Put your child on a leash and you'll immediately get dirty looks and comments from sancti-parents. But one dad is done with the criticism. He'll take all your judgey comments because he knows he's keeping his kid safe.
Clint Edwards, the dad of three behind No Idea What I'm Doing: A Daddy Blog, recently posted a Facebook photo of his daughter, Aspen, with a backpack leash at the farmer's market. Edwards says he had no shame doing so, as his kid can be a "wild child."
"This thing has already kept her out of the road and from sticking her hand in an ice cream machine, along with keeping me sane," Edwards writes. "The real difficulty with having a wild child is that you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t."
Those against child leashes point to "lazy parenting" or call it "inhumane." If only the parents parented better, then the kids wouldn't run away—right?
But for many parents who decide to use a child leash, leashes or reins are a necessity.
"The fact is, if I didn’t put Aspen on a leash while at amusement parks, the zoo, a crowded mall or the farmers market, she’d be the lost child announced over the intercom. She’d be the kid popping up in every Facebook feed for wandering into a shopping center parking lot, unattended. She could be the child climbing into the tiger cage. Because I can't, for the life of me, keep her from moving. Her curiosity is incredible, and for only having a 12-inch stride, she moves faster than any Olympian," Edwards shares.
His post quickly filled with comments from other parents about their own decisions to use a leash—maybe a mom is with multiple kids in a crowded space or a dad has a toddler who tends to bolt fearlessly into dangerous situations.
"I thought we had outgrown the leash. Then a couple weeks ago my daughter literally tried to jump in the damn river. No fear. Not a single fuck given. I literally caught this child as she was about to jump and she was just angry with me that I stopped her," writes one mom.
"The one time my oldest wasn't on a leash he ran out of a grocery store with a car approaching in each direction. He wasn't hurt, but I cried and cried for a while after that happened. I once had a stranger come up to me (a different time) and tell me it's not really a leash. It's a love line. You love that child on the other end, so why wouldn't you keep him/her safe?" reasons another.
Of course, there were critics who claim having a "wild child" is an "ignorant excuse" for bad parenting.
"Putting your child on a leash says a lot about your knowledge of parenting, discipline and unrealistic value of safety parameters and you should be judged," says one commenter.
"Never would I put my child on a freaking leash. Don't try to change your child, change your parenting skills! If you can't control your child at all times, then (you're) not the parent you need to be," a dad critiques.
Edwards had a response ready for these types of comments: "To you, I say this, 'I'm keep this kid safe while maintaining my (peace) of mind, and that is 100 percent worth it.' Because the reality is she'll calm down. She'll figure it out, because all kids do. But until that day comes, I'm going to do whatever I can to keep her out of danger, even if it means a leash."
For parents considering using a child leash, experts say it's a parenting tool that isn't inherently good or bad.
"What matters is how it’s used: how it’s presented to the child, how and when the parent uses it, what the child’s temperament is, and why the parent is using it," writes Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.
Bryson warns using restraining devices can come from misdirected motivations. Is there a realistic danger or is the parent really motivated by unexamined anxiety? Plus, tethering a child can get in the way of skill-building and remove opportunities for kids to make good decisions and responsibility, she says. Is the decision about basic safety or about emphasizing control over the relationship?
If you do decide to go for it, don't apologize. Actually, why not give yourself a pay on the back instead? Because somehow, you kept that kid alive for another day.