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Baby got back[pack leashes]

September 13, 2010

This weekend, a friend of mine created a small kerfuffle in the social networking universe when she posted the following Facebook status update:

STOP PUTTING YOUR CHILDREN ON LEASHES

Several of her friends chimed in with their defenses of leashing small children. Honestly, I looked into the idea when my son was 2 or so. He was bolting and his baby sister was little and I couldn’t keep up. But I had a change of heart when I considered this scenario:

self: “What do I do if he bolts? Yank him back like I do our dog?”
me: “No. idiot. You can’t drag him along if he refuses to come, either.”
self: “With my luck, he’d probably try to bolt and it would become a total game.”
me: “Yeah, let’s see if I can pull Mommy down while she’s trying to get my little sister out of the car.”
self: “Like Marley and Me only with bonus footage brought to you by the Department of Social Services.”
me: *places cleverly disguised leash/monkey backpack back on the shelf*

I knew we went wrong as parents when we named him "Ubu."

I’m not saying it’s easy.  Parenthood is the most emotionally, rationally, and physically challenging job I’ve ever had.  The situation is made worse for me personally because I suffer from an autoimmune disease that can impair my physical ability to catch a runner or wrestle with a fit-pitcher.  And a leash might be a more peaceable way to handle those kids.  Unleashed kids get yelled at. My unhinged unleashed kids run the risk of a swat on the bottom if they bolt out into traffic (which is equally, if not more controversial, strangely enough IMHO).

There were many months when, in my disability, dealing with one that ran and one that could not be left on her own for a second, I’d leave them both buckled up in the car until I could back a grocery cart up to the van and unload them into safety-belted seating for shopping trips to Target. Other times when there was no cart or stroller that could hold them, or when I was struggling enough getting MYSELF dressed, much less three people, I just STAYED HOME. I made the same choice when they were acting like total nuts.  We stayed home and read a book (or watched a movie.  I may be snobby toward people who leash their kids or, conversely, let them watch TV all day, but a well-timed Veggie Tale while I’m fixing supper is sacrosanct).

Did I resent having to limit my own activities because the foolish behaviors of little people held me hostage? Hell yes. But I’m a mom, and we have to get over that. A lot. (FYI: so do dads.) Were there times when we go out anyway because someone needs new shoes or diapers or whatever? Hell yes. And I resented that, too. I resented people who fussed at me because my son stood up for two seconds in the cart while my back was turned. I squirmed under the stares of people who looked at me like I’d just slapped her when I pulled something out of my daughter’s hands that she’d tried to pocket in the checkout line.

I’ve driven my cartload of crazy out of a store, on a number of occasions, with children screaming like sirens as I fumble to put my debit card back in my wallet or find my keys at the bottom of the abyss that was Mary Poppins’ handbag. Snarling, I’ve had to leave would-be purchases in the store, create exit strategies for story times at Barnes and Noble and breathe death threats while carrying a tantrum-throwing four year old to my car as fast as my arthritic bones would take me.

My kids are KIDS. Which means that from time to time, we will disagree, they will disobey, and we will have many, MANY power struggles in their attempts to overthrow me. But they have to learn that in every possible case, I will win. I will win because in situations where foolishness reigns in their hearts, it’s good for them to lose. I will win because, despite my mother’s promise that all my rebellion would come back to haunt me in the form my own children and then I’ll see and relent, I’m still rebellious enough to want to prove her wrong. I will win because I know parenting is important, that children are people, too, and that every now and then, as human beings, even knowing the course we *should* be taking, we’re all capable of trying to make a run for it.

Smart moms restrain them without leashing them. Smarter moms learn to restrain themselves when parenting gets hard and it seems like it would be easier to hook their kids up to a monkey’s butt and take them on a walk.

The real trick is showing them who is the pack leader. Also, matching khakis helps.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Kate permalink
    September 13, 2010 9:11 pm

    Sit, Ubu, sit!

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