In the back of my scruffy, mum-wagon Vauxhall hangs a sweet caterpillar in rainbow colours, warning other road users that I have a ‘Baby On Board’.
It’s been there since the day we drove our first baby home from hospital – crawling at about 15 miles an hour and stopping every few minutes to check Harry was still actually breathing.
But it’s only recently that I have realised how very divisive they are. I gave a lift to a child-free friend last week (I don’t think she will ask again, she kept looking uncomfortable and retrieving small plastic dinosaurs from the fold of the seat. I am the first to admit that triceratops do not make good cushions).
Anyway, this friend saw my sign and asked if I thought it would stop her crashing into my car.
"It's not as if I would be planning to hit you and then change my mind because of the baby sign," she commented acidly, her temper slightly frayed by Harry enthusiastically kicking her seat in the hopes it would produce more dinosaurs. “I mean really, what’s it for?”
Surprised at her vitriol, I took to the internet to find out what other people thought about baby-on-board signs in cars. It turns out that nothing appears to enrage non-parents more.
“They are insulting,” said one person. “It’s like you think we drive dangerously unless you beg us to think of your kids.”
“They are stupid,” argued another. “What possible difference could a sign possibly make?
"Why do you need a sign anyway?" said one trollish person. "You're just showing off you've got children."
Wow. Honestly, in four years of driving a car with a baby on board sign I have never realised just how much they infuriate some people. But I am not taking mine down…
Baby, Cockapoo, Wellies And A Sea Of Junk On Board
Trust me I am not carrying my baby on board sign to show off. A casual glance through my window will reveal a sea of empty bottles, of picture books, of children’s coats and emergency wellies, and often a manic cockapoo. It’s not exactly the kind of domestic harmony I want to show off with a proud sign. If anything, I am relieved the baby on board sign explains the mess.
“Why is your car always so full of junk?” enquired my husband once, casually climbing into his immaculate, racy vehicle that has never once seen a car seat or mashed banana. I could barely bring myself to answer.
Nor do I think that other road users should slow to a respectful crawl as they pass me. I like to think that most drivers don’t want to crash their cars, so it’s not like they need a reminder.
But I don’t think the sign is stupid and I do think it can make a difference. Baby on board signs exist to warn other road users that the driver could be slightly distracted by the chaos that is a wailing baby.
Chaos In The Car
Just try to picture an average longer journey for me. Four-year-old Harry can now unclip his own seatbelt, meaning that I have to flip round to check on him every time we stop at the lights.
Two-year-old Olly cannot unclip his seatbelt and so spends a good 10 minutes of every journey straining until he is bright red and shouting “Stuck! Stuck, Mummy, STUCK!”
Both children will have armed themselves with toys before we get into the car, invariably these will be the noisy toys. So on top of the seatbelt fear and Olly’s shouting I will be listening to the Happy Frog having his button repeatedly pressed. Sometimes the boys will keep hitting the button so instead of proudly declaring: “It’s the Happy Frog Song!” the stupid toy will just go ‘It’s...It’s…It’s…It’s…It’s…It’s’ until I would pay £50 for it to finish the stupid sentence.
As well as the noisy toys and the seat belt fear and the shouting, the children will have begged me to put on one of their story CDs. We have a charming selection of stories read by David Tennant but they don’t want that one. They want the 'In The Night Garden' soundtrack so I have to listen to Derek Jacobi asking Upsy Daisy if she wants to kiss everything in the garden.
In brief, my car journeys sound like this:
“Stuck, Mummy, STUUUUCK!”
“Yes my name is Iggle Piiiiiggle…”
“It’s…It’s…It’s…It’s the… It’s…”
“Harry, don’t you dare touch that seatbelt!”
My baby on board sign is not a plea for you to change your driving; it’s a warning about mine. It is hard not to be distracted with that chaos going on. I am a very safe driver; I never speed, I follow the Highway Code, I am cautious. But I am also undeniably more distracted than a motorist blithely listening to Dido while they concentrate fully on the road.
In my car, the baby on board sign is a plea for your patience, not a slur on your own driving skills.
What do you think? Do baby on board signs make you simmer with rage or should we all lighten up? Have your say using the comments below.
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