Sunday, March 22, 2009

Harnesses for Kids

Remember growing up in the 70's and 80's and you would see a kid on a leash and you would stare with your mouth wide open? Your mom or dad might grumble, and surely somebody in the crowd would say something like, "....leashes are for dogs not kids.".

Those days are receding into the past. I am seeing more and more of those "safety harnesses" for kids when we go out in public. I would never say anything to another parent but it does make me uncomfortable. I just don't think it's right.

What is even worse is that in my son Michael's 4.5 years of life, I have had 14 different people recommend a harness for him! These were not trained medical professionals. These were well-meaning, and some not so well-meaning strangers. I just can't bring myself to put a leash on my kid, even calling it a safety harness doesn't make me feel better about using it. Part of being a mother means you occasionally have to break into a sprint to save your child from impending doom. My fat butt can certainly use the exercise.

Recently Erik and I were out with our herd at a St. Patrick's Day Fair. I saw a cute little girl on a teddy bear leash. Erik and I rolled our eyes at each other but didn't say anything out loud, mostly since I didn't want our kids to notice this little girl and say something rude. She was with her mother, and I started thinking well maybe her mom is here alone and maybe this girl is hearing disabled. Nope. Her father showed up with some tickets for the rides and starts talking to his daughter and she can hear fine. Two parents, one kid and you need a harness?!!!

Now I am sure you are thinking, wait a second you hypocrite, I thought you were all for a parent's right to choose. I am! I am not saying you can't leash your child, I am just saying I am very uncomfortable with the idea.

Here are the reasons I think putting a safety harness on a child would be acceptable:

1. Your child has a disability that puts him/her in danger. Obviously that makes sense.

2. You are in dangerous situation and you are parenting alone. An airport, a war zone, a ferry boat, a stampede etc.

That's it, I can only come up with two. Am I missing some obvious ones?

These are the reasons I can't bring myself to harness my children:

1. Have you ever tried to put a leash on a cat? Or ever see a video where they stick that lasso around an alligator's neck? Both feline and reptile lose their freaking minds when you do that! I am positive that is exactly what would happen if I tried to harness my childrens' energy. My daughter not so much, but my sons would rip my arm out of it's socket.

2. I would abuse it. Yep I am ashamed to admit that the urge to tie them to my side view mirror and go for a drive would be way too tempting. Or string them from the slide at the park and leave. OK, OK I wouldn't do that. But why set myself up to even think about it?

3. You breed 'em, you feed 'em. Or something like that. It's my fault I have 3 kids so I need to suck it up and teach them how to behave in public so that they don't need a leash. If you and your significant other together can't handle one typically developing child in public without putting a harness on them.................

4. It just doesn't look right. I realize that sounds stupid but hear me out. In other cultures grown men hold hands. In America grown men do not hold hands. If I see 2 gay men holding hands I don't even flinch, if I see 2 grown men from a culture where it's acceptable to hold hands I could care less, but if I see 2 straight American men hold just doesn't look right. Unless they are deep in prayer or pulling each other off the gym/bar floor. I am not used to seeing it, and I know that's not a great reason, but it is a factor when it comes to my feelings about harnessed kids.

I am surely not alone in this am I?


Clare said...

Well I wouldnt put a harness on my daughter but my parents did for my brother and my best friend in England used one on his daughter. It is still a very common and acceptable thing to do in England. My dear old mum suggested that it was a safe thing to do for R. and of course I ignore her suggestion. She knows that when we say hold our hand we mean it and she does make us break into the occasional dash but like you said, MY fat ass could do with the exercise.

Charlotte said...

I know I am going to get some flak for this because moms a few years younger than us Clare are starting to use them more frequentl. I guess we are just from a different generation (not that we are old or anything) and in your case you are accustomed to American culture now.

You know when I have all 3 kids by myself and my hands are full of their gear, I don't have any hands left to hold onto their hands! So they know if they run off or screw around in a parking lot there is going to be serious consequences.

Mama Ashley said...

Lol! I am guilty!!!! I use the leash for my oldest when I have both of my boys by myself. Al be it my excuse is he is Autistic and is still learning boundries. However, more often then not I hold his hand while he is on the leash. He actualy dose well now as opposed to six months ago he would just run all the time!

Charlotte said...

But you are "guilty" for a damn good reason. Look at my #1 reason why a parent would have an acceptable reason to use a harness and it totally pertains to you.

I used to work in a classroom with severely autistic children and even though my particular kid I worked with was very passive some of his buddies were still learning to not run out into traffic. I totally understand.

drollgirl said...

kids on leashes look weird! and one can only assume that the parents cannot control them AT ALL. not good.

and i have tried the cat on a leash thing. DISASTER. UTTER DISASTER. i also (stupidly) tried to potty train a cat on the toiler. another UTTER FAILURE.

Charlotte said...

So you know what I am talking about when I talk about leashing up one of my kids. It would be like a cat on a leash.

