Monday, January 17, 2011

Leash Laws

Thanks for the supportive weigh-in on Will and discipline. Sometimes, just posting about an issue seems to help resolve it. Possibly it's the release of emotions and anxiety that change my attitude, which in turn, changes his.

We had to leave another play date on Friday, but we were there for a good hour before the infraction occurred. It also happened just as I sat down to nurse Emma. It doesn't take Freud to figure that one out. I just worked very hard at being as diligent and as consistent as possible these past few days (not that I wasn't being consistent before, I just made extra sure).

I also finally busted something out that my MIL had given me right before Emma was born: the leash.

Now, I'll be honest. When she gave me this thing, I tried to subtly look to see if she'd also included the gift receipt. I wasn't gonna leash Will. He is the kid that stays close by to me. He is usually contained in a stroller or cart. I always hold his hand or carry him in a parking lot or dangerous situation.

In the past month, however, there have been two times when I have had to chase Will down and there has been a kindly stranger that has intervened to corral him. If those strangers hadn't been around, things could have ended differently. The fact that, even for a few seconds, I wasn't in control and he was in danger haunted me.

I decided that he just wasn't ready to roam free, so it was back in a cart or stroller. But that isn't possible all of the time. And it's not really as much fun doing a necessary errand with a screaming child in the cart.

So, I dug through Emma's closet and found the leash. It's a fancy leash, actually a wrist band that connects us with a retractable cord. It's black and neon green and looks super cool. But it's still a leash.

I looked at it and felt trepidation. Had it really come down to this? Had it really come down to leashing my child? After all, one of my pre-kid statements was, "I will never put my child on a leash."

As Will grew and became more independent, I found myself looking at the "backpack" type leashes and even put one in the cart from time to time at the store. I always put it back because, ultimately, I still was on top of the situation. Lately, I can't say that I 100% will be able to keep him safe without the use of a leash.

Even though he was never in any true danger in these past two episodes, I saw how quickly it could happen. I saw how it takes just one second to go from being in control to being in an emergency situation.

So I put the leash in the diaper bag so that it would be there the next time we were in a situation where I felt as if I needed the extra security. That time came Friday night.

M woke up Friday with a horrible flu bug. He was out of commission for the day. I got the kids out of the house to give him some rest. We went to the mall to return some things and let Will play at the kiddie play area. I used the double stroller for that outing and he was contained and safe. Then, on the way home, I decided to take the kids into a Baja Fresh to get some dinner. This is one of those very situations where safety becomes an issue. I have a diaper bag, Emma in her car seat so I could set her down in the restaurant, and Will to manage by myself. It was a crowded parking lot and a small, crowded restaurant where a double stroller would not be appreciated - or even fit. I reached for the Ergo and realized that it was sitting on top of the washer at home. . . waiting to be laundered after an unfortunate incident involving Emma's first sweet potatoes. So, I reached for something else. . . the leash.

Will thought it was pretty cool to put on our matching "bracelets." He thought the retractable cord was fun, too. The walk across the parking lot was great. He was contained and safe.

We walked into the restaurant and again, it was great. He could walk in a three foot radius from me, so he felt the illusion of freedom, and I felt the reality of safety.

We got in line and there were two younger guys in front of us (man, I feel old calling them younger, when they were probably early twenties. . . but I digress) and one of them barked at Will and said, "Hey, buddy, are you a doggie?"

Now the guy didn't mean anything by it, he was just having fun and teasing, but it hit me where it hurts. That is exactly why I didn't want to leash my kids. They aren't animals, they are human beings.

I took a deep breath. Will thought being a doggie was great fun, after all. He woofed back and laughed. He was none the worse for the wear.

We put in our order, found a table, got settled, and enjoyed a nice meal (I took the leash off while we ate). I was complimented on my "beautiful and well-behaved children" by the elderly couple at the table next to us.

After dinner, I hesitated as I took out The Leash. I looked outside at our car, across a busy, blustery parking lot. I decided to go for the lesser evil and I put the wrist bracelet back on Will. As I did, the same elderly lady said, "Gosh, I wish they would have had those when I was raising my kids."

That made me feel a bit better. We headed out to our car.

He laughed and twirled as we crossed the lot. I was in control, I had him, I felt safer. He felt free.

Like so many pre-kid statements, I am retracting The Leash. I will not use it all of the time. I will use it when it is necessary. I realize some may not agree with me. Some may think I am treating my kids like animals. Like a lot of parenting decisions, it has to be what feels right for our family, for our kids. Right now, I am putting Will's safety above my own vanity, my own concern about what people might think.

Really, that is all that matters.

14 comments:

Laura said...

If we only knew before we had kids to never say, "When I have kids..." I can't begin to list the things I have done that I said I wouldn't.

Sounds like you have a happy little boy, with a momma that cares about him enough to protect his safety even if it means having to do something she said she would never do.

kim said...

I used a leash from time to time with my energetic son. My husband's (single childless) friend once commented how he hated seeing children on leashes, I just asked him if he preferred seeing children get hit by cars. He said "ok, if you put it that way...." I never had to use one with my other kids, but kids are not all the same and definately don't comprehend danger. If it doesn't effect Will in a negative way, then I say a happy healthy kid at the end of the day is well worth a change of views.

