I suppose that before I had kids of my own I used to secretly roll my eyes at parents who strapped a teddy-bear backpack to their child, and trailed behind him with a leash. “Control your kids!” I probably thought, feeling bad for the shackled youth who must have felt like a little helpless puppy. But then I had children and realized that, like the weather, they are definitely not something that can be controlled, but rather are managed to the best of our abilities. And so the leash garnered merit in my eyes, and I realized it must be a popular seller.
A beloved expression coined by me is, “There are two types of kids. Those who run away from you, and those who run towards you.” I, unfortunately, have four run-towards-you kids. This has its benefits and drawbacks. Benefits include: You will never need to buy a leash! They will not run into the middle of a busy street! You always know where your child is, at all times, because you can feel his breath against your face at any given moment. However, the negatives include, and are not limited to: You will always feel his breath against your cheek! You will occasionally think your child has lice, but really those are just crumbs from your last meal, which you ate over your child’s head. You will use the toilet while bouncing a toddler in your lap, and never, ever, have a moment to yourself.
This is why I think there should be a leash for “run-towards-you” kids. Its concept would be similar to that of a cone collar for dogs, post-surgery, where it kind of sets up certain unapproachable boundaries. It would be a giant harness that the child would wear and surrounding it would be a hula hoop, so that no matter how close the child tried to get to the parent, the hoop would prevent any leg-grabbing or clinging. Children would not wear these “unleashes” at Disneyworld, or any crowded place, but they would be perfect for household use, school drop-offs, and unwilling play dates. In my case, they might also work wonders at nursery/kindergarten graduations, ballet classes, and over-crowded birthday parties.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that there are times that my toddler does indeed run away from me, although it remains isolated to two separate scenarios. The first is when I have to change his diaper, and the second is at bedtime. I might consider getting a standard leash to catch him during these episodes, but I feel a fish net might work better. Or a lasso. For now, he always has the same escape route, and I manage to catch him as he runs to a wall in the hallway outside his room, hiding his face, and imagining I can’t see him.
But there is one overlooked aspect: the fact that not everyone understands that my children won’t run away, and are quick to misjudge. I remember one time several years ago, walking on a sidewalk with my then 3-year-old child, and as we approached the curb to cross, she toddled a few steps ahead of me but stopped at the cusp of the street. A car heading to the intersection came to an exaggerated stop, and the driver rolled down her window. She stuck her head out and shook her finger at me, naughtily. “You should be holding her hand!” she bellowed, “Watch your child!” I cringed.
There is nothing worse than getting reprimanded by a stranger, one who thinks she understands my situation better, because, perhaps, she is several years older and therefore has omniscient powers.
“Thanks,” I said back, “I know my kid, and she doesn’t run into streets…,” but the woman drove away in a huff, shaking her head at me and my bad parenting. I wanted to chase her car and scream, “But she is a run-towards-you kid, and doesn’t run away!” but that would mean that I’d have to leave my daughter on the sidewalk alone as I’d fling myself down the street, and the woman would probably collapse in her car at the sight of that. Clearly her kids were the leashed kind, and she didn’t know any better.
Sarah Abenaim is a freelance writer living in Teaneck. She can be reached at [email protected]
By Sarah Abenaim