Cat on the potty? That's a good one.

Anonymous said...

I admit it. Last year, when we had 3 kids aged 5 and under, and the boy was just 2.5 and totally clueless, I used a leash at Disneyland. We didn't want him to be stuck in the stroller the entire time, but knew how losing a child at D-Land can really ruin a vacation. Honestly, it didn't even work that well - he would just pull until he fell forward - so we ended up barely using it.

I used to think that spanking was 100% wrong, but then I met a mom who said that every kid is different, and sometimes you have to parent differently to meet their needs. Now that I have one child who is more challenging, I get it. I don't spank, but I don't judge others who do nearly as harshly as I used to.

We all have to make tough choices as parents. Live and let live, right?

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

My kids grew up unleashed. I did fence in the backyard, but that was to keep out the neighbors, not herd the children.
I roll my eyes at a kid leash too, but I'm not going to tell someone how to raise their kids. Truth be told, I don't like other people well enough to engage them with my opinions ;)

Charlotte said...

LOL, you crack me up. Did you know that you can't call a playpen a playpen anymore? It's not politically correct to "pen" your children. They are called pack and plays now. When I got preggers with my first I went online to register for a playpen and couldn't find one! I finally figured it out. A leash I can't do, but if I am doing something in the frontyard my 2 year old goes into the pack and play so he doesn't get mowed down.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

So, you can harness your kid, but not put them in something called a playpen.
And to think, I rubbed whiskey on their gums when they were teething because the orajel made them vomit. Whiskey, that reminds me of the stories my mother used to tell about how her father gave her watered down whiskey with meals for her digestion. Of course she's a nondrinker now, infact her entire adult life. At all family gatherings she will at some point yell, quite soberly, You all are out of control of your faculties! And not be wrong.
So the lesson here is give your children whiskey because later in life they may reject all booze. Or not. Don't try this with heroin or cocaine. I have no anecdotal evidence to back up any claims.

Charlotte said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

lol! I have to say though, that both my cats have no problems whatsoever with harnesses and leashes!

Charlotte said...

Really?! Wow I am just wrong all over the place on this post.

Britta said...

I love harnesses. I got no problem whatsoever with 'em. I would have lost my freaking mind if I hadn't harnessed my older one. You know how you see these women out in public with kids, and the kids AREN'T constantly running away, screaming and trying to hide from their moms? And when the moms pick them up they DON'T yell, "DON'T TOUCH ME PUT ME DOWN!" and kick really hard? I am not one of those women. Those kids are not my kids.

Also, my mother in law has had two knee replacements and her sister is not especially spry either, so when my kid was with her grandma and "nanny" I always felt like it was dangerous for her to NOT be on the harness.

The trouble with using the harness on the younger one is that she always thinks it's time to pretend to be a puppy. I guess it makes me look doubly bad to not only have my kid on a leash, but to also have her crawling around on the ground and barking. But seriously, whether it looks bad or not, it's just kind of annoying. She's probably going to be in a stroller until she's five.

Charlotte said...

LOL, my kids are like your kids. And even though I have not used a harness I have had to grab Mike by the hood of his hoodie, the straps on his overalls and once I was so desperate to save him from running into the street that I grabbed a handful of hair. My friend was laughing so hard she had to sit down and cross her legs to keep from peeing her pants.

My niece went through a phase where she loved to wear a bike helmet, everywhere. My SIL would get so embarrassed when her daughter would wear this bike helmet and then rock back and forth and sing while in the grocery cart. Just like your daughter playing doggy, innocent, but a little embarassing.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

Char, all I'm saying is that if we really want to break free of drug and alcohol addiction, then apparently we must give children drugs and alcohol. Not enough to render them morons, obviously, but enough to get them 'turned' off it.*
*Not an expert opinion and not authorized by anyone including the author.

Charlotte said...

I think experimenting with drugs and alcohol is almost a developmental milestone. That's what college is for right? But I would not give it willingly to my children unless it was a sip of wine at a family event. I do not condone what my mother did, that was stupid. But when both my sons had their Bris, that got a few tiny sips of manischvetiz and they were only 8 days old. I figure if you are getting part of your wiener snipped a little buzz is humane.
Great discussion!

K Garcia said...

My mother always told me stories that her mother used to use a leash with my Aunt, who was the oldest child and was always running off. My grandmother didn't use a leash with my Mom, as the story goes my grandmother couldn't shake her even if she wanted to. I do think it can be okay, and when it's truly not -- you get that gut unsettled feeling.

K Garcia said...

BTW -- on the tangent of training a cat on a toilet -- beware: an old friend of mine did a bang-up job training his cat to sit on the toilet and "go", and last I heard the cat was still firmly attached to her new behavior after several years. One little problem, the cat only liked to face inward to the toilet bowl. Now take a sec, imagine the problem that presents. LOL - just glad it wasn't me. Only a cat would be this diabolical -- think that's why I like them.:)