We've all seen (and most likely judged) parents who put their kids on a leash. More than a few times, usually at some amusement park or at the airport, I've spotted a little one who's been tricked into sporting a stuffed animal backpack that's actually the child version of every dog owner's favorite walking tool.
Each time, my internal dialogue has gone something like this: "Who in their right mind would put their kid on a leash? Either that parent is super freaking lazy or that kid is a total hellion. Probably both. What assh*les." Then I'd go back to my US Weekly and latte and feel superior for at least five minutes.
Even after I had my two kids, both of whom quickly taught me to prioritize survival (theirs and my own) over perfection, I've still judged the kid-leash. Then my son Sam turned 2, decided his favorite game was "Mommy, catch me," decided his favorite place to play it was near moving vehicles, and suddenly I got it. Sure, some of the parents that put their kids on a leash were being lazy, but some of them were actually just trying to keep their kids from running to their certain deaths! Light-bulb moment.
In the last month, I've chased my son through open fields, down dirty alleys and sidewalks right next to busy roads, and around the entirety of my gym, my daughter's school, and every home we enter. I've seen the joy in his face as he takes off, sprinting as fast as his little legs will take him, pumping his chubby arms to increase his speed. He has no idea that he's so often dashing towards danger. He doesn't seem to care that running is my least favorite form of physical activity.
So exhausted am I by our little chasing game that recently I've tried to enlist help, with varying results. My dad ran after him for me during our trip to the Indianapolis Zoo (I should have known the day was going to go south when my little guy had a meltdown because I couldn't open the glass window so he could get an up-close experience with the lions). An hour into our visit, Sam decided waiting in line for the train was getting a bit monotonous, so off he went. By the time my dad got to him, he was about two seconds from running on the tracks. My sweet father was so frazzled on his way back to the line, now holding my 37-pound future linebacker, that he tripped while trying to hop the rope. Down they both went. Sam was fine; my dad sported some serious scrapes covered by a few Cinderella Band-Aids for the rest of the day.
Sam's older sister, 5-year-old Mae, has also become adept at chasing her brother down. Unlike me, she actually seems to enjoy the job, but her trapping technique always involves a full take-down or a prolonged choke-hold, and really, wouldn't a leash be better parenting than allowing that?
Of course, I've tried to curb the running by putting him in a stroller, but unless it comes with an anesthetizing side of an iPad, he screams the whole time he's in it. I've tried a wagon, but that's entirely too easy to crawl out of, and I quickly learned that the only thing worse than sprinting after a toddler is sprinting after a toddler while pulling a wagon. My husband's argument that we're not fit to leave the house for another year is starting to make some sense to me, but I like my morning Starbucks too much. So, for now, I guess I'll keep running. I'd still be too embarrassed to use a kid leash myself, but next time I see another mom using one? I won't judge her even a little bit.