Monday, July 7, 2008

To Leash or Not To Leash

I'm a great believer in letting a child have a lot of independence, to allow him to explore his world, to help him learn and to expand his horizons. Before our little Dylan came in to our lives I never ever would've dreamed of harnessing a child while out in public. Never. But I have never ever come across such a busy, totally fearless, impulsive, adventurous child like my grandson. When something captures his interest, he's gone! And he's fast! And he can wiggle out of my grasp like a snake dipped in vegetable oil. I don't think I would've ever purchased one of these on my own but when my daughter-in-law went back to work one of the things she brought to me along with all the other baby paraphernalia was this harness. She told me she and our son had been using it, that Dylan even liked it, but as I held it in my hands inspecting it later that morning something inside me balked at using it. So I put it on top of the chaise and more or less forgot about it.

Dylan loves to be outside. We've been tossing bread out to the birds since before he could walk. We throw peanuts out for squirrels, crows, and scrub jays. He loves to 'help' me take Chloe dog out for a potty walk, holding her leash in his hand. He loves to run over to our neighbor's house when our neighbor Sonny is sitting out on the porch drinking his coffee and doing the crossword puzzle in the morning. He comes out on the porch with me to get the mail. He loves his 'big boy' walks...walks where he's actually walking, not confined to a stroller. He can walk up to 2 miles, if not further. And he loves to dart into the street. When he sees a cat. A squirrel. Anything. No matter how closely I watch him, no matter how tightly I clasp his hand, he is GONE just that fast! Thank the good angels...dumb luck -- so far, the 3 times he's done this, there haven't been any cars coming by. I died a thousand deaths each time he's done it, tho, and if I don't want my hair turning completely white within the next month or two, I decided I had to quit balking at using the harness to save my sanity and to save his life!!!

He'd been letting me know all day that he wanted to go for a walk and I promised him when Papa got home we'd go. As soon as Papa walked in the door, Dylan brought me his shoes, we got them put on him, made sure Papa had a bottle for Cooper, and off we went. With the harness on. And my daughter-in-law was right...Dylan does like it! It has a little monkey backpack on it and looks so cute...the little monkey's head kind of peeks over Dylan's shoulder. It's extremely lightweight and, even on a warm day like today, didn't seem to affect Dylan at all. Best of all, tho, was the wonderful peace of mind it gave me, knowing he couldn't dash out into the busy traffic or run towards unknown dogs. He seemed perfectly content to walk along beside me and if he strayed a couple of feet away from me, the harness kept him out of harm's way.

As Dylan and I approached a very busy intersection on our way home, a lady a little older than me stepped off a bus at the corner and we made eye contact and smiled at each other as she started to pass by. But suddenly she doubled back and came over to where Dylan and I were waiting for the light to change. "I just had to tell you, 'Good for you!' " she said. "Forty years ago when I used harnesses on my children, people would stop me on the street and say 'Your kid isn't a dog!' but I never paid them any mind. Because I knew all it would take would be one time with one of them getting away from me and running into traffic and they'd be gone. I couldn't live with that thought. So I used my harnesses and let them say what they wanted. When I see so many people out here on the busy streets with their little toddlers running half a block ahead of them alone, it scares me half to death. I just had to stop and tell you how good it made me feel to see someone else care enough to be careful!" Well! If that didn't make me feel a thousand times better! People do give you weird looks, so to have her speak up the way she did, it was almost like a case of 'angel unawares', like the good Lord sent someone my way to reaffirm my decision to consider Dylan's safety, not strangers' opinions.

Last October my daughter-in-law and a friend of hers took Dylan and her friend's two daughters to a pumpkin patch. It was busy. There were lots of people around. My daughter-in-law and friend thought they were keeping a pretty good eye on the three children so they were pretty stunned when a voice spoke up behind them and asked, "Is this your little girl?" They turned to find a strange woman holding 22-mo-old Sabrina in her arms. Erica said, "Yes! She's mine!" and the lady handed her over. She told Erica she'd seen Sabrina wandering around apparently alone and she was so afraid someone dangerous might get a hold of her so she went over and asked Sabrina, "Where's your mommy?" Sabrina looked around, spotted Erica across the way, and pointed at her. Oh, how thankful Erica was for the alertness and kindness of that woman! Bad things can happen so quickly!

So I guess if anyone ever sees me out walking with Dylan and calls out "Hey, lady! That kid isn't a pet!" I'll cast a deaf ear their way. Let 'em say what they will. Dylan will be safe, and that's all that matters to me.


Judy said...

Good for you!

I see one of those in my grand daughter's future.

Anonymous said...

I must say, until I read your post, I identified more with the "your child isn't a pet" ideology. But my brother and I were never impulsive, adventurous children like your Dylan, either. So I really enjoyed learning about your perspective, why you use the harness with Dylan and how much help it can be. Thanks so much for sharing and changing my mind!!

Anonymous said...

well I'm a firm believer of child security i think it's great although i never liked the leash but when my niece traveld with her two boys it was a hot mess first of all she is only 4'9" with her oldest already half her size at 1.5yrs. old two carry on bags two car seats well you can say that the leash worked miracles for her. kudos to the leash.