The first time someone sees a toddler wearing a leash, they are certain to have a strong reaction. I know I did when I saw my first child leash many years ago. Back then my response was negative (probably of the “what is she? A kid or a dog?” variety), and I’m sure I judged the kid’s parents. That was a long time ago though, and now that I’m a mom myself I realize that I was being extremely unfair.
I began to see things differently when my husband Mike and I wrote a post about this on our blog last year. In it, Mike wrote that he saw the value of the child leash if it gave the parents peace of mind, while I countered that I didn’t think it was necessary. When I went to bed after hitting publish I was certain that I would wake up to comments that reflected our two perspectives.
What I found in the morning surprised me. While there were numerous comments from parents who used the child leash for their own peace of mind as Mike surmised, there were also a great deal of other – often very serious – reasons for using the child leash. There were parents who said they never would have imagined putting their kid on a leash, but found it necessary when their toddler turned out to be a “bolter” – a kid who takes off running the minute he or she lets go of a parent’s hand. This very problem reared its head on the show Modern Family. Cam and Mitchell’s daughter, Lily, was a bolter, but Mitchell was self-conscious about her wearing a child leash so he took it off her. The result? Lily took off and disappeared into the crowd. While nothing tragic was going to happen on a comedy show, in real life something very well could in this situation. This is a very serious and dangerous problem, and parents are smart to put these kids on leashes.
There were other explanations too. One child had horrible anxiety in public and felt comforted by the leash; another had developmental issues and needed to be kept close at hand. Reading all of these comments made me realize I had been too quick to judge, and that instead of being a “bad” parent for putting their kid on a leash these parents were pretty terrific for putting up with all of the criticism and judgement.
The child leash issue, like so many other parenting issues, is one where people are quick to make snap judgements about right and wrong without stopping to first understand the complexities of the issue. I used to be like that, but now when I see a kid on a leash I don’t judge. Instead, I give the parent the benefit of doubt that they are doing what is best for their kid… naysayers be damned.