It is a topic that gets heated on parenting message boards: Child Leashes, Tethers, and Restraints. I remember the first time I saw one when I was about 12 years old. I was horrified! Leashes are for dogs how dare a parent treat a child like a pet!
But it isn’t just non-parents (and smarty pants pre-teens) that don’t like these devices. In Attachment Parenting circles I’ve heard a child tether compared to a circumstraint and described as distinctly NON-AP. I disagree. First and foremost, AP is about being in tune with the needs of your individual child and trusting your instincts.
So, here’s my shocking confession: I’m a child tetherer.
Yep, I walk my 2 year old on a leash!
It was awesome and I wish I’d had the guts to buy one earlier! Shame on me for caring so much what other people think! If I made all my parenting decisions based on public opinion I wouldn’t be a very good mother. I certainly wouldn’t be breastfeeding my toddler in public if I cared more about what Joe Schmoe thought than about the needs of my child. The whole breastfeeding in public, in my opinion, stems from adults projecting adult connotations onto a pure act. You’ve probably heard “if they can ask for it they are too old” implying some type of sexual inappropriateness to nursing an older child. This is a complete projection of an adult hang up. To a child there is no connotation there is only nutrition and nurturance and mama.
I think the same thing is at play with the leash. We see a kid on a leash and connotations about subjugation and degradation spring to our adult minds. A child doesn’t think this though. He’s never heard the idiom about “being on a short leash.” He just sees sunshine and rocks and flowers and mama.
With twins and a toddler I figure I have a few options:
- Babywear them all. The twins are young enough to both be in one moby on my chest and Aellyn can be on Daddy’s back in the Kelty Kids.
Pros: The ultimate in AP – babywearing. Complete control of where the kids go.
Cons: The twins won’t be this small forever. What if I want to go on a walk without DH? And, most importantly, Aellyn doesn’t want to be in the carrier – she wants to explore and get her hands dirty! I want this too so this option is out.
- Use a stroller. I could get a triplet stroller or DH and I both wear a twin and put Aellyn in a stroller.
Pros: complete control of the kids.
Cons: Strollers can’t go on some of the trails we go on. Aellyn still can’t explore. Option out.
- Let the toddler be free range. Let her run free!
Pros: Complete freedom to explore.
Cons: More open to danger, especially with both parents wearing an infant it can be hard to get to her in time before a slip or fall or before she touches poison ivy for example. Plus, in busy places the fear of predators snatching my kid. I’m not comfortable with this in some settings (while others, like my own back yard, a walk through our neighborhood, and some play grounds I would feel safe to let her run free).
- Leash. Put on her doggie backpack with a “tail” that mommy holds onto.
Pros: Moderate control – She is in charge of where she goes and what she touches within reason. She can’t bolt into traffic or be snatched up by someone else if she gets too far from us. I don’t have to worry about her falling into a place that could harm her and/or would be difficult for me to reach with her brother in the moby.
Cons: I can’t think of any in the confines of my relation with Aellyn.
So, for me, leash is the best option. Now, it has the possibility for abuse. As with anything you can parent well with it or you can parent poorly. If you are going to jerk your kid around and scream every time the veer towards something you don’t want then the tether becomes a tool for dominance and control over your child. However, if you use the tether in order to provide a safe boundary for your child to explore independence then I feel it falls perfectly in line with my parenting philosophy and goals including a love of nature.
What are your thoughts on the leash?
Here’s some more fun from our nature walk: