17-month-old Jacob is a runner. In venues from the library to the grocery store to the playground he takes off and never looks back. If I watch to see how far he’ll go he disappears around corners and behind shelves until I’m terrified and I run after him. In the game of toddler chicken I always lose. I tell myself that he runs because he knows I will follow. I’m not completely certain this is true, but it makes me feel better to believe it, because it means that he doesn’t really want to escape me so much as play a fun game of chase. Or, at least, fun for him.
My daughter Hannah didn’t run as far or as fast as Jacob does. She also wasn’t as quiet, and there was only one of her. Now I have two small people and, invariably, they head in opposite directions. And Jacob does his heading silently, without giving me audio clues as to his whereabouts. The result is that I am finding it much harder to keep tabs on him, and there is a lot of upset when I’m running away from Hannah to catch her brother.
I could confine Jacob to a baby carrier, stroller or shopping cart in public places. Sometimes I do, and sometimes it works. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes Jacob cries and fights against the confinement. It raises a dilemma, because of course he doesn’t want to hold my hand and he’s far too young to be reasoned with. And as much as I would generally love to avoid taking my toddler in public it’s just not practical. So I have decided to try leashing the baby using my trusty Maya Wrap.
I have extremely mixed feelings about the baby leash. On the one hand, you’re leashing a baby. I would find being on a leash to be humiliating and disrespectful. I have seen leashes used in ways that cause me to cringe, like the mother who kept her child on a kid leash on the otherwise empty playground. The whole idea just smacks of treating your child like a pet more than a person.
On the other hand, I have to keep my kid safe. My distraction techniques for outings only take me so far, and Jacob clearly wants to walk under his own steam. Pushing a screaming kid through the store isn’t terribly respectful, either. In fact, it’s possibly worse, because in that situation I am subjecting a whole store to my kid’s cries. Since I can’t reason with a 17-month-old, I’m left with few good options.
In the end I decided to give the leash a go, and see how it worked. My anti-leash sentiments are projections of my own feelings, which Jacob may not share. If he hates the leash I’ll know it. If he doesn’t mind it, I’ll know it, too. Either way, I am following his cues. So I gave the leash a go, and he seemed to sort of like it. At first he was confused and tried to shimmy out of it. Once I managed to get him moving, though, he was off and not in the least bothered. Never once did he cry or strain against it.
I think I have my answer. In situations where I feel it’s called for, I will use a baby leash. I will probably feel self-conscious about it, but this isn’t really about me. It’s about allowing my toddler reasonable freedom to explore while keeping him safe. If he likes it, that’s all that matters.
What about you? Have you ever used a kid leash? And under what circumstances?