Why I Changed My Mind About Toddler Leashes

Why I Changed My Mind About Toddler Leashes

Does a tethered toddler signal a lazy parent, or one who doing what’s best for her family?

By: Leah Maxwell

Before I became a mother, I learned it’s almost never a good idea to compare your pets to someone else’s kids. Now that I have kids of my own, though, I feel completely comfortable comparing my children to other people’s pets, especially when it comes to making them wear leashes in public.

Prior to becoming a parent myself, I’ll admit I harbored secret, unkind thoughts about mothers who chose to harness their kids rather than simply hold their hands. Leashes, I decided, were lazy and impersonal, and I couldn’t imagine ever using one myself. (I bet you see where this is going...)

As expected, along came karma to teach me the error of my ways, and two kids later, I’m fully in favor of the toddler leash -- so much so, in fact, that while I’d never have spoken out loud my old disapproval of leashes, I now want to high-five every parent I see using one, because it’s not easy and we leash lovers need all the support we can get. Sure, it’s easier to control a crazy kid when he’s tethered to your side, but what’s not always easy is suffering the withering looks of strangers who presume to judge your parenting and might tell you to your face that using a leash means you’re slacking on the job.

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Now that I’m the mother of the type of kid who will dart into traffic whenever he catches me blinking, there’s no question in my mind that toddler leashes can be lifesavers, quite literally in some cases. Kids are fast and can disappear in an instant, and while, yes, holding their hands is a perfectly reasonable solution to this problem, please consider that toddlers are not often perfectly reasonable creatures. During the phase when they’re first exploring their independence, many of them would rather eat an onion sandwich than hold Mama’s hand and walk obediently at her side (and let’s not forget that Mama’s hands are often busy with other things too), but leash them up and let them go? Everybody’s happy while still being safe.

When I finally welcomed the toddler leash into my life and embraced the miracle that is being able to use both hands to dig through my purse without risking my child shinnying up the nearest tree, I never thought about it as a Major Parenting Statement; it was just something we did out of practical necessity to keep my kids safe and happy. But typing that out now, I see how that in itself is a Major Parenting Statement of sorts. When I put my kid on a leash, I’m saying that I’m willing to overlook judgment and toss the opinions of strangers aside in favor of doing what I need to do to keep my kids in good spirits and relatively uninjured. And that goes for not just leashes but a whole list of things other people might comment on, as if their thoughts on how I raise my family should matter at all. In this way, using a leash is symbolic of how I’ve put my family’s individual needs above the considerations of strangers. As a parent, I can’t think of a more important code to follow than that.


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Do you – or would you – use a leash for your toddler?

Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

Image ©iStock.com/dcdp

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