Yes, I have my kid on a leash. And I know what you are thinking. I used to think the same thing about people with their kids on a leash.


     Back when I was a know-it-all nanny/preschool teacher I had it all figured out. I knew that when I had kids of my own my child would not be sucking a pacifier after the age of 2. My kids would listen to me and respect me and would not whine. And I would never ever put my child on a leash. 
     I mean, who does that? It’s a child not a pet. I can understand a child with special needs benefiting from a harness, but this child is obviously fine. He doesn’t seem to be mentally disabled, I see no obvious disability. So the only reason I can think that this child is leashed is because the mom is obviously a weirdo. Just take the time to watch your kid, and teach them about danger — don’t put them on a LEASH! Seems inhumane if you ask me, the poor child being pulled around on a leash. What is wrong with that mother?
     And so here I am. Almost ten years have gone by since I was a nanny or worked in a preschool. My kids whine —  A LOT!  My daughter had an extreme pacifier addiction and sucked on one until she was well over the age of 3. Until I noticed that it was actually moving her teeth, then we finally had to get a visit from the “Binky Fairy”. The Binky Fairy took all the binkies (aka pacifiers) and replaced them with money, but it was still months before my daughter stopped crying for one. 
      And … my kid is on a leash.
 
He is staring at the stream going under the bridge. I bet he could watch that stream all day.
                                                          My kid on a leash enjoying the fireworks 🙂
      My 6-year-old son has autism. One of the most common things I hear after I tell people that is “He doesn’t look like he has autism.” And then I have to explain autism and all that stuff. So to explain why he doesn’t “look” like he has autism you can read my other post “He doesn’t look like he has autism” and to understand what autism is I have just the post for that too – it’s called What exactly is autism? How did you know he had autism?
       My son has no concept of danger. He will run in front of a car, he will run into a lake or a pool even though he can’t swim, he would probably jump off a balcony without a second thought. His receptive language skills are not that great yet. Receptive language is the ability to understand what you hear, to comprehend spoken words, follow directions, etc. He is getting better, but it is still like I am speaking another language sometimes. He just doesn’t understand what I am saying. So I can say “Watch out for cars, stay off the road, watch out for water, STOP!, don’t eat that, be careful” and all that stuff until I am blue in the face — and he will simply not understand what I am saying.
     I get invited to a party with a bonfire and all I can think is that there is a 97% chance my son will end up in the fire. When a car zooms by us I think of what would happen if I didn’t have him by the hand or if he got away from me and darted into their path. At the park I can’t take my eye off of him for a second because he will climb the fence and run away, into the road, into the lake, into an alligator’s mouth,  you name it – any dangerous scenario you can imagine is one my son would walk right into without a second thought.
     I can’t predict his behavior very well. When we get home he gets out of the car and walks to the front door. I usually hold his hand to make sure he doesn’t run, but usually he just walks to the door anyway since he is happy to be home. So one day I had my hands full. I let him out of the car and assumed he would walk to the front door like he always does. But nope. No luck. He ran as fast as he could right past me and into the road, then down the road three houses before I could catch him. I drive myself batty thinking of the what ifs …. what if there had been a car coming. I am consumed by the thought of something happening to him. And just when I think he is getting better, he runs away from me again. When I yell “STOP!” he runs faster.    
      He got away from me at the zoo once and I thought he was going to make it to the exit and into the road. I ran as fast as I could and tripped and fell. I bashed my head on an ice cream machine, threw my back out, skinned my knee, and still managed to catch my kid. It’s amazing how many thoughts I had when I hit my head.
     First I thought – “Man, I hope I don’t get knocked out” then I noticed I was still conscious so I thought “Gotta catch the kid” and I grabbed him by his shirt and then thought “Where’s my daughter?” then I saw her and thought “Oh man I am hurt!”  — all seemingly before I hit the ground. Then people crowded around me and asked if I was ok. I was just embarrassed and wanted to crawl into a hole. Of course the zoo staff went into action with the accident report etc. and offered me free passes but I said I was fine, and I am a zoo member so free passes do me no good. Though looking back I should have just taken them anyway and re-gifted them.
    Anyway, long story short — my kid needs to be on a leash. For his safety and mine.
 
    And he LOVES his harness. 🙂
 
     My children have taught me many things. I thought I was an accepting, open-minded person. But I was very judgemental. I assumed I knew things I didn’t. My son has taught me to never judge, because you never know what someone’s personal struggles are.
    So if you see a child on a leash, instead of assuming the parent is an idiot try to  assume that they have a very good reason for needing the kid on a leash. 😛
 
    If you need a harness, or know anyone who does, I recommend you get it from Children’s Harnesses by Elaine. I have no personal connection to her so this is not just a shameless plug. I am just really happy with the quality of the harness, and after searching the internet for days I feel I really did find the best harness out there. It is strong and durable but still nice and soft. She hand makes them specific to your child (or adult’s) size. My son loves wearing it, he loved it from the moment I put it on him because it gave him freedom he isn’t used to having. I always have to lead him by the hand since he could run off at any moment. He loves being able to walk “on his own”. 🙂
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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elaine
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 12:02:19

    Oh my goodness Jess, my stomach turned at your description of what happened at the zoo. It’s amazing that you caught him and still had your daughter too. Thanks so much for mentioning how much he likes the harness, it’s wonderful for me to know. God bless, I’m so glad you found me. Elaine @ http://www.childharness.ca

    Reply

  2. SAS Fiction Girl
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 19:09:06

    My 50-year-old brother-in-law was recently told by his mother that she would have kept him on a harness if such a thing were available back in the day – and she meant it.
    I imagine, also, there are many children who for various reasons cannot ask for help if they get lost or separated from a parent. Yet another reason to keep them close.
    Jess, any thoughts on why your son likes his harness? Do you think it’s about the feeling of safety, having boundaries, being close to mom or something else? I’m always fascinated by child logic. 🙂
    -Jen

    Reply

    • Super Mom Jess
      Jan 14, 2011 @ 11:10:12

      Hi Jen,
      I think he likes it because it gives him freedom he isn’t used to. Since he always runs off I either have to have him by the hand or in a stroller at all times when we are outside if there isn’t a fence to contain him. With the harness on he feels like he is walking on his own. He even dances he is so happy 🙂 Also, I think he likes the way it feels on him – like a big hug. And I think he may also like knowing that I am close by, he is assured by the harness, he likes being tied to mama so he always knows where I am. 🙂

      Reply

  3. Beverly
    Aug 07, 2011 @ 11:39:40

    It’s amazing how much your son reminds me of my grandson and the story so similar. He is six years old, autistic and the joy of my life. He is very intelligent and has an agenda of his own. And, he definitely does not ‘look’ autistic, which causes issues in public because he generally doesn’t respond to people. I was always against ‘kid leashes’, but now in reality, whatever I need to do to help keep him safe is more than welcomed :).

    Reply

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