"I know, right," my sister agreed.
"When I have a kid, I will NEVER treat him or her like a pet!" I adamantly declared. I knew what I wanted.
Fast-forward six years to this moment: the one in which I am writing a Mom blog post that features my 16-month-old wearing a harness-- the kind of "leash" I swore I would NEVER EVER put on my child; and I am not the least bit ashamed about my decision.
As Equis' walking skills improved each week of the last months of 2011, I became more and more terrified. Equis became far more difficult to keep track of, wanted to spend less time in the stroller and was a SUPER FAST mover. I consistently thought of my mom's horrifying story about the time my two-year-old self broke free from her grasp and ran into a large street against the light. I did not want to go through a similar experience, but I also felt like I was betraying some sort of ethical code by putting my son on a leash (or putting a leash on my son.)
Taking his sound advice into consideration, I asked myself, "WAS my having Equis wear a harness treating him like a pet?" The more I thought about it, the less I thought so. Whenever we walked outside or around a large retail store, Equis would literally put all his weight into letting go of my hand and FLY away from me. To me, it seemed that holding onto a leash was similar to handholding anyway, and that would make him a much happier kid. Furthermore, I wouldn't have to bend down, hurting my back, while struggling to push a stroller at the same time.
After resolving that issue, I then worried that people would judge me in the same way I had unnecessarily judged that mom so many years ago. I've heard it said that moms who use leashes are "lazy" or "terrible parents for not knowing how to control their kids." As a mother, now, I find that such remarks are highly unfair. Toddlers, in general, are difficult to handle because they are excited to explore the world. Everything-- the holes in a tree, the mica in the sidewalk, the black rubber of a parked car-- is new for Equis; and I certainly didn't want to stymie his desire to learn, but I did think it was important to limit his wandering to where I could still have access to him.
I must admit that when it arrived two days later, I was excited because THE LION HARNESS IS ADORABLE. As I type this post, my boyfriend's son, who is a month away from turning 4 years old, is wearing the harness of his own volition IN the house as his "backpack." He is keeping his "boom-boom" toy safe in the pocket of the lion's back, and he laughs every time his dad grabs his "tail." My son also does not mind wearing the harness when we are going for a short walk to the deli or park. I like that he has the freedom to safely explore the world as he can walk no further than three feet away from me.
Mind you, getting anywhere with my new-walker is time-consuming because his legs are short, and he likes to walk back and forth in the same four squares of concrete. I'm glad to know, though, that's the only problem we will have when wandering the streets since he's not going to get lost or kidnapped or run over by a car while his Mommy holds onto his Lion's tail.