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