Is That a Toddler or a Puppy?

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.

16 Comments on Is That a Toddler or a Puppy?

  1. Jen
    September 19, 2010 at 10:09 pm (5 years ago)

    I need to raise my hand up high and say that I am a proud mom that puts leashes on all her kids. I have too.

    I have had too many close calls when I didn’t.

    • Amber
      September 20, 2010 at 8:52 am (5 years ago)

      Hooray! Raise those hands up high! Safety comes before anything, for sure. And sanity is a close second.

  2. Kathleen Foulkrod
    September 19, 2010 at 10:16 pm (5 years ago)

    I am far less bothered (or should I say annoyed) by a leash than I am the new toddler shoes that have sqeakers in them so you know where said toddler is. Maybe I’ve lost patience now that my kids are grown, but those things are annoying – well, and a tiny bit cute…for the first 5 minutes! :)

    • Amber
      September 20, 2010 at 8:52 am (5 years ago)

      I would rather shoot myself in the head than buy her those squeaker shoes. I just don’t understand how anyone could put up with them for longer than five minutes…and you know she’d think they were so much fun, she’d never want to take them off.

  3. Las Vegas Mama
    September 19, 2010 at 10:36 pm (5 years ago)

    In college (pre-kids) there was a girl in my conflict resolution class who had a toddler. In small groups we were to outline a conflict we were experiencing and the group was to make suggestions. Her conflict: My toddler runs away from me in busy streets and won’t listen when I say stop. My conflict resolution advice: First of all its not a conflict, its parenthood. Secondly, buy a leash.

    After I had kids, I bought one for my then 2 year old when we went to Italy because there was no way I was going to make it through a busy airport in a foreign country with an eye on her every second while I was negotiating luggage and carry ons and an infant. I didn’t and don’t care what people think. In Venice during Carnevale she fit right in because it looked like a costume with the little bear on her back. And nowhere else in Italy did anyone raise an eyebrow. Same thing here in the states. No one has ever looked at me twice for it (to my knowledge anyway!)

    I say they are great for safety reasons, and can really make life easier and happier for both you and the baby. Granted, I do not agree with dragging the babe out of the store by said leash, but it serves a purpose and any non-parent has no reason to judge!

    • Amber
      September 20, 2010 at 8:51 am (5 years ago)

      Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one. I do promise never to drag her out of someplace…that’s when you just pick ’em up and throw ’em over your shoulder, am I right?

  4. alicia
    September 19, 2010 at 10:40 pm (5 years ago)

    Never say never. That’s all I got to say bout that. They have great cell phones with tracking devices too… (insert evil laugh now).

    • Amber
      September 20, 2010 at 8:50 am (5 years ago)

      Hmm. A cell phone would be a much more subtle way to do that…but I’m going to stick with hoping I won’t need one. For now. 😉

  5. BalancingMama (Julie)
    September 20, 2010 at 9:16 am (5 years ago)

    Oh, I loathed the kid leashes. I looked at them (and the parents on the other end) with distain. Until I had a spunky 11-month old on a family trip to Europe. I couldn’t strap the kid in a stroller for 15 days – she might forget how to walk! And I wasn’t going to let her roam free in the bustling tourist areas & cities were were visiting. So… I bought a kid leash. Used it a couple times. Embarrassed the entire time, but it was a necessity. Sometimes you just don’t know what’s needed until you actually have that wild child.

    • Amber
      September 21, 2010 at 8:23 pm (5 years ago)

      That’s for sure. Hopefully when she gets a little older and can be reasoned with, we can do away with it, but I think that little monkey is going to save me!

  6. Jenn
    September 20, 2010 at 7:09 pm (5 years ago)

    LOL … my mom always had us on those things, and it never really bothered me. The funny thing is that, later in life, I saw a mom with that exact one you mentioned (the monkey/backpack thing) … only thing is, the KID was pulling the exhausted mom around a museum. Seemed to have backfired a little. Guess this is what I have to look forward to shortly as my almost-10-month-old is on the verge of her first steps. Good luck!

    • Amber
      September 21, 2010 at 8:22 pm (5 years ago)

      Yikes. I’m sure that will be me someday (being pulled around the museum/zoo/block). Enjoy these last days of not chasing her too much…though tori had us going even when she was still at a crawl.

  7. Florida Girl Meets the Midwest
    September 21, 2010 at 2:28 pm (5 years ago)

    Errr. I’d like to think I am a realist. So sign me up for the monkey leash. I am sure I will be needing it.

    • Amber
      September 21, 2010 at 8:21 pm (5 years ago)

      Monkey leashes are the way to go. Or, there’s a puppy version if the monkey makes you think “my toddler has a monkey on her back.” Not that that occurred to me or anything…

  8. erica
    September 22, 2010 at 8:06 am (5 years ago)

    I recently read an article about how the toddler tether lets kids feel more independent and lessens the risk you’ll have an all out temper tantrum. It’s also safe.

    I am so on board.

    • Amber
      September 22, 2010 at 11:03 am (5 years ago)

      Awesome. Turns out leashing my kid makes me a good mom, huh? I knew I rocked.


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