I was ready for it. I’d heard horror stories about the judgement and shame heaped on parents who choose to put a leash on their child.
People tutting and shaking their heads. People calling mothers cruel. People barking at the kids….. Because that’s the height of sophistication. The child looks like a dog on a leash, so you bark at a baby. So funny.
I was waiting for it. I knew putting a harness on my child was controversial, but I was willing to deal with it to keep him safe. Because he’s a dead.set.maniac.
He runs. And he’s bloody fast. He refuses to hold my hand and he has great difficulty walking in a straight line. The world is FAR too fascinating for that shit. There’s things to see, people to chase and a world to climb.
After a couple of terrifying incidents of “shit shit shit where is he!?” and a near escape-out-the-door-of-shop-and-on-to-road, I decided he need to be reined in. Literally.
Last week he was throwing out some pretty impressive escape and evade manoeuvres in Target, so I dragged him to the baby section and found the harnesses. To my HUGE delight, they had a choice of two cartoon characters – Elmo and Mickey Mouse. I kept searching for the discreet, non-merch harnesses, but no. It was either the little red monster or a huge pair of ears. I showed both to Thud. He grabbed Elmo and squealed with delight. And then ran off with him. Elmo it was.
We had a bit of a practice that afternoon and it didn’t end in tears, so I steeled myself for a visit to the shops the next morning. It was time to go public.
I had prepared some witty and mature comebacks to the comments that might come my way. Real high-brow stuff of the “your FACE is a dog!” variety. I was ready.
I took a deep breath, set my little wildling on the floor and let him go….
Not a word. Not a judgy glance.
Then a couple of old ladies walked past and turned their beady eyes on us. Their soft crinkly faces broke into indulgent smiles and they chuckled at Thud in an “oh isn’t he cute” kind of way. They looked at me with solidarity in their wisened eyes.
I was touched. And confused. Maybe a little bit deflated after the complete lack of conflict.
I started strutting around the shop, looking everyone in the eye. DARING them to say something.
Ok, I’ll admit that one or two people may have ducked their heads and scuttled in the other direction because it’s possible I looked like a crazy person.
And then I saw her.
A girl standing in the queue was giving me a strange look. There was DEFINITE attitude. I bristled immediately.
Who did she think she was? She didn’t even look old enough to have a child herself. How dare she judge me!
I know there’s a whiff of the inhumane about putting a leash on a child. I understand it looks like he’s a pet rather than a person. But you know what? I put a leash on my dog to keep him safe. To stop him running under cars. To stop him running away. I do that because I care about him and don’t want him to be hurt.
Why wouldn’t I give the same love and care to my baby? I also need to keep him from running in front of cars and keep him from running away. He’s too little to understand what’s dangerous and what isn’t, but he also deserves to have a bit of freedom, outside of the pram.
But civil liberties, you cry! Trust and respect, you say! Proper parental supervision, you preach!
Well, FUCK YOU, girl in the queue. You don’t know me. You don’t know my baby. I could be standing right next to him, eyes boring into his little blonde skull, and he’d still shoot off like a tiny rocket when he sees something shiny and bright. I can trust and respect him until my eyes bleed, but it won’t stop him seeing a puppy dog on the other side of the road and running to catch it. I also think it’s his civil liberty to be loved and protected by the people who treasure him most.
So judge away Little Miss Perfect. You can think I’m an awful medieval parent, but it’s MY world that would end if something happened to my baby. Not yours.
No, I didn’t actually say this out loud. Because as I stood there, waiting for her to fire the first missile, I realised something….
She couldn’t see Thud.
He was squatting on the ground trying to break into a Disney Princess Art pack, so it was just me she was staring at. The attitude was directed squarely at me. For no particular reason (to be fair, it was probably because of my face. Yes, I’m afflicted with chronic bitch face. Le sigh).
Turns out there was no conflict after all. Maybe it’ll happen in the future, maybe it won’t. Maybe I live in a particularly tolerant area of Canberra. Who knows? Maybe I need to calm the fuck down. Highly likely. But if and when someone dares judge me…. I’ll be ready and waiting to attack. Or perhaps I’ll just ask them to spend five minutes with Thud.
Oh, and I should add… the harness didn’t last long. I soon realised Thud was simply dragging me around the shops. For some reason I thought the harness would miraculously teach him to walk in a straight line. I was wrong. He was still all over the place, but with the added bonus of dragging me with him.
I gave up in frustration and threw him in a trolley, Titanic style. He loved it. This’ll have to do for now.
Have you used a harness? Did you ever cop any abuse for it?
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