Passionate About Fort Worth
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Why My Toddler Is on a Leash

We all do things as parents that we swore we’d never do. We venture into parenthood with high hopes and concrete ideals, but, little by little, we learn to choose our battles, to do what works, to do what keeps the peace. I have learned, and will keep learning, I assume, to never say never. Because sometimes, a mama’s gotta do what a mama’s gotta do. And sometimes, this mama’s gotta use a leash on her child. 

Why My Toddleris on a Leash

My son and I were at the mall. I had a couple of errands to run, and so I armed myself beforehand with the stroller and a diaper bag filled with sippy cups and snacks. After a while, my child was begging to walk and to express his new-found toddler independence. I didn’t mind. As long as he stayed next to me, I was fine to walk slowly. On our way to exit the mall, I walked into one last store on the second level, knowing that his patience for shopping was running out. I quickly found what I needed, and we walked to the checkout together. While I waited for the cashier to finish with the customer before me, my child made a beeline for the door. I called his name. He kept running. So, I did what any reasonable mother would do. I dropped everything — my shopping bags, my purse, my stroller, the diaper bag — right there in the floor of the store, and I chased him. Out the door and past two other shops, I finally caught up with him. He was standing next to the second floor railing, hands clasping the bars, looking down to the first level. I was shocked at how wide the spaces between the rails looked with my child dangerously close to them. It was then that I decided I needed a leash.

I went straight home and searched “child safety harness” on Amazon. I was able to come to a decision quickly, and I ordered it then and there. It was a cute and functional little bumblebee backpack. The tether was removable, so we could continue to use it once my son no longer needed the guidance. It was perfect. Two days to ship, and it arrived. I was set.

I have used it only a handful of times. Once at the zoo, which felt a little too twisted for my taste — my tiny captive spending the day staring at all of the other captives. I used it once on a walk after a coffee shop visit. It was lovely to take a walk next to a busy street and not have to worry about him darting into traffic. I have used it in stores a couple of other times when he insisted that he needed to walk instead of ride.

But, when I have used it, I can tangibly feel the glares I get from others. I can see the question in their faces as their eyes go from my son, to the backpack (and subsequently, the leash), to me, and back to the leash. I can tell what they are thinking because I used to think the same thing. But, that was before I had a child that could outrun me. I want to sit them down and explain his toddler impulses, how he can break away from holding my hand in an instant. I want to tell them the mall story and how scary it is that he could be gone so quickly. I wish I had a t-shirt that said, “I really am a good mother.” I would wear it every time I have to employ the leash backpack.

But, the truth is, I am too old to spend too much time explaining myself. I am mostly confident in my parenting decisions, and I am definitely confident about this one. I know there will be those who will say that I am stifling his independence. Others may say that I should teach him to obey the first time I call his name and give an instruction, and let me assure you that I am trying. But he is still learning, and so am I. So, while we wait and figure this out together, he might be stuck wearing the backpack.

Today I was at the zoo with my son, and we found a cool spot for him to run and play while I rested my pregnant body. I saw another mom that was wearing an infant in a carrier while watching her other children play. I couldn’t get an exact count of how many children she had with her because they were running around, but this mama had her hands full. She had at least three bags hanging from one shoulder, and at her feet were several small backpacks, no doubt the responsibility of her children that were playing. But in her hand, I saw several hats to protect her kids from the sun and something else. I saw a leash. It was disguised as a stuffed monkey — cute and furry and unassuming — but it was still a leash. And I wanted to walk up to her and give her an awkward hug. I wanted to say, “I totally get it. Way to keep your kid safe.” I didn’t, and I kind of regret it. We mamas need that kind of encouragement and solidarity.

So, if you see me out with my toddler, and he is wearing a bumblebee backpack with a tether attached, please don’t give me the stink eye. Just know that I am a mom doing the best I can to make sure my child is safe and sound. Feel free to give me a high five or a thumbs up. Heck, I’ll even take an awkward hug.

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4 Responses to Why My Toddler Is on a Leash

  1. Carley June 10, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

    I have a toddler boy and I also use a leash. It’s only been a handful of times as well, but every time my son has it on I actually get encouraging comments from elderly woman, and a couple stares from others, but I don’t seem to notice those, ;).

  2. Jenny June 24, 2016 at 10:15 am #

    I will preface this by saying I am from Cincinnati. You know–where a child just went into the gorilla exhibit? I’ll leave that whole thing alone but to your point–moms in general are often held to impossible standards. If you hover over them you’re overprotective. If they run off, you’re a bad mom. Where the heck is the in between?? You know what? My kid is a runner too. And when he is not in a stroller or cart, I have a death grip on his hand. Because I know he is still learning impulse control. Now if he broke away from me, I am certain I’d get the stinkeye. My point being, no matter what you do at some point someone’s gonna have a problem with it. Personally I’ve bucked the idea of a leash because of the stares… but really, is a stroller, carrier, death grip etc reaaallly any different? How quickly people seem to forget it took some time for their own children to learn things. I say you’re doing a-okay!

  3. Starla June 25, 2016 at 9:52 pm #

    I’m not sure where the whole “kid-leashes are bad” thing came from, but I don’t care what other people say. If I use one to keep my pet safe, why wouldn’t I care enough to use one to keep my kid safe?

  4. Tracy-mama July 6, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    I was a tether judger… ok, I was a self-proclaimed “kid whisperer” and MONSTER tether judger. And as Karma usually does, it bit me in the butt. I have a runner. A FAST runner (is there any other kind). A silly, sweet, charismatic little boy that has legs that go faster than the wind and usually faster than this mama can go to catch up to him to keep him from danger.

    I always looked somewhat annoyed at the “tether parent”. Really? Just watch your kid. Until you look down for half a second to open a juice box or tie your daughter’s shoe and he’s gone. Gone and panic mode sets in, gone and he’s too far to grab before he runs into the street (thank goodness for the kindness of observant strangers….).

    Now I understand, and I apologize. Sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, to all the great “tether moms” out there, keeping their Littles safe. I applaud you and yes, I’ll give you that awkward hug, the passing high-five or just the silent nod because now I get it.

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