Monday, March 7, 2011

At the End of My Leash

When I posted about going to the Aquarium, I mentioned that I was hesitant about using Lily Ruth's monkey leash. You might have said to yourself 'but Rachel, why would you worry?' You're about to find out why...

This week, a mama in one of my on-line birth clubs - this one is all mamas with kiddos born the same month as Lily Ruth - asked about using a backpack-leash. Here is her initial post:

"Baby Leash - Yes or No?

Bellie doesn't care to be in the shopping cart, nor does she want to be in her stroller. She wants to walk. I had seen these Monkey Leashes and used to roll my eyes and say "Oh goodness, kids are NOT dogs, hold your kids hand dumb ass!"
But, I saw my SIL (sister in law) use one for my nephew and she said it was great. Like Bellie, he didn't want to hold her hand. He wanted to be independant with no help what so ever. Bellie isn't the type to run off, and neither is the nephew, but it just seemed like a good idea.
So, I got one today! LOL. I actually like it. We walked around Wal-Mart with her strapped to the monkey. I jokingly told DSS (darling step son) if he wanted to "walk" his sister, LOL. He was actually thrilled. The kids LOVE to help out with Bellie (he's 9) and he felt like such a big help when he was "walking" his sister. 
What do you ladies think? Do you have one?"

She got a few responses - me among them. For the most part, they were 'pro-leash', but there were a few 'no for me, but you go right ahead'. Then one of the more sanctimonious mamas chimed in (obviously, her kids are perfect):

"I am against them for all but special needs situations.

They give a false sense of security and do not actually do anything to helpl children learn safer habits. OK so maybe a stranger can't pick up your child and run off, but, honestly how often do you think that happens? Typically, children are kidnapped by non-custodial parents, or kidnapped from highly affluent families for ransom. A leash wouldn't help in those cases and you would know if you were at risk.

However, leashes can be a tangling, strangulation, or tripping hazard. They decrease the "teachable moments" in family outings. They can create power struggles. I'd much rather spend my time and energy teaching my child how to be safe in public. Those lessons will last a lifetime. 

I think leashes have a place in special needs situations - either a child with a serious developmental delay that CANNOT understand safety or a caregiver who physically cannot carry or run after a child if the need arose. In those situations, safety trumps the philosophical problems of using a leash.

End professional, child development opinion. Enter personal opinion and anecdote. I think leashes are controlling, inhibiting, and disrespectful. My child is an energetic, inquisitive and rambunctious toddler. She doesnt love her stroller - she prefers to walk and be independent. But she is incredibly safe in public because she knows that we will go home if she is not safe. I take her all over creation and she does not run away."

So, that one was a bit preachy, but not too bad... Then it got ugly:

"you can hate me for this if you want but there is no WAY IN HELL I WOULD PUT ONE ON MY KID.
If he will not hold my hand he will be picked up or put in a cart or stroller. HE DOES NOT HAVE A CHOICE.
My son is not an animal, and i will not treat him like one. He has learned that if he wants to walk he must hold our hand and does so with a smile on his face.
It seems like a lazy way out for parents"

and this one:

"I'm SO with you, (name of group member).  TEACH your children how to behave in public.  I have a 3 1/2 year old and my son was born June 25, 09.  They are energetic, independent and curious but also very aware that running off is not a safe thing.  
I have no problem taking them to the stores - instead of running off behind them,  screaming to get their attention - I engage them in the process.  They LOVE to help and I take that opportunity to teach them new vocabulary, colors, opposites, you name it!  It's a learning experience! 
 Time consuming?? YES! but that's why we are parents - to dedicate our time and best efforts to educate our children.
I respect everyones opinion but for me taking the time to teach them is much less stressful than "walking" them on a leash!"

Um, wow. I couldn't let that go by. I just couldn't. So I had to put in my (additional) two cents:

"I find it interesting that the mamas who are adamantly against the leashes are responding in such a negative manner. Of course we all care about our kids, and we want to teach them to listen, respond and have patience. It's also nice to have some peace of mind during that process. I have an intelligent, spirited daughter who is learning at a lightning pace. One of the things that she is learning is that she has her own opinion. This doesn't make her 'bad', nor does it make me lazy, but it means that occasionally, she doesn't listen to me right off the bat. I also choose to allow her more freedom than some other mamas might. I do this because I believe that she needs to explore and learn and find out what limits are. This means that when it's feasible, she is allowed to choose to walk or sit in her stroller (I also can't BW for long periods of time due to physical limitations). When we are someplace crowded, and she chooses to walk, it's not a bad idea to be able to pull her in closer to me very quickly. Not because she has chosen poorly, but maybe because someone else isn't paying attention, or because something beyond our control has changed.
I'm having trouble understanding where the serious negativity is coming from. We 'leashing' mamas are simply making a choice that is different to yours. We're not tethering our children to a pole and leaving out bowls of food and water (something I would never do to my awesome dog, never mind my baby). We're giving ourselves some breathing room in public - the ability to know that our little ones are safe as they learn more about their world. Yes, I am teaching my daughter to hold my hand and be safe. Yes, she pushes her limits while learning. Yes, I know that she cannot make it to the street before I can stop her because her adorable backpack leash will stop her. Why does that make me a horrible person?"

Now I only posted that an hour ago or so, but none of the Negative Nellies have responded... what do you think? Dang, now I wish I had posted more about the vaccination debate that I got all 'het up' about last week. Oh well - that one was flat-out CRAZY instead of just full of negativity about the parenting choices of others... perhaps it's best that I let it die out without me...

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