Putting Your Child on a Leash Is Kind of Liberating

penelope on a leash hugging tree
My daughter. Hugging trees on a leash.
My twins are 2 and they like to walk instead of being in the stroller and I like that too because in case you didn't know a City Mini Double doesn't fit into most places in Brooklyn where I live. Which can be tragic when you promise ice cream and then cannot fit into the ice cream place. Folding the stroller up on a busy city sidewalk with an equally busy street is challenging when you have one adult and two curious toddlers. Plus it's nicer to not be confined to the stroller. And I want my kids to walk around. Though sometimes I wish I was in the stroller and they pushed me.

The other day I had a terrifying moment when my daughter, who I thought was calmly walking next to me holding my hand, suddenly took off for the street. All was fine, but it scared me.

So I thought about the leash


Well first I thought ... How do all the parents I see walking around with their kids get them to stay right next to them at all times? Is it just MY kids that like to wander off and slither out of my hands when I try to get them? Then the leash thought. Which to be honest I always thought was one of those things I would never think of getting. I would never judge anyone who did use them, but they just weren't a thought for me until they became wild animals. I mean, toddlers. Two toddlers, one parent is a tough thing to keep under control when out in the wild streets of Brooklyn where cars drive way too fast.

I know, I know, we have dogs on leashes. But most of us co-sleep with our dogs, too. And keeping them on a leash is a precaution to keep them alive so they don't get hit by cars, right? Maybe a leash isn't so bad for kids. Strollers are oppressive! Leashes can be liberating! I bought two.

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My son wanted nothing to do with it. So I put him in the single stroller and strapped my daughter into the leash and off we went. The first few blocks were a dream. I held her hand or had her hold the stroller while we walked. No one looked at me funny and one man even walked a whole block with us telling me how I'm doing a good thing keeping my kid safe and how these streets are dangerous and how he has four kids and grandkids and he knows how tough it is. I was thinking, Wow, what a great man, he gets me. Then he hocked a loogie on the ground, stopped at the public ashtray outside the restaurant we were in front of, and started picking out not fully smoked cigarettes.

I didn't know how to feel. Was this leash thing barbaric? Am I a terrible mother? When we arrived at the playspace, I felt the need to explain the leash to the teacher. You have to do what you have to do, she said. Which was the glowing review I got from Mr. Loogie Hocker. Her response was neither here nor there in the approval department. I also started getting pissed at myself for worrying what everyone else thought. These are my kids -- I'm just trying to keep them alive, damnit! I'm going to own this leash thing. I'm going to totally embrace it and who cares what anyone thinks, I thought. This is liberation!

When we walked home my daughter decided that the hand holding and stroller holding wasn't what she wanted to do. So she would run ahead. I tried to keep up with her but when I didn't it ended up with the leash causing her to fall backwards. And cry. This was a major fail. This made me feel like I was walking a dog, not protecting my child from running into the street. This is not something I thought about when conjuring up the many benefits of the leash in my head before we first tried it out. The only negative I saw then was the looks I would get from other people.

I did my best to keep Penelope next to me and then she stopped and wanted to play with the dirt around the tree. Then she hugged the tree. Adorable, yes. But you know who else likes to hang out in the tree dirt in Brooklyn? Dogs. Dogs on leashes who have to pee or poop.

I haven't used the leash since. I'm trying a new tactic -- my daughter must hold onto the strap on the back of the stroller when we walk. No leash. She's not attached to it, but she does like holding it, especially when I tell her she's helping me by doing so. Luckily my son doesn't mind the stroller. I do think the leash could be a great thing ... my kids just don't seem to think so.

Would you use a leash for your kids? Have you?


Image via Michele Zipp

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