It is a topic that gets heated on parenting message boards: Child Leashes, Tethers, and Restraints. But it isn’t just non-parents that don’t like these devices. In Attachment Parenting circles I’ve heard a child tether compared to a circumstraint and described as distinctly NON-AP. I disagree. First and foremost, AP is about being in tune with the needs of your individual child and trusting your instincts.
I remember the first time I saw one when I was about 12 years old. I was horrified! Leashes are for dogs how dare a parent treat a child like a pet! Yet thinking back, I remember my mom using one of me on occassion. I also remember times when she didn’t use one and I got lost at the supermarket or a crowded mall. I was traumatized by being lost and not by the leash, go figure.
When Shammy started walking he wasn’t very good at holding onto an adult’s hand for more than a few steps. Now that he’s running I was terrified of all of the things that could happen in the span of a few seconds in a public place. Because of this we didn’t let him walk outside the house with few exception. He was in the Ergo, the stroller or a shopping cart.
So, here’s my shocking confession: I’m a child tetherer.
Yep, I walk my toddler on a leash!
I never imagined myself to be a mother that would use a leach. But I much rather have the peace of mind that he won’t suddenly let go off my hand and run off in a crowd.
It was awesome and I wish I’d had the guts to buy one earlier! Shame on me for caring so much what other people think! If I made all my parenting decisions based on public opinion I wouldn’t be a very good mother. I certainly wouldn’t be breastfeeding my toddler in public if I cared more about what Jon Doe thought than about the needs of my child. The whole breastfeeding in public bashing, in my opinion, is a complete projection of an adult hang up. To a child there is no connotation there is only nutrition and nurturance and mama.
I think the same thing is at play with the leash. We see a kid on a leash and connotations about subjugation and degradation spring to our adult minds. A child doesn’t think this though. He’s never heard about “being on a short leash.” He just sees sunshine and grass and flowers and mama.
Pregnant and with a toddler I figure I have a few options:
1. Babywear all the time. He’s young enough that he can still ride in the ergo
Pros: The ultimate in AP – babywearing. Complete control of where the kid goes.
Cons: He won’t be this small forever and now that I’m pregnant my bump is starting to get in the way of a front carry, a back carry hurts me after a few minutes and I don’t like a hip carry. And, most importantly, Shammy doesn’t want to be in the carrier – he wants to explore and get his hands dirty! I want this too so this option is out.
2. Use a stroller. What we’ve been doing so far.
Pros: complete control of the kid.
Cons: Strollers don’t ride very well in unpaved areas. Shammy still can’t explore. Option out.
3. Let the toddler be free range. Let him run free!
Pros: Complete freedom to explore.
Cons: More open to danger, especially with me being slowed down by pregnancy it can be hard to get to him in time before a slip or fall or before he touches poison ivy for example. Plus, in busy places the fear of predators snatching my kid or him simply getting lost in a crowd. I’m not comfortable with this in some settings (while others, like my own back yard, a walk through our neighborhood, and some play grounds I would feel safe to let him run free).
4. Leash. Put on his monkey backpack with a “tail” that mommy or daddy holds onto.
Pros: Moderate control – He is in charge of where he goes and what he touches within reason. He can’t run into traffic or be snatched up by someone else if he gets too far from us. I don’t have to worry about him falling into a place that could harm him..
Cons: I can’t think of any in the confines of my relation with Shammy. Disapproving looks from others would only be an issue if I were to put them before my son’s safety, not happening.
So, for me, leash is the best option. I agree that it has the possibility for abuse. As with anything you can parent well with it or you can parent poorly. If you are going to jerk your kid around and scream every time they veer towards something you don’t want then the tether becomes a tool for dominance and control over your child. However, if you use the tether in order to provide a safe boundary for your child to explore independence then I feel it falls perfectly in line with my parenting philosophy and goals.
I was surprised at how much he loves it, the only time that he complained was when we would pick him up to cross the street or put him in the car.