Friday, October 7, 2011

To leash or not to leash, is there even a question?

I was on my favorite parenting message board the other day when a topic came up about tethering your child, or putting your child on a lease like this one:

Some were of the opinion that tethering your child like this is inhumane because it makes them feel like an animal to be dragged about.  They are entitled to their opinion for sure.  But I'd like to send out a generic, to-the-world other-perspective.

I think there are many that have had 'that' child - the 'bolt-er', the 'stubborn independent', the 'escape artist', the 'too friendly for their own good.'  And no matter how well you think you're watching them, almost every parent has had that sickening realization that their child has either disappeared somewhere, even if its for a minute, or headed towards that busy street or parking lot.  I've experienced such an emotion.  And it was only magnified by the knowledge that there was absolute nothing I could do about it.  Because no matter how fast I pushed my chair, I was not going to get to my child in time.  And quite literally my 'bolt-er's life was saved by the fact that I had my sister with me.  She was able to run and snatch her up as her little foot took its first step off the curb as a car was going too fast through a mall parking lot.  I've never been so scared, nauseated, helpless, angry, and disabled as I was at that moment.

I honestly don't remember how I found that little doggy backpack.  I don't remember if it was a gift or if I just saw it at Wally Big Box and the light bulb flared over my head.  My daughter hated it.  She would throw fits when I put Puppy on her.  And for the next little while it really did feel like I was dragging around a puppy on a leash.  She would flop herself on the ground, or she'd start out walking on one side and then stop, run behind me and then try to walk on the other side, making me have to loop the tether up over my head and grab the loop with my other hand.  Or she'd take off running and quickly find her feet out from under her as she crashed to the floor and occasionally bang her little head on my chair.  I know I got quite a few disapproving stares from people at the store or mall.  But despite the learning curve for me and her, and definitely despite my confirming the nay-sayer's opinion on tethering, I knew I was doing the right thing for my child.  I wouldn't have to worry about losing her and I would not have to worry about her dying in front of me because I couldn't catch up to her.

She got used to it eventually.  And as she got a bit older, we did a few trial runs without Puppy.  She would prove that she could walk near me without running off and eventually Puppy was no longer needed.  I attribute this to the tethering.  The physical restraint in combination with verbal reinforcement to obey my life-saving/sanity-saving commands like Stop, Come Back or Slow Down helped my daughter to learn how to stay in my visual proximity, for my peace of mind, while allowing her the independence she craved.

It made transitioning from one toddler to two so much more smooth as well.  And I quickly realized that it was something even more needed when I had that extra child to keep track of.  It took him a bit longer to get to the trusted "leash-free" status, but now I get a lot of compliments on how well my children stay near me. Its like any other parenting tool - its there for the short time its needed to help our children be the best they can be.

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