You know what the critics say: What kind of mother would leash her child? Who would dare treat her precious kin like a dog? What inhumane, loathsome creature would do such a miserable thing?
Fortunately, I don’t know any. Oh wait, yes, I do…
Quite recently, yours truly was rocking a leash with little Scrunchy Face in tow… and let me tell you, we made it look good. I’m surprised we weren’t stopped by any talent scouts looking for the latest cute, young things to amble down the runways of Paris and Milan. “What really completes that look, you know, is the child leash.”
I’d never really given child leashes — or, as they’re known more euphemistically, “harnesses” — much thought. My older son started walking during the warm weather months, when we could let him practice independence in a nearby field, worrying just a bit about him stepping in goose droppings but otherwise unconcerned. By the time the trees had shed their leaves, he had matured enough to hold our hands on various outings and, when left to his own devices, could be trusted to not, say, face-plant into a decorative ficus.
My younger son, darling little Scrunchy Face, has not been so fortunate. A late autumn baby, he started toddling about around his first birthday, not long before the polar vortex squeezed much of the country into its icy grip. There are no green, soft fields for him to frolic on — only worn shopping mall carpets and, most recently, the crowded waiting areas of LaGuardia Airport.
Which brings me to the leash. After surviving my first three and a half years as a parent without one, I decided that if there were ever a situation that merited the use of a child leash, it would be our upcoming family vacation.
I was right. Within 15 minutes of us reaching our airport gate, Scrunchy Face clamored to get out of the stroller. At first, my husband and I gamely tried walking with him, big hand in little hand, around the interconnected pleather seats. But soon, our backs began aching and he grew impatient — he was accustomed, after all, to ambling around our house all by himself and, even at the mall, we’d let him walk a few steps here and there on his own while we hovered behind him.
But at a busy airport, with rushed travelers hurrying to and fro while tugging easily-tipped suitcases, letting the baby roam free was not an option… so out came the leash.
To be clear, it’s not just a leash. The one I bought was a charming little backpack — I chose one with a monkey design — with a leash attached. The backpack has a chest clip across the front that makes it virtually impossible for your little one to wriggle out — so yes, it is pretty similar to a harness. But, really, who actually calls it a harness except for marketers trying to help parents feel a little less guilty about the uncomfortable similarity between how they restrain Fido and how they restrain their children?
I, for one, felt zero guilt. This is why: Once we buckled Scrunchy Face into the contraption, he was as smiley as the monkey face now adorning his back. He didn’t seem to care at all about the occasional tugs of the leash as he toddled all about, with both of his pudgy little hands now free to wave and point as he pleased.
I braced myself for judgmental looks. I didn’t see any — anyone who noticed him mosying around with a big goofy grin on his face just smiled right back. Baby was happy, Mommy was happy, no ficuses were harmed. It was a win-win-win!
I don’t plan on relying on the “special” backpack all the time, or even most of the time. Scrunchy Face needs to learn to be a hand-holding, law-abiding little tot. But my airport experience proved to me that there’s nothing wrong with a little leash time, no matter how much the critics may howl.
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