Integrated Booster Seats
Conveniently Helping OCD Parents De-Clutter the Back Seat
By Kevin Miller
Becoming a father just over three years ago was absolutely a life-changing event. The unexpected benefits are intangible; the euphoria I experience when my daughter giggles, the way my heart melts when she gives me a kiss, the entertainment value when she sings songs from Mary Poppins while getting only about 40 percent of the words correct. Some parts of fatherhood are less rewarding: the lack of sleep, extra worry and expenditures, and having a big, bulky car seat filling up my otherwise-beautiful back seat.
For me, the car seat has been one of the most inconvenient aspects of fatherhood. As a self-proclaimed “car guy”, I hate the way the car seat looks in the car. Although I drive a Volvo wagon, known as a family car, the the Graco ComfortSport car seat my daughter started using at around 6 months of age was so large that when rear-facing, it made the front seat of the car essentially un-usable, and even then it left marks in the leather of the front seatback from rubbing.
About 6 months later, I was able to turn the car seat around, and it has been that way for the past two years. I’ve used it in each of the three backseat seating positions, with a protector under it to protect the leather upholstery. But now, finally, I am free.
Four years ago, before my wife and I were even expecting our daughter, we custom-ordered our V70. And one of the features we intentionally chose was Volvo’s integrated booster seats. Offered in XC70, XC90, and V70 models, the integrated booster in my 2004 vehicle is rated for children between 33 and 80 pounds, sized between 38 and 54 inches in height ( and XC70 models have two-stage integrated booster to expand the range to larger and smaller children). Having friends whose cars were junked up with car seats, and knowing that we tend to keep cars for a while, I was planning ahead for my own sanity by ordering the integrated booster seats.
Volvo V70 and XC70 models have two integrated boosters, in outboard rear seating positions (XC90s have a single integrated booster in the center seating position of the second-row seat). Using the integrated booster is incredibly simple. There is a latch on the front edge of each booster seat cushion. Lifting up on that latch releases the booster, which can be lifted up and pushed rearward, latching the seat in place. That raises the seating position so that the vehicle seat belt is properly positioned for a child to use it.
On a recent visit to her doctor, our daughter measured up to the minimum height and weight to use the integrated booster. Fortuitous, as the car seat usually in my Volvo was installed in the I was reviewing that week, and I needed to take my daughter on a run to the local home improvement warehouse to pick up some plants and soil. I popped up the booster seat, strapped in my daughter with the vehicle’s seat belt (she was thrilled to be riding like a grown up), and headed off to the store.
The down side to the integrated booster is that it lacks side bolsters of any kind. The first time I went around a corner my daughter tipped over sideways (and subsequently started laughing hysterically), as she is accustomed to being held in place by the bolsters of her car seat. On a 90 minute trip during nap time a few weeks later, she was unable to find a comfortable sleeping position, so we arrived at our destination with a crabby, tired little girl. Volvo does offer a “custom upholstery and head support” accessory which covers the car’s leather upholstery on the booster with a washable fabric upholstery, and it includes head support “bolsters” to facilitate napping in the car. I’m seriously considering this accessory, as it will make the integrated booster much more comfortable for my daughter to use.
Chrysler previously offered integrated child seats (with five-point harnesses) in their minivans beginning in 1992, and Saab has offered integrated booster seats in 900, 9-3, and 9-5 models in the US market. Volkswagen has offered integrated boosters (which included head bolsters) in some European Passat models. It is a great idea, allowing parents and kid-carpools flexibility in seating without hauling and stowing separate booster seats, and allowing OCD parents like myself to de-clutter the back seat.
Alas, my days of a tidy back seat will be short-lived. I am thrilled to say that my daughter will become a big sister this year around Thanksgiving. Then I’ll be back to having a bulky car seat cluttering my back seat. But I don’t mind… at least not much.
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