Friday, August 27, 2010

Yes, I have my children on leashes. You got a problem with that?

I'm practicing responses for the public debut of the Eddie Bauer* Harness Buddies that arrived here from Amazon earlier this week. 

I'm sure you've seen these things before.  They are totally adorable little plush animals (we got monkeys), that ride on the backs of toddlers and have a pouch just big enough for an hour's supply of Cheerios or a much smaller stuffed monkey.  But make no mistake, these hella-cute accessories are restraining devices first and foremost.  Leashes, if I may speak frankly.

This cuddly fellow's detachable tail functions as the business end of the leash, allowing parents to keep their children close by while they stroll across busy streets sipping cappuccino and texting.  Or it can be tied to a tree in the front yard when Daddy needs some "me time."

With older children, parents can even use the monkey leash to have their kids pull them around on skateboards, or tie the tail to their bicycles and let the kids burn off some energy by running alongside the pedaling parent.

Who could object to such a fun and ingenious safety device?

I have some difficulty imagining that anyone would make judgmental comments on my use of baby leashes because, a) most people in my neighborhood are pretty polite; and, b) Anyone who thinks for two seconds about the challenges of wrangling toddler twins in public will see the wisdom of our decision.

On the other hand, I encounter a lot of misapprehension and unsolicited comments about the Halti-Lead I use on my humongous dog.  This is a halter that goes over the dog's head and loops over her snout, leading her by gently guiding her head in the desired direction rather than dragging her (or being dragged) by her massive neck.

A lot of people think that the halter is a muzzle (or "muffle"), and assume that she is vicious.  And sometimes even after I explain how it works, they still go "awww..." as if to say, "Poor doggy is out of control and Daddy makes you wear a snout-strangling muffle instead of training you..."  To which I respond, "Gotta go now...c'mon Stelly-booger," by which I mean, "I'm not going to waste my breath explaining that it's in Stella's DNA to pull things since she's a drafting dog, and she would happily asphyxiate herself on a choke chain or collapse her windpipe on a regular collar if I didn't keep her on 'heel' at all times--which she would do if I told her to but I prefer to give her some freedom while she's on leash, and if you think this loose fitting halter could keep her from biting your face off if she felt like it you are a complete moron and I'd just as soon you continue to think she is dangerous and give us both a wide berth.  Have a nice day."

So based on the frequency of the above exchange, I guess it's conceivable that strangers would express their disapproval of my baby-leashing.

Also, I had an interesting conversation on this topic in a class I was teaching before our twins were even born.  It was a college composition class that I was teaching to a bunch of Marines and sailors (one of my favorite teaching experiences ever, btw), and I have no idea how we went from discussing the typical rhetorical moves in academic writing to looking at a projected image of a Harness Buddy monkey backpack leash and discussing our feelings about it.  Because digression is just not in my nature.

Many of the students did not have strong feelings about the harness.  But several of them were absolutely dead set against it for reasons that they could not fully express but amounted to, "that's just wrong!  Treating your child like a dog?  Wrong, wrong, wrong."

What fascinated me about this conversation was the demographic breakdown of opinions.  Not to be racist or anything,* but every one of the African-American students (33% of the class--but like you, I'm totally colorblind in this respect so who's counting?), were absolutely against the leash, while Latinos (21%), Whites (38%), and Others (whatevernumberisleft%), thought it was a pretty good idea or really didn't care.

This turned into a discussion about disciplining children in general, and the African-Americans (90% parents themselves), to a person, agreed that it was necessary to spank kids, while everyone else disagreed or didn't care.  Then it turned into a discussion about race, because, unlike me, these students were not colorblind, and were in fact quite comfortable talking about what they saw as racial or cultural differences.  And this is one of the things I loved about this particular group of students.  As military people, they were used to working with folks from all walks of life, and were happy to give each other shit about anything without concern for offending one another.  "White people always think this...,"  "Black people always say that...," "Army guys are such retards...," "Coast Guard guys are so lazy..."  And not once did anyone get angry!

What was I talking about?

Oh yeah.  Monkeybackpackbabyleashes.

So I am more or less prepared to respond to anyone who gets judgey about the leashes.  I will simply say, "Well, the kids love to wear them [totally true--watch the video], and it keeps them close to me instead of running into the street."

By which I will mean: "What do you want me to do, asshole?  Jerk them around by the arm and yell at them all the time?  Is that more humane?  You would probably chastise me for not having my dog leashed, if she wasn't, but she always is [as far as you know].  You know why my dog is on a leash?  To keep her safe and out of trouble.  Because I care about her.  So I'm supposed to just let my precious miracle angels run loose?  Yeah?  Here--I'll take the leashes off and let you show me how to properly care for two toddlers at once!  No?  Don't want to give it a shot?  That's what I thought.  Also, stop being so racist against my half-breed children and my vicious Swiss dog."     

