I remember the first time I saw a toddler on a leash. I was straightening the shelves in the toy store where I worked (the job experience responsible for the long gap between my marriage and popping out a kid), and this kid came barreling by, laughing hysterically. In the background, I could hear his mother screaming, “Darren, get back here!”
Now, this was a routine occurrence (happening on the order of every five minutes or so), so normally I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. But as he whipped by, I saw what I thought was a tail. A long, brown tail. That was weird enough to get my attention, but only for a second. As his mom stomped past, I turned back to my action figure-straightening (a futile task if there ever was one).
But a few minutes later they were back, except this time, his mom was pulling him behind her by a…leash? Yep, that’s what it was. A leash, attached to some sort of backpack device.
He, of course was whining in that nasal-y, high pitched, ear drum shredding tone kids adopt when not getting their way in a toy store. “But MoooMMMY, I need it. I need it, MOOOOOmmmy.”
When she informed him that he had six others exactly like it at home, he threw himself on the floor and started screaming with everything he had.
Now, that mom had clearly had it. And looking back, I can understand her frustration. But when she yanked that boy up off the floor by his leash and started dragging him out of the store (shrieking) like a recalcitrant puppy, my jaw hit the floor.
Right then and there, I vowed that if I was ever insane enough to actually have a child, I would never, ever put a leash on him or her.
Fast forward about, oh, fifteen years.
I now have a rambunctious 17-month-old who hatches plans to run away from home on a daily basis. A toddler who hates sitting still for more than five seconds, and screams bloody murder when confined to the basket of a shopping cart. A child who has only two speeds—full stop and run.
A pint-sized me, complete with the stubbornness, fiery temper and mile wide independent streak I am famous for.
And damn, is that girl fast.
So, today, I bought a leash—or a “tether” as the box kindly calls it. And the Me That Was hung her head in shame.
It’s cute—the backpack looks like a monkey and the leash is actually it’s tail. But there’s no hiding the fact that it is, indeed, a leash.
She’s fine with it. Was thrilled, in fact, that she could explore Sam’s Club (our exciting Sunday afternoon destination) on her own two feet. And most people were kind—commenting only on the cuteness of the device and the adorableness of my daughter. But I did catch a few tightened mouths and disapproving glances.
And when I found myself gently yanking her along as I would a dog (what can I say, I’ve spent 30 years walking dogs on leashes), I nearly sank through the floor with embarrassment.
So, yeah. I am the kind of mom who walks her daughter on a leash. But I promise, I’ll never put tracking devices on her shoes. Really. I won’t.
Now, dear readers, it’s time to make me feel better. Gather round and tell me what promises you made to your childless self that your mothering self can’t keep.