A few weeks ago, I did the Walk for Autism at the Cincinnati Zoo. Unfortunately, it started raining pretty heavily, so we bailed early. O was sick (again), and I didn’t want to make things worse. Of course, an hour or so after we left the skies cleared into the most beautiful blue spring sky you’ll ever see, but I digress.
So, I was thinking about the logistics of the walk earlier that week, and I wondered out loud to O’s dad about getting a harness/leash type thing for O. O *hates* the stroller, and I thought a leash might be a better option for lots of walking around in a crowded place. O’s dad was not pleased.
“What!? Well, don’t look at me when O comes home with a newspaper in his mouth!” he said.
“Uh, huh? What does that even mean?!” I asked
“Oh, you know, you’re gonna leash our kid like a dog so he might act like one later in life. Bad joke,” he said.
“Um…, OK then.”
After that odd exchange, O’s dad went on to express some pretty seriously strong opinions about leashing O. Things I never even considered! Such as parents who leash their children are “lazy” and just don’t want to keep a hand on or keep a close eye on their child. Really? Have these lazy-callers ever taken their very fast 21-month-old to a very crowded, public place on their own?
Here’s some background on why I considered “leashing” O:
1) The aforementioned stroller hate.
2) O loves to run. A lot. At a fast clip. With no regard to his own safety. Maybe that regard will come soon, but last week he jumped out of a moving wagon to run across a street to a bike. (He also loves bikes.) Visions of him escaping me at the zoo were too frightful not to take seriously.
3) I figured with a leash, he could run around and explore. I could also pick him up to see the exhibits easily, without unbuckling him, taking him out of the hated stroller, and then trying to force him back in it.
4) As a single mom, I don’t have that “backup” in public spaces that married couples have. I don’t have another set of eyes. If O gets away from me, I don’t have a Dad to step in and grab him—it’s ALL me ALL the time. I can handle it for the most part—but did I mention O’s fast? All it takes is that one time where he escapes and something could go horribly wrong. (And I don’t believe for a second that no parent has never had a wily toddler escape from his or her grasp for a moment or two.)
I’ve seen kids leashed (isn’t there another word for it, really?) before. I always thought it to be a little weird, but never gave it much more thought. But as I talked to other moms about the whole leashing thing, it became apparent that lots of people have very strong opinions about it. One friend was silent for a good chunk of the time as I told her about my possible leashing plan. I suspect she had really strong feelings about the subject, but wasn’t about to tell me how to raise my kid. Because I know this particular friend, and if she has an opinion about something, she’s going to tell me.
And when I googled this topic—oh MY! People sure do have opinions. The most common negative one being the “lazy” comment I got from O’s dad. Although honestly, I don’t know how much different a stroller is from a leash when it comes to the lazy department. You’re less lazy because you’re pushing something?
It wasn’t like I was going to leash O all the time, everywhere. But at this crowded zoo, on this crowded walk, I thought about it. Ultimately I decided against it, and we went with the stroller—O couldn’t see much, didn’t get to explore, but he was fine. All the commotion and seeing so many other kids in strollers seemed to appease him.
Not to say I wouldn’t consider the leash in future situations, but right now I’m going to continue to try to stress to O the importance of not running away from his Mom and Dad, into the street, etc. It’s working pretty well–so far, so good.
I’ll letcha know how it goes. In the meantime, I’m going to keep up with that whole “trying to not judge other people’s parenting choices” thing. I’ll letcha know how that goes, too.