Last week, my family got the stomach flu. G, our two-year-old, got it first. He’d been acting off and a little grumpy, so when he threw up on Wednesday morning, it made sense. We got him cleaned up and put him to bed for a nap, then went back to our normal routine. In the afternoon, when I had to go pick up his sister, E, from school, I didn’t think much about it. Until he puked. In the car. On his carseat. With 5 minutes left of the drive to our house. I tried to stay calm as he whimpered and E gagged, and C, his other sister, shrieked “He threw up! He threw up!” As soon as we arrived home, the girls bolted from the car and the stench, and I grabbed G, stripping off his puke-laden clothes as I unstrapped him. I got him inside and cleaned up, and laid him on the couch to watch “Cars.” Then I went out to the swagger wagon to clean up the mess. The smell of vomit was overpowering. Fortunately, all he’d had all morning was a little juice and water, so there were no chunks. But it smelled. Bad. I started to unhook the car seat cover, realizing to get it off I would have to undo the straps and feed them through the slits in the cover. Which meant I had to unhook the whole carseat to get to the back of the seat to unhook the straps. And feeding the straps through the minuscule slots was a joke. I almost gave up. Then I thought about shelling out $300 for another car seat and I persevered. Finally, FINALLY, I was successful. I threw it in the wash and laid it to dry on the drying rack. Then I focused on washing the straps. Which was successful (I think) but something STILL smells (which I’m reminded of every time one of the girls gets in the van, like I don’t have a nose and can’t smell it myself). After the cover was dry, I set about putting it back on the seat. That was torture in itself. Getting the straps and the connectors through the slots was a nightmare. I’m surprised I was able to do it. But this whole exercise got me thinking “What kind of jerk designs a carseat cover that requires a degree in brain surgery to remove and reinstall, when it’s meant for small children, who regularly (a) pick their noses and wipe them wherever, (b) spill crap, everywhere, (c) puke and (d) pee and poop in their pants, leaking out of diapers or during potty training? A jerk without kids, that’s who!” So I’ve come up with a list of 10 things for kids that must have been designed by people without kids, in no particular order.
10. Car seat covers
These are minuscule little toys, shaped like characters and animals, too small to do anything with other than get lost in the carpet.
8. Polly Pocket Shoes for Princesses
Can you see the shoe in the picture above? Next to the Squinkie monkey? Now imagine you’re at Disneyland with your kids for the first time. One kid picks out the Little Mermaid Polly Pocket travel set. It comes with several outfits for Ariel, including at least 4 PAIRS of teeny, tiny shoes. Now imagine spending the next several days searching tirelessly, over and over, through two hotel rooms, looking for all of these shoes and all of the other accessories. When you’re unable to find them, you skip maid service in case housekeeping vacuums up one of them. Because, dammit, if we’re going to lose them, we should lose them at home, after vacation.
7. Removable Wheels
This is partly the same problem as number 8, above, but for kids who like cars more than princesses. But seriously, how many times do I take the wheels off of my car? Like never. I let the tire man do that. So why design a play car where they come off? I’m sure that’s what this family was thinking when they finally found that missing wheel from their LEGO set.
6. Halloween Costumes with Special Cleaning Instructions
We’ve all done it. Usually it’s the kid’s first Halloween where they’re able to (1) eat candy because we’ve given in and allowed them sugar finally and (2) walk on their own. We wandered past a Pottery Barn for Kids or stopped into the now-defunct Baby Style and fell in love with a dog/peacock/flamingo/cupcake/dinosaur costume that our child HAD TO HAVE. We shelled out enough money to buy a case or two of Two Buck Chuck and brought home the perfect Halloween costume. Never mind that we bought it in September and there’s no way, I mean, NO WAY the kid will want to wear it again come Halloween, but we never bothered to think about, much less read, the cleaning instructions. Now, throw a toddler, possibly a potty-training toddler, into the mix. And chocolate. And lollipops. Some tootsie rolls??? What do you have? Pure disaster. And a dry cleaning bill to boot.