Searching said...

I agree. I firmly put that in the "keeping my kids safe by whatever means necessary" column. I think you are an excellent mom who truly does the best thing for her two kiddos. Glad you were able to have a successful outing so daddy could get some rest to get better!

manapan said...

I had a leash when I was Will's age, too. I still remember it, it was just two rainbow-print bracelets attached to a telephone cord. Whatever it takes to keep them safe!

You might want to switch to a backpack leash, though. I plan to use one if I ever need to, because I was a little devil about coming up with ways to figure out how to escape my bracelet leash.

You'll know he got loose because the line goes slack--unless he's wearing a small backpack that he hooks onto the bracelet and lets you drag it around the store. Then you look back (he's being too quiet!) and he's gone. That's how I got locked in K-mart when I was 3. There's nothing quite like seeing all the lights turn off to make a kid go running to the front of the store screaming for Mommy. My poor long-suffering mother! :)

Studentrntiffany said...

What an awesome topic to post about. I could write a novel already about all the things I said I would never do, and now I do them.

I can definitly see the use for a leash. Do you think you would prefer the back pack to the wrist leash?

Rebecca said...

I love old people...when I'm old, I'm always going to compliment people on their kids. They do it when you most need it!

I bought two for our trip to Orlando. I never needed them (due to very diligent family members), but wouldn't have hesitated.

Oh, and I would have wanted to punch that barking dude right in the face. A$$!!!! (have I mentioned that I'm obsessed the Baja Fresh and haven't been there in ages??? So jealous!)

It is what it is said...

"Safety first" is our motto and our son will repeat it (he may not, however, STOP when I say STOP). But, "safety first" is exactly what I would say to anyone who dare give me the stink eye if I used a leash (I never was so fortunate to).

Do what you have to do and know that being a good parent sometimes (often) means not caring what others think. Good for you, good for Will!

HereWeGoAJen said...

I had an argument with another mom about the leashes recently. She said she thought they were awful and she'd never do it. I asked her if she ever put her kid in a stroller or carried her. Because a leash actually gives them more freedom than either of those. I think of it as a learning tool- for a kid that is ready to walk but not yet ready to totally understand that cars can hurt you or that you can lose your Mommy and not be able to find her again. We don't have one yet, but I see one in our future.

Nicky said...

One of the problems with leashes, like so many other useful tools, is that they get misused. Using one in a busy parking lot when you're alone with two kids is an excellent use of a leash. My problem with them is when parents use them out of laziness -- the first time I saw one, it was a friend of mine using one inside a house so that he could sit and chat with friends without having to pay attention to his kid. No safety concerns, he just didn't want to be bothered. And watching this poor kid who could barely sit down to play, for several hours, made me instantly anti-leash.

Now that I have two kiddos of my own, I'm definitely seeing the utility of having a device that will keep a toddler from getting hit by a car, and I'm rethinking my stance as well. I just need stop beating myself up about seeing myself as lazy, which really is NOT the case when it's used as you describe.

A'Dell said...

Do you have a link for yours? I'm curious how it works - if it's a bracelet can't Will just...take it off when it suits him? Or is there a lock or latch or something?

Because that is TOTALLY something Claire would figure out and delight in doing as soon as it restricted her.

And I think all of that bullshit about leashes and the stigma they have is so ridiculous. Just think of all the other humiliating things we do to our kids in the name of safety or turning them into normal adults. HEH!

Good for you.

Pamala said...

Although I only used the leash twice, I have never understood the anti-leash people. Why do we treat our dogs with more care than our children? I mean seriously think about it, toddlers tend to act in a similar manner to dogs, so we should care for them in the same manner. You have to protect a dog from running into the street, running away in general, hurting other things or people. Aren't these all things we want to protect our children from too?

Oddly enough I wrote a post on this not too long ago.

Mel said...

I was just telling a friend the other day that you have to stop being then "I would never..." person from the moment you see two pink lines. It is a constant learning curve!

We are about to the leash point. I don't care what people say. I know when the second arrives it will be a mandatory as she has already tried to dart away from me in parking lots and the mall. And strollers and shopping carts? Psh. So over it. She's not even 2 and she's already made it clear to me that neither of those will fly any more. A MOM HAS GOT TO DO...

xoxo

Jen said...

What's really fun is to start a post on any random pregnancy message board about leashes. All the first time moms will say how awful they are and all the moms of toddlers will talk about how they can be necessary and never say never. Then a war erupts. So much fun :)

Joy@WhenDoesDaddyComeHome said...

I posted about this on FB recently (maybe you saw my status?!). Anyway I was one of those people who judged others for using them... but now I'm a MOM and I UNDERSTAND!!!

And everyone who commented on my status (my mind is drawing a blank; I swear you or someone with a similar name was commenting on it) ended up saying they loved it, it saved their sanity, that keeping their kids safe was more important than peoples' opinions, etc.

I still don't have a leash but I'm not opposed to getting one.