*I was surprised to find that Eddie Bauer still exists.  I thought they had disappeared with the first generation of Ford Explorers.

*I always teach my students that the use of this phrase serves the rhetorical purpose of excusing the racist comments that inevitably follow.

I'm doing the "Blog Hop" thing again through Dad at the Chalkboard.  Click on the links below to see what my competition the rest of the daddyblogging community is up to!


  1. I support baby leashes because honestly, I'd rather be the responsible adult that doesn't lose the wild child in a crowd than the idiot that can't keep track of their kids.

  2. I am torn. Something seems inherently wrong about the baby leash, but it is so practical that I can't really condemn it. I am also torn about the Halti, even though I use one, but mostly because it doesn't photograph very well (Anyone who asks if it's a muzzle has clearly never seen a freaking muzzle before and no, he's not a St. Bernard you ninny.)


  3. Baby leashes are brilliant. They let toddlers do what they want to do--walk around!--while preventing them from walking into the bay or deep into a crowd where they get lost or up to the vicious dog with the haltie over her nose. (I don't use the haltie/gentle leader on my dog very often because of the assumption it's a muzzle--I seriously don't get the confusion but whatever.) I can imagine with twins the leash is an absolute necessity. They've got really cute ones in England. Respond with an accent & you'll be forgiven.

  4. I get why some folks are torn about baby leashes. I used to be an anti-fan of them -- and then I lost track of my then-2-year-old daughter for .35632 seconds at an airport, and momentarily wigged out. We never ended up using one, but I get it now.

  5. I was dead set against the baby leash until I was the proud owner of one human autistic toddler and I was faced with the horrifying prospect of entertaining said toddler in an airport gate area for over an hour. We also chose the monkey one, and my son now absolutely loves to wear Sgt. Safety (yeah, we named the damn monkey). Also, we have a Belgian Malinois puppy who is in the process of being trained to be a service dog for my husband, who has severe nerve damage in his foot. He can't handle her if she jerks at the leash unless she's in a Halti, so that's what she wears. And everyone asks if she's vicious, because they think she's wearing a muzzle. Sometimes I say yes just to get them to leave me the hell alone, too. So the moral of the story is that you stole my life and I completely sympathize with the judgmental ass-clowns who think I can't sleep at night without knowing what they think about the decisions I make for my child and pup.

  6. Wait, that came out wrong. I completely sympathize WITH YOU for having to deal with the aforementioned ass-clowns. There, that's better.

  7. Whenever I see a kid on a leash, I think of that Mike Myers/Nicole Kidman SNL skit (Phillip the hyper hypo...he's hyperactive and hypoglycemic or something) where he's tied to the jungle gym by his leash. It's amazing how many things SNL has ruined for me. I can't watch Keith Morrison on Dateline without giggling anymore, for example.

  8. This is one great post, with many laugh out loud moments. My favorite has to be: . "Also, stop being so racist against my half-breed children and my vicious Swiss dog."

  9. Oh, and I haven't seen many kids on leashes, but when I do the parents always look uncomfortable with the whole thing. I think you should own it, and give the attitude, like "yeah they are on leashes, so what?" That is how I look at people when their eyebrows raise at us for being a multi-racial family. I don't have the time to teach the assholes of the world. Next....

  10. When my son was 2 he was almost kidnapped in a convenience store. I still have nightmares about it and he is 18. From that point on I had him wear a harness/leash. I did have comments when going to the mall, but would respond with the "my son was almost kidnapped", this would shut them up quickly!

    If someone makes a comment ask them if they would prefer that you allow your two cherubs to run freely around the store? :)

  11. This gives a whole new meaning to prehensile tail!

  12. I wish I had the balls to use a leash, really I do. But since my balls are not made of titanium, or brass, or some cheap knock off, I discovered that dishing out tiny pieces of candy to the kid keeps him close by while shopping.

  13. I think that's a genius invention. Far more adorable and less judgment-inducing than the first generation of kid leashes, many of which looked pretty absurd and Grimace-inducing.

    I have a friend who takes enormous pride in the fact that he walks his dog off leash through the streets of San Francisco, and enjoys arguing with people who comment on it. Because I'm not confrontational and he's my friend, I don't say anything...though I occasionally point out that my dog is incredibly well behaved and never goes 10 feet away from me on leash, so it's not like his dog is exceptional.

