Saturday, September 24, 2011

Reining him in

Okay, I'm just going to go ahead and say it: I'm beginning to think that those oft-maligned kid leashes aren't such a bad idea.

I've been wondering about this for a while, actually. I've heard them described with disdain for years, and I'll admit I had a negative visceral reaction when I saw a child in one at the library a while back. In her column this month, the editor of Real Simple magazine pokes fun at the harnesses, reasoning that "not all ideas that can be easily explained are good ones; leashes for children come to mind.") As the mother of an almost-two-year-old boy who loves to run away from me at every opportunity, though, I now beg to differ.

Picture me running a quick errand with my toddler. I take him out of his car seat and head into, say, the pharmacy. I just need to pick up a prescription, so I don't want to pull out the stroller and strap him in--particularly because he generally hates being confined in the stroller. (And because the aisles of our old CVS are so narrow the stroller might not actually fit.) Instead, I either hold him or, preferably, hold his hand and walk with him through the drugstore to the pharmacy counter, where I must then dig one-handed in the diaper bag for my wallet, awkwardly wrestle my HSA debit card from its place in the credit-card lineup one-handed, and sign my name twice (once on the receipt, once on the prescription pick-up sheet) without letting go of Nate's hand to hold down the paper. If, at any point, I have to use my left hand, Nate takes off, oblivious to my pleas that he stay beside me.

In other words, I'm beginning to see the value in somehow tethering him to me.

I haven't done it, of course, because I'm the kind of person who cares far too much what other people think of me, and I don't know that I could deal with the stares that my leashed child would elicit. (Even if he were wearing one of those cutesy "I'm a cuddly animal backpack with a long handle" contraptions that fool no one.)

I'm wondering, though, how it is that the kid leash became so universally mocked. The obvious answer, of course, is that we use leashes for dogs, and so harnessing a child seems akin to treating him like an animal. And maybe that's right. But hear me out: No one thinks twice about seeing a toddler in a stroller. I mean, aside from some hard-core Montessori folks who would want a child restrained only when required by law or for obvious safety (e.g., in a car seat), or some hard-core babywearing types, like Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in Away We Go, people don't have a problem with pushing a small child around strapped into a seat. And neither do I. We have and use a stroller, whenever it makes sense and Nate will tolerate it.

But a child in one of those kid harnesses actually has more freedom to move and explore than a child in a stroller. He can stoop down to touch the grass. He can pick up sticks and leaves and acorns. He can turn around to look at anything he pleases, without his view blocked by a stroller seat. Honestly, there's a part of me that thinks Nate might prefer the toddler leash.

I'm hoping and praying this period of impressive mobility (seriously, people constantly comment on how fast he is) coupled with a tendency to wander, is short-lived. Nate is so good at following most instructions--throwing things in the trash, putting away toys, cleaning up spilled food--but his curiosity just gets the best of him when I need him to stay stationary in public. I'll probably just stick to putting him in the Ergo carrier when the stroller is impractical and I know I'll need both hands. But my hat's off to you, kid-leash inventor. Maybe it's not such a bad idea, after all.

12 comments:

Maureen said...

I don't know why people mock the kid leash, either!! I have no problem with it, for what it's worth!

Dr. Maureen said...

And what if you have three kids? And they're runners? It is better the child should run into the street and get hit by a car? Kid leashes have their place. I have one. I haven't used it yet either, partly because of my fear of public opinion, but I may break it out for walking to and from school once this baby is born. Because Nora cannot run into the street.

Tracy said...

I am not ashamed to say that a harness leash saved my sanity and my son's life on more than one occasion. Mac was a bundle of energy and he could run like the wind. I did not care what anyone thought. Plus we went to yellowstone when he was almost 4, and it was scary With the leash ON. I don't want to imagine him able to run away with geysers and mud pots everywhere! Only one person said something negative there, and she was obviously not a mom yet!

And yes, he preferred the leash to the stroller or to holding hands. He could walk ahead a few steps and he liked that a lot.

Dr. Maureen said...

Last night I dreamed that Nora ran out into the street 50,000 times. I had to leash her. I blame you. :)

Lisa said...

I felt the same way about leashes until I had a child just like yours...a "dasher". Unfortunately, our kid would have needed a padlocked straight jacket to keep the thing on since she's also been a master of escaping (carseats, booster seat buckles, stroller buckles). So, alas, it would not have worked for us. They do, though, grow out of this "dash" stage, so just hang in there.

Salome Ellen said...

My parents had a "harness" for my brother 50-odd years ago. I credit it with keeping my mother sane. Maybe we should start a publicity campaign "It's not a leash, it's a tether" or something....

Erica said...

I support the kid leash fully.

perennial-mommy said...

Lauren, I would have NEVER put a "leash" on my girls..they didn't need it. John is another story. I found I cute backpack with a tether (not an animal, but a real backpack that he can put a few favorite toys in). We strapped it on him while wandering around the new house during a construction meeting. I haven't used it in public, but I will when needed.

Maureen said...

The leash, taken even further...

http://www.mommysentials.com/item_10/The-BabyKeeper-Basic.htm

The BabyKeeper. Oh, my, just look at the picture...

Betsie said...

I LOVE my kid leash/tether/whatever you want to call it, and I refuse to apologize for it. I don't know how I would have dealt with my 3-hour layover at the airport with 5 kids, one of them my uber-active 2-year-old. The leash let him explore just a bit and eased my mind that he wasn't going to wander away while I carried luggage and presented boarding passes.

Let people think what they will- I think the leashes are awesome, and I think it's funny how some are so sensitive to a leash when, as you mentioned, a child strapped into a stroller is considered no big deal.

A'Dell said...

Hrmmm, YES. Leashes. I think they should come with a sign that says, "What?! You'd rather this child get hit by a car than stay safely on this sidewalk while she learns how to follow directions and keep herself safe from oncoming traffic? YOU'RE the bad person, not me."

They have a place and anyone that gives a parent crap over that? That person has never spent more than three minutes with a 2 or 3 year old. They're just not normal people. THEY NEED CONTAINMENT.

Heather R said...

I have one of those animal back pack leashes. I bought it for my daughter when she was around 2 because was a runner and I was very pregnant and couldn't run. But then I chickened out and never used it. I stuck with the stroller. My son, who is now 2, is not a runner, but I have used it once with him. We went to the aquarium and I had to watch both kids by myself. I didn't want to strap him in because he wouldn't have been able to see everything very well and I would have had to put him and take him out over and over. So I used the leash and it gave me peace of mind knowing I wasn't going to lose him in the crowd. (it was VERY crowded....school vacation week). btw- Hi, I'm Heather. I found your blog through Dr. Maureen....she is my real-life friend:)