So, I learned something new today. And it kind of upsets me.
Okay, maybe “upset” is not the right word, but I’m totally taken aback by this.
Today, I leaned that “leashing” your child(ren) is a HUGE hot-button debate in the Mom-verse. Maybe I’m off in my own little world for not realizing this before just now, but there you have it. It’s seriously the subject of rather heated debates on mommy message boards with those who have no problem with it and don’t understand what the big deal is, and those who swear on a stack of Bibles that they’ll never leash their child under any circumstance.
Me, I’m in the camp that has no problem with it and doesn’t see what the big deal is. Well, I say “no problem.” Like any safety or control device, a toddler leash (or safety harness, if you like) can be used for destructive ends. For example, a mother goes to the grocery store with her three-year-old in tow. She wanders down the aisles, choosing the occasional food item, yammering away on her cell phone while her leashed child is constantly about five feet behind her, pulling items off the shelves willy-nilly. This is lazy parenting and not an acceptable use for a toddler leash. Or, let’s say that a parent has a child on a leash and says nothing to them until the child gets to the end of said leash whereupon the parent jerks the child back and berates him for wandering too far. This is also not an appropriate use for a toddler leash.
Indeed, there are numerous situations in which using a toddler leash is inappropriate. So many of these situations exist, in fact, that one could begin to wonder whether or not a situation exists where a leash would be acceptable to use. After all, as critics of the toddler leash say, there’s no substitute for attentive parenting. Just teach the kids to listen and mind and hold hands and you’ll be fine! After all, leashing a child is degrading and lazy and teaches the child that he is no better than a dog! He’ll be scarred for life!
Well, I’m here to tell you that I was leashed as a child, and suffered no psychological damage from it. In fact, I have no recollection of it at all. If my mother hadn’t told me about doing it and why, I’d have no freaking clue. So, here’s the skinny. I was a rambunctious child. It wasn’t so long after I figured out walking that I figured out running, and I apparently was extremely curious about the world I lived in. So, there I am, about a year and a half old, with an older brother who’s about three and a half, and a mom pregnant with my little sister. She (my mom) loves her children, and wants to keep them all safe and happy, but her dear daughter is active and curious and has absolutely zero sense of what a dangerous situation is, and as hard as it is to chase a toddler down in a crowded place while pregnant, she’s also got to drag my brother (who doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about) along with her while she does it. Insert leash here. Problem solved. Curious, active child gets to explore at least some of her world relatively safely without giving her mother even more gray hair when she tries to bolt after something interesting.
Does this mean I was a bad kid? Not especially. I wasn’t trying to cause problems. I was just curious and didn’t quite understand “No!” or “Stop!” very well. Or at all. Does this mean my mother was a bad or lazy parent? Certainly not. If anything, it makes her a good parent because she understood her child and her own limitations and did what she had to do to keep her daughter safe. How is that possibly a bad thing? And, obviously, she used the leash on me only as long as it was absolutely needed. She taught me to mind and hold hands and not wander off fairly straight away because, as I said before, I have no personal memory of actually wearing a leash.
Using a leash properly, as a safety measure and a teaching tool, is not cruel or degrading. It’s certainly not for every child or every situation, but I think it does have its place in the pantheon of parenting tools. Me? Well, as you know, I’m having twin boys. And if they’re anything like Andrew and me (and genetics says they will be), you better believe we’ll be leashing them when we go to festivals and zoos and museums and airports. Of course, we’ll be teaching them to mind and hold hands and not wander away, but honestly, airport security in a foreign country is not really where you want to be relying solely on your two-year-olds’ ability to mind you perfectly.
But, as always, that’s just me. If you don’t leash your kids and they do just fine that way, awesome! More power to ya! Seriously, good job. And maybe I won’t have to do it, either. There is just no way to know. But, should the need arise, I’m not particularly willing to sacrifice my children’s safety and my sanity so that I don’t get dirty looks at the farmers’ market.