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Runaway Toddlers are the Leash of my Worries

I always had a ready answer for anyone who questioned my toddler leash at Disneyland. “How else,” I was going to say, “am I going to get him to heel, sit and stay properly?”

Too bad nobody ever said a thing to me. I was seriously disappointed that I never had the chance to use that line.

A recent episode of Modern Family featured Lily, the adorable  four-year-old adopted daughter of Mitch and Cal, leashed at Disneyland. I chuckled my way thought the entire episode, not just because my four-year-old is acquainted with the adorable and feisty actress who plays Lily, but because it was Disneyland that changed my mind about the practice of harnessing and leashing my child like a dog (emphasis mine).

Prior to having a child that was a runner and bringing said child to a theme park packed with strangers, parades and trolley cars pulled by large hoofed horses, I managed to steer clear of the leash. I may have even looked slightly askance at other parents who went the way of the webbing strap.

I made it through three toddlerhoods with this semi self-righteous attitude of “Who would do that?” before I even considered leashing a kid. I had mine all trained (but not like dogs). We were civilized. There was never any need to go to such extreme measures when my little girls would have been content to ride around in their strollers/personal princess floats ’til they were old enough to apply for jobs as Disney Cast members.  My older son? He was never one to let me out of his sight. We held hands in crowds.

I never lost my kids in public places. Oh no. Not me.

I was in the Adventureland section of Disneyland when my fourth child, then two years old decided he’d had it with being tied down in his stroller. He wanted up. Out. He wanted to walk. It was very crowded and we figured he’d change his mind as soon as we set him down and he found himself surrounded by big unfamiliar feet and hairy legs. Wrong.

Once he was mobile there was no stopping him. It only took a second. I turned my head to answer my other child’s question and poof! My 2-year-old was gone. Vanished into the thick sea of humans, many of whom were driving motorized carts and appeared to be not looking where they were going.

Frantically I yelled for him. I jumped onto a chair, searching for a glimpse of his red hair and tie dyed tee amidst the crowds streaming from the Tiki Room to Tarzan’s Tree House. Visions of my toddler heading towards the Jungle Cruise (a favorite) and falling into the river were more than I could take. I was dizzy, lightheaded and nauseous. It was the longest five hours (two minutes in real time) of my life.

My son was playing with a rubber snake in the store right behind me.  If I could have attached that snake to his overalls right then and there, he would have been leashed. Instead I had to wait for a plush monkey “backpack” with a retractable banana (leash) to come in the mail. We used that backpack on several subsequent visits, until my son got a little better at staying with the group.

Sometimes kids have to be restrained for their own good. In car seats, for example. We strap our kids down in strollers and we lock them behind safety gates. The world may be divided into those who would and those who would never leash their toddler, but I’m betting anyone who looks askance at a leashed toddler, has probably never had a runner. If they had, the leash and the potential damage to their child’s psyche and their own reputations would have been the least of their worries.

We don’t have to use the leash anymore. These days my son heels perfectly.

Note: Just to clarify: While I do leash, I don’t lock my kids in a dog cage. They made themselves cozy at play in the one pictured above while we were pet sitting for friends.

 

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