5. A Musical Training Potty
Seriously. Who thought of this one? I can only imagine the brainstorming session. ”I know, I know! Let’s make a potty that plays a tune when something is dropped into it! Immediate gratification! Moms will love that they don’t have to give the kid a sticker or treat! I can’t believe no one’s thought of this before.” Um, that’s because kids are pretty smart. And they know that it doesn’t have to be a bodily fluid or solid that makes the damn potty play the tune. Pretty much anything will work. And it reinforces that throwing things like matchbox cars into a potty is a fun thing to do. Genius.
4. Bunk Beds with Immovable Guard Rails
Our two daughters share a room. It’s a necessity and we have to have a bunk bed. While changing sheets is a severe pain in the neck, I really believe it wouldn’t be so bad if the damn guard rail could be lowered. I mean, really. Is it rocket science?
3. Pull Ups with Two Different Designs Per Box
Those of you without kids are thinking, “What? You don’t want the kid to have choices? Won’t they get bored?” Imagine getting your kid ready for bed. You grab a pull up and hand it to her. She looks at it and screams “Not one with all the princesses! I want one with only Sleeping Beauty/Tiana/Rapunzel!” You look at the clock and sigh, then grab another one. Damn, three princesses. Another one. Pretty soon you’re clawing through the box like you just lost the winning lottery ticket trying to find the one pull up that will allow you to put the kid to bed. Kids don’t need choices on the undergarment they’re going to pee in.
2. Packaging that Requires Tools for Removal
My son turned 2 last week. After his party, he opened his presents. He received a Big Rumbler Mover. He danced around wanting it “Out! Out!” Two screw drivers and two dads later, he finally was able to play with it. Seriously, when did packaging require an engineering degree to remove?
1. Shorts or Pants for a Toddler with Buttons
Honorable Mention: VW Passat Station Wagon
This one gets an honorable mention, because technically, it’s not a product for kids. However, it is designed with the idea that the owner may cart some children around, so therefore, I believe it belongs on the list.
When my husband and I were planning to start a family, we decided it was a great opportunity to buy a station wagon. We didn’t understand the allure of a minivan, when station wagons were (1) smaller, so more stylish and better on the gas budget, yet (2) big enough that you could still fit a ton of crap in them. Plus, both of us grew up in families with them and fond memories of car trips abounded. We ultimately decided on the Passat, mainly because it was cute and in our price range. After discovering that our family of four was going to become five, I stubbornly refused to discuss upgrading to a minivan. We were going to save gas and money by cramming two car seats and a booster into the Passat back seat. Then I discovered that you can’t find the seat belt to use with a booster when there are two car seats installed, so we ended up buying yet another car seat (I think we’ve purchased 7 car seats and 4 boosters for 3 kids, which backs up my decision to keep the pukey one as discussed above). But it worked!! I successfully installed three car seats across the Passat back seat while 8.5 months pregnant. A few months after G decided to join us out in the world, we were getting ready to take the kids and the Passat to Disneyland (see number 8 above). That’s when the rattle started. The day before our road trip, I heard a strange noise, primarily when going around a curve or turning. Sometimes while stopping. After imagining a wheel careening off of the car while driving through the Grapevine area, I called the dealer and made a service appointment. When I showed up, with G in tow in his infant carrier, I was met by a different service rep than I usually dealt with. My husband picked us up, then I waited for rep to call me and tell me what was wrong. My cell rang around 5 or 6 hours after I dropped off the car. The conversation went something like this:
“Hi, uh, we’re done with your car.”
“Great, what was the problem?”
“We don’t know.”
“What? What does that mean?”
“So, we cleaned out your back seat. Man, lady, you had a lot of stuff back there.”
“Yes, I have three kids, I know there was a lot but I didn’t have time to clean it out before I dropped it off.”
“No, I mean you had a ton of stuff back there.” He laughed and continued, “I’ve never seen so much stuff. There were books, and crayons, and toys, and…”
“Yes, there was a lot of stuff. So what was wrong?”
“Oh, we don’t know. We think something may have fallen into the air vent under the seat. That’s what’s rolling around when you’re driving. Are your kids missing any toys?”
Is he kidding me? He just told me how much crap I have back there and he thinks I keep an inventory? ”Uh, not that I know of. So, it’s okay to drive it?”
“Yes, everything checked out.”
So, in closing, perhaps a vehicle used to transport kids would be well served to have some sort of, say, grill or cover over the air vents under the seats. I’m just sayin.’