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Leash Laws

Posted Jan 17 2011 11:15am
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.
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