    What he seems to forget in his great pride of supposedly exceptional dog training (his dog is severely lacking in many regards because viszlas are hyper, but he's a great dog--and this guy is what I consider abusive in some of his "training" methods) is that even the best-trained dog can't magically control the actions of cars, cyclists, skateboarders, homeless people (yes, this is San Francisco), various bits of food or god knows what on the sidewalk, etc. He's a contrarian and likes to exhibit that trait however and whenever he can, so I truly hope he doesn't have to learn the hard way that dogs should be on leashes in populated areas, dammit. It's a stupid macho thing for him. Sorry to ramble.

  14. Ooops, meant "goes 10 feet away from me off leash." And vizslas.

  15. though i truly don't care one way or the other, and would certainly never judge you or anyone else on them, i think leashes for kids are tacky, whether they love to wear them or not.

    we thought about it with our triplets (who turn three in sept) but we never used them.

    that said, when it comes to multiples, i say do whatever works. goodness knows that few people can related to the challenges you face. good luck.

  16. @Justme--I'm with you!

    @mxf--yeah, I used to think there was something "wrong" about them too. I just can't seem to access that sense anymore though.

    @Anon--Tally ho, cheers and all that. Wot wot.

    @DiPi--I don't think my poor old ticker could take losing a kid for that long. My sister just told me that her eldest figured out how to unhook the leash in a crowded airport. Great.

    @Emily--Thanks for the sympathy. But secretly? I kind of like dealing with ass-clowns.

    @Judi--I'm fully prepared to own it!

    @Nubian--That is scary as hell. If that happened to me, I would have carried the kid in an Ergo until he was 18.


    @Jay--The candy strategy sounds pretty good! I'll try that too.

    @Paul H--You have to be really confrontational to have a dog off-leash in the city. And kind of crazy.

    @JCO--Yeah, I used to think they were tacky too. But that's such a vague feeling, isn't it? Why are leashes tacky, but car seats, booster chairs, and cribs (cages) perfectly acceptable? Anyway, while I'd prefer not to be considered tacky, I really don't give a shit.

    I don't know how you manage the trips. I better read your book, I guess ;)

  17. We do the leash thing. We have a backpack puppy, and a wrist leash for when we go to the renaissance festival and she dresses like a fairy. We had some teenagers say how terrible it was once, but most people dont say anything. (well, there was that one dude who thought I was the most terrible mom ever when I handed the leash over to a random fairy working at the ren fest so my 3 year old could play "wings and trolls" their version of red light green light, but I was watching the whole time! Jerk.)

    The only problem I can see with the twins is the same one my husband's mom had with her twins, and that was that they ran in circles and wrapped the leashes around her legs so she couldnt move. But the monkey leashes might not be long enough for that. :-)


  18. I think that a great deal of irresponsible and lazy parents have given "the leash" a bad name... I bet you if that if you price them at $199 and have Brad Pitt sponsor them on one of his 7 kids it would totally be the kool thing to do.

    Personally I can't see myself doing it but hey we only have one kid.. we'll see if that changes in the future.

  19. When I was younger and without kids I was against these leashes. I would critize the parents for putting their children on these things. I thought they should do better with discipline and maybe their kids wouldn't be such out of control brats.
    Then I had a couple of kids of my own and my a** has been handed to me. I need two leashes please...

    I find the stats interesting.
    "You know they say 83% of statistics are made up right there on the spot and 99% of the people believe them whether they're accurate statistics or not" -Statisticians Blues, Todd Snider-

  20. @Sara--It's funny when you get tsk tsk'ed by teenagers. Some neighbor kid made me feel bad for putting my old, blind, deaf, and demented dog down instead of letting him die "naturally." Only days later was I like, "WTF? Who does that little know-nothing punk think he is?"

    @Daniel--I think you're absolutely right. If celebs started appearing in public with designer leashes ("harnesses" or whatever), it would soon become the norm.

    @Kevin--Growing up means getting your ass handed to you in regard to 97% of your previously held beliefs.

  21. Consider all the snide comments you get now about your parenting vis-a-vis leashes as preparation for all the snarky comments you get in about 12 years from your darling angels themselves:) I hope you're still doing your blog then, 'cause I can't wait to hear them express their little selves as full-on adolescents.

  22. I got taken to task on the streets of Berkeley when I was eight months pregnant with #2 and had #1 on a leash. (We were actually wandering around killing time while the Mr interviewed with Berkeley PD.) The lady said "Oh, I wish I could just BUY you a stroller right now..."

