS that the rule is adults in the front, children in the back. When it's just me and him (or just him and DP), he's in the front. When DP's children visit, it's the same rule. But it was up to me to make it clear to my child , which was done easily and matter of factly, no fuss. So in your shoes I would ask your DP next time his DS asks to tell him in a nice way that the rule is DC in the back, adults in the front. He also needs to make sure that he has some outings / time with his kids or just his DS and not with you there, and then of course his DS can ride in the front.

BuckskinnedAstronaut Mon 10-Nov-14 11:50:43

I can see both sides -- as an adult you shouldn't be shunted off into the back, but your partner's son will by the sound of things have been used to travelling in the front seat since his parents split up and if you are the apparent cause of his being displaced then that can breed resentment.

I like Joanofsarc's suggestion that you take over more of the driving for a while. It's a neat way of avoiding making the problem a you vs. the son issue.

micah, under 12s need to be in a booster seat unless they are 135 cm or over -- but as my not-particularly-tall 9yo is over 140cm already I suspect most can legally travel without a booster from the age of 8 or 9. And it's perfectly legal to have a booster seat in the front; you can't have a rear-facing carseat there, and it's not recommended to have children in the front, but there's absolutely no legal reason a 9yo can't travel in the front seat either with or (if over 135cm) without a booster.

wheresthelight Mon 10-Nov-14 12:14:28

you don't mention if he is using a car seat in the front seat?

either way the front seat is significantly less safe forward child that the rear seats as the airbags are not designed to be uses with children. your dp needs to use the safety aspect as a reason toyshop his son not you or it will end badly for you

Kookydooda Mon 10-Nov-14 12:19:21

The answer is you drive. Then don't mention anything about who sits where and see what your dp does! Then you will see what his real views are...is it adults in the front and kids in the back or his kid in the front and anyone else in the back!!! Easy!! Don't even discuss it, just get the car keys, get in the drivers seat and say you fancied driving, drive and see what happens.

StepCatsmother Mon 10-Nov-14 13:03:34

He's not using a car seat in the front seat. The 9 year old doesn't use one at all, back or front. He's quite a tall boy, though I'm not sure how tall! I didn't know anything about car seats or the ages kids need them, which is why I didn't mention it in my opening post. It's all a learning curve!

I think me driving sometimes is a really good idea and you're right, it will be interesting to see where DP sits and what the children are inclined to do/ask for when their dad is the passenger.

wheresthelight Mon 10-Nov-14 13:05:43

the law states 12 or over 135cm so I would certainly mention it to your dp!! but in the front I would be insistent on it being a lot longer due to the airbags

BuckskinnedAstronaut Mon 10-Nov-14 13:20:39

If he's a tall 9yo then he'll be over 135cm (the average boy hits 135cm at 9y 4m).

LeftHandedMouse Mon 10-Nov-14 13:46:14

You doing the driving is so simple - pure genious!

Failing that, you could 'buy' the front seat with an in car dvd player?

For longer trips.....

Aldi have twin 9in screen players in for �70 at the moment.

Other discount supermarkets are also available..... wink

purpleroses Mon 10-Nov-14 17:54:22

It IS a sensitive issue for some children I think, who've got used to being in the front, but it's best dealt with swiftly and quickly with a clear rule that adults always sit in the front - at 9 you can get away with this being because you need the leg space (not so easy for me using this argument against 5'10 DSS...) Or that you need to map read. Or simply that that's how everyone does things - adults in the front, children in the back.

The kids may not like it - in fact my DSD1 once commented that "the only bad thing" about me is that she can't sit in the front any more.... smile, but it's something your DH needs to do to show how your new 'family' fits together as it starts to form. They'll get used to it. And much simpler to have a fixed rule than be swapping around every time.

thebluehen Mon 10-Nov-14 20:01:06

This is one of those things like sharing a bed with your kids. If toilet it become a habit and then only try and break it when a new partner comes along, the kids naturally tend to blame the new partner and the parent feels that they're made to choose between what the kids want and their new partner.

Op, your partner needs to be getting the kids to sit in the back ALL the time from now on. It shouldn't be about you pushing them out, it should be that kids sit in the back, full stop.

hoobygalooby Wed 12-Nov-14 12:09:24

This is about more than who sits where in the car. If your DP is introducing you to his dc as a potential step mother then he should be teaching them to respect you as an adult. Making you sit in the back and ‘take turns’ is giving you equal status to his dc whereas you should be another adult in the family, not a third child to compete for his attention.
How he deals with this situation is a good indicator of how he will deal with issues in the future. There should be clear boundaries and of course ‘the kids should come first’ etc but your place in the family needs to be established early on.

StardustBikini Thu 13-Nov-14 07:23:36

I'm genuinely bewildered as to how a situation evolves in which a fairly young child ends up "sitting in the front" of a car as their default position - even if there isn't a second adult in the family to take that place.

Particularly in cases where there is a younger sibling who is unable to share the opportunity; how does one child end up being given that privilege in the first place, and why? And who benefits?

It strikes me that if support for recently separated parents addressed these issues and prevented these (potentially bad) habits from developing in the first place, any subsequent transitions into a two-adult family in the future would be for easier for DCs and prospective stepparents!

sandgrown Thu 13-Nov-14 07:44:43

Statistically front passenger seat is the most dangerous seat in the car as driver instinctively pulls their side away from danger. Children should sit in the back until much older. I do understand if DS has always done it he may feel pushed out at first. I think you should drive and then he will get used to being in the back.

StepCatsmother Thu 13-Nov-14 08:48:17

I think it will be difficult to use the safety arguments as the reason to give his son, he's been allowed to sit in the front too much previously and would probably see through that straight away. Anyway, I feel that it's simpler to say adults in front, and I'm glad to see a few of you agree on that.

The safety angle I'm being careful what I say, I'm not a parent myself but my gut feeling is I wouldn't sit a child in the front, but given DP has done that before me, I don't want him to think I'm criticising his parenting choices!!

I think I will say I'm driving next time - it will be interesting to see both what his son does if he knows the front passenger is his dad (if he doesn't even ask his dad, I'll wonder why he asks me so much!) and if asked, what DP does.

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