I’ve had a Mini Cooper since 2004. And I’ve absolutely loved it. I can park anywhere (so handy for city life), it gets good gas mileage, it’s a great commuting car cause you can cut people off easily (I mean zip in and out), it’s fun to drive, and it’s even really good on snow and ice (err, as long as the snow isn’t really thick, like Minneapolis-unplowed-alley thick.)
When I got pregnant I knew car seats and Mini Coopers weren’t a great combo, but like a lot of baby things, I decided to see how it went first. I did a lot of research on car seats and indeed people were putting them in Minis, so we installed a base for our Graco Snugride 35 into the rear passenger side of the car. I was a little more comfortable with the wait-and-see approach since we always take Adam’s car when it’s the two of us, so I knew Beatrice’s time in the Mini was mostly limited to infrequent two-mile trips to daycare and the pediatrician.
Getting her in and out safely was doable because you can remove the Graco bucket seat from the base. When she has little, from a newborn up to six months or so, we always left her in the Graco bucket seat and carried her and the seat in with us. As she got older and heavier we unbuckled her from the car seat and left it in the car, carrying her in our arms wherever we needed to go. Getting the carseat in and out of the Mini was awkward but doable. In order to get her out but leave the seat in the car, we had to spin the seat around, which was a bit dicey looking, and it only got worse as she got heavier.
We tried a rear-facing convertible car seat in the Mini to see if that’d work, but quickly realized that the only way we were getting her in and out of that thing was through the trunk. (Note: the AAP only recently changed their recommendation for how long kids should be rear-facing in a car seat, upping it from one year to two. If you were willing to go right from a bucket seat to a forward-facing car seat (or had a shorter kid so your bucket seat lasted longer), you could continue to enjoy your kid + Mini Cooper life. But as we hope that another kid is in our future, we decided just to cut bait).
So we continued on with the spinning of the bucket seat (and I prayed that other parents wouldn’t see my circus routine) and started thinking about a new car. I’ll spare you our thought and research process because it’s boring and skip to the punch: we decided on a 2010 Subaru Forester Limited, preferably in gray or black. We contacted dealers and set up searches and waited for one to buy.
Months passed, and I finally screwed up the courage to look up the height maximum on her car seat: 32 inches. At Bee’s twelve-month appointment she checked in at 31 inches. Yikes. More months passed. Some cars came up and too stressed that week, we ignored them. Dealers warned me to sell the Mini before fall, when suddenly Minis look less appealing to Minnesota drivers.
Finally another car came up and after getting an email about it a couple of times, we shook ourselves out of stupor and made an appointment, and bought the car that night. I went to pick it up the next day by myself, and driving away from that Mini wasn’t unlike driving to work my first day back from maternity leave . . . peeking through the rear-view mirror and wondering “Did I forget anything? Will she be OK? This feels wrong!”
For the curious, here’s a step-by-step approach for how to get a 26 lb. toddler in and out of a Mini Cooper.
Before you get started, spin the bucket seat around so it’s facing you. Then pick your kid up…
And drop her carefully into the seat.
Lean awkwardly into your car and buckle her in.
Lift up the car seat…
Spin it… (This is a great postpartum ab workout!)
And carefully set her down. Voila!
Beatrice’s look says, “Mama, this is ridiculous. Buy another car.”
To get her out, merely reverse the process. Lift the seat out while pulling back on the red handle…
Spin and awkwardly place it facing you. Unbuckle and lift her out, hopefully avoiding hitting one of your heads or limbs on the car.
Well, it’s bye-bye Mini… we had some good times. May you bring someone else as much enjoyment as you brought me!