    I explained that I had a stroller in my car's trunk, but that it was too unwieldy for me to deal with on this particular day of being hugely pregnant, and besides my kid liked to climb out of the stroller and ran away (also a dynamic I was unwilling to face on this day of being hugely pregnant.)

    The lady countered that when HER son was little he NEVER climbed out of his stroller.

    Well then.

  23. I have neither dog nor kid, so I feel a little weird about weighing in on the leash issue. However, if I had a smoking hot sailor, I'd totally keep him on a leash. Yum.

  24. And if they get stubborn and don't want to leave the store, there's always this handy move:

  25. Well now I want to hear what hypotheses were drawn by this class in regard to race and their opinions on leashes/spankings. I was about to go with Jung's racial memory deal regarding the nixing of the leashes. But then the spanking thing? I want to hear what they decided.

    BTW, you WILL get funny looks re: leashes, but really, who gives a damn. You can do whatever you want to keep your girls safe.

  26. First of all, good for you for using a halti on a large breed dog. It's so much better for them. We have a mastiff puppy and I've had to explain to my family several times why it's better to use a harness and, later, a halti. Sigh.

    As for the monkey thing - awesome. It's my opinion that if more parents keep their children on leashes, we wouldn't have so many problems in public.

  27. fantastic post, yet again.

  28. Me and my brother were both 'leashed' when out and out a bout as toddlers. Bloody good idea and well done to you. I'm a scientist and he's a policeman so it clearly didn't scar us too badly...

    Saw this too, check out photo #4 (nothing political intended, just made me think of this post)

  29. I had a huge German Shepard that now lives with my dad and the nose leash was the best thing ever. I used to have one of those chest harness deals and the poor guy would just be sad.

    You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

    You should just get a t-shirt that says, "If you don't like my baby leash, go have your own twins, lose sleep for a year, blow me, and do what you want with your own kids. You are not saving anyone here, so move along and go do your dishes. You wanker."

    Something like that, you know?

  30. I think leashes are a great idea. My twin and I had ugly rainbow harnesses and my older sister really enjoyed the fact that sometimes she was allowed to "help" my mom and dad with wrangling us in public. Good for you and Dr. Mom!

    -White Female Navy Vet (who knows exactly what you're talking about regarding sensitivity)

  31. People used to think it was necessary to "spank" adult members of the community, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual battery if a person over the age of 18 is "spanked", but only if over the age of 18.

    For one thing, because the buttocks are so close to the sex organs, anal region, and so multiply linked to sexual nerve centers, striking them can trigger powerful and involuntary sexual stimulus in some people. There are numerous physiological ways in which it can be intentionally or unintentionally sexually abusive, but I won't list them all here. One can read the testimony, documentation, and educational resources available from the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at

    Child bottom-slapping/battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child bottom-slapping/battering (euphemistically labeled "spanking","swatting","switching","smacking", "paddling",or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping/battering isn't a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson

    by Lesli Taylor MD and Adah Maurer PhD

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping/battering isn't a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    American Psychological Association,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    Churches' Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus' Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    The US states with the highest crime rates and the poorest academic performance are also the ones with the highest rates of child corporal punishment.

    There is simply no evidence to suggest that child bottom-slapping/battering instills virtue.

  32. I never understood why people had problem with it. If you tied up a teenager - of course! But come on, 2 years old kid's world is restricted to the actual circle of 5 yards, it doesn't care at all about some leashes!

  33. Your just lazy. I have two children on my own, 3 and 1 and you know what, they can walk just fine without being on a leash. Its called being a parent. But down your phone, stop texting, and stop being a lazy shit. If you teach them from an early age to walk instead of taking off, then you wont have a problem, but its lazy assholes like you that we all make fun of on a daily basis at every corner.

  34. Dearest Anon,

    You seem like a very intelligent, open-minded, and sensitive parent. However, perhaps you read this post quickly and weren't able to distinguish the satirical elements from the literal ones. Please allow me to ex...ah, screw it.

    For the record, I wrote this post over six months ago and haven't used the backpackleashes at all. I tried them once when the kids were just learning to walk, but they weren't very practical. They kept them from walking into the street, but I couldn't reel them in without making them fall down.

    But although I haven't really needed to use them, I would and I will if I feel like I need to.

    I don't understand why anyone would get so angry at another parent for using a piece of safety equipment. Are cribs, highchairs, and car seats also used by "lazy" people and "assholes"?

    Since you don't seem to understand subtle humor, I should explain that I don't actually think your comment reflects intelligence, open-mindedness, and sensitivity. You seem kind of like a blockhead.


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