There are certain unwritten rules of our parenting. We all have them. Yours might not be the same as ours, but you definitely have them.

Such as,

No caffeine for babies.

(Except for small, unavoidable doses of coffee.)

Limited sugar intake.

No poorly applied tattoos – just the good stuff.

And no baby leashes.

You’ve seen it at the mall. Small children tethered to their parents with dog leashes, their heads hung low, their faces filled with shame, their freedom restricted with a soul-killing communist harness.

We have laughed at and we have sympathized with these poor child prisoners, united in our ideal of liberty and freedom for all – even toddlers.

But self-righteousness can feel like an airbag deploying in your face when it has a front-end collision with hypocrisy.

So Noah is going through a phase.

A phase of stunning speed, in which he can seemingly move from one location to another while still being in the last location.

To achieve these inhuman levels of speed, he has apparently discovered how to divert all energy from his brain, eyes, and ears into his legs, therefore making those legs unstoppable.

This superpower had me quite worried all week for what was to be his first Alabama Football game on Saturday.

Not the game, necessarily – but the tailgating.

Next to a busy road.

With 100K+ people blazing by in all of their various crimson automobiles, houndstooth golf carts, and motorized coolers.

(I’m not kidding about that last one, either.)

So I had The Talk with Chris.

“I’m really panicked about taking Noah to Tuscaloosa.  You know how fast he is…and how he’s not exactly voice-controlled.”

“I know.  I don’t want you to worry – we’ll figure something out.”

Relieved, I rested in the fact that perhaps we’d just go to the game and skip tailgating.  Or some other fabulous fix.

A few days later, Chris informed me of his solution with excitement and gusto.

He said he preferred to be called a “Harness Hero.”

Even though he knew in his heart that the more accurate term would be a Leash Loser.

Gameday came.  We were about to go on a walk around campus when Chris pulled IT out.

The poor child had no idea what was happening to him, as one would who had only experienced freedom and had no frame of reference for cruel imprisonment.


He made a final break for freedom,


as he drug Chris behind him, who was still hooking up the final preparations.


But it was too late.  With a yank,


Noah admitted defeat.  His spirit was crushed, and he acquiesced to his incarceration.


But then he realized: he was in charge.  Of the speed, of the direction, of the…everything.


And he gloated in his dominion.


He could slow to the pace of a turtle, and act aloof as his father questioned his sudden apathy to speed.


He could stop and ponder his toes if he so felt the desire, and with a yank, Daddy would be the one pulled backwards.


(Notice the look of pity and derision on the faces of the oncoming crowd.  I am intimately acquainted with that expression.)

But despite his control, he still felt the burn, and begged for a Mommy Intervention.


He regained his freedom when we returned from our walk to our tailgating spot, thanks to a strategic chair blockade.


But the damage was done.  The ruse of equality between man and child had been broken.  And he pondered these things deeply in his heart.


For the rest of the day, he made sure that the photographic evidence of his tarnished worldview would crush his parent’s soul with guilt for decades to come.




And ever.


Our only comfort is that we at least still have one child that has never been leashed…


…one child that still has a whole soul.


We re-harnessed for the walk to the stadium, then removed the leash but left the backpack for the actual game.  The now-tired child (missing his first nap ever) continued to give us looks that could melt the ice-cold heart of Prince Humperdinck.


…and he was completely oblivious that he was experiencing the first football game of the rest of his life.


We tried to explain to him… “Look around you, son! More people than you’ve ever seen in your entire existence!!  Do you want to get lost in a place like this?  No!”


…but he silently played with his car, so not buying it.


Meanwhile, Ali was having a splendid time, destroying her shaker and gathering up the pieces.



(And trying to block out the Touchdown Cacophany.)


Yet Noah continued to ignore us all, silently playing with his car.


He did take a small break and focused his attention on the field for the most important part of the game – halftime.


And then we left, with one exhausted boy,


and one excited (and gloatingly unharnessed) girl.


So forgive us.  Not for breaking our son like a horse.  But for judging you, if you felt the icy stare of our eyes at the zoo or the mall for your own utilitarian toddler traps.

We are leash losers.  Join us if you need to.  Judge us if you must.  We understand either way.


Well, some of us do.

60 thoughts on “The Power of Restraint.

  1. We pulled out the backpack/lease with our then 16m old at Disney. Kid does not sit in a stroller unless sleeping and she’s a RUNNER! At least it isn’t one of those stuffed animal leashes. But I was ashamed – and the looks from strangers (soul crushing for me, she didn’t seem to care).

    Did you see the Modern Family Disneyland episode last season (it was just on again this week I think). they leashed – then found a better answer for girls…princess high heels to slow the kid down.

  2. I swore I would never use one of those….until I had Major. I swore I’d never take a child out barefooted….until I had Major.

    I swore a lot of things, until I had Major. He defies all logic!

  3. My Nephew had the backpack leash too. Sometimes you just have to but I actually think that is slightly better than just the leash. At least with my nephew he thought it was neat that he got his own backpack and that he got to control the pace of the walk.

  4. I had to use one in busy areas as well when my daughter was little. It took one time in a mall where she broke for a run in a shopping mall. Running and laughing under all of the clothing racks where I couldn’t reach her and me running down the isle hoping she would stop to make me realize I needed one. She made it from the front of the store to the back!

  5. I wish when I had one for our youngest (who is 24) they had a back pack attached and then maybe it wouldn’t have looked so much like a leash to which I got comments that I was treating my child like a dog. Better safe than sorry.

  6. I admit it – I’m the one who shudders in horror at those. I hope Karma does not bite me on the arse, though we all know that’s Karma’s favorite place to nibble, but I really do hope I never use one of those.

    Also – Bama? Poor sweet Rachel, I hope this does not ruin our burgeoning internet friend/stalker-ship but GOOOOO DAWGS!!!!

    1. I shudder at them, too!! But when your husband insists on tailgating, what are you to do?

      And for the record, Alabama and Georgia (at least to my husband) are not mutually exclusive. He is a secondary Georgia fan – especially since he worked on the field expansion a few years ago.

  7. My nephew was totally a bolter as a toddler. And he screamed bloody murder if they carried him or made him hold hands. They finally caved and got a “leash” – a monkey backpack that nephew picked out himself – and voila! Problem solved! Forgive me for going all child psychology-like on ya (not that I’m a psychologist – heck, I don’t even have any kind of degree!) but it changed my perspective on child leashes. I realized the reason it worked so well for my nephew is that is was less about his parents controlling him, and more about him feeling like he had some control over the situation while still having a safe boundary. It actually helped so much that they only had to use the leash for a very short time, because he learned his boundaries.

    So in conclusion, I’d totally use a child leash if I needed to. And anyone who told me I was treating my child like a dog, I’d look at them, turn my child loose and let him bolt, and tell the judgy person “Fetch!” Muah ha ha haaaaaa!

  8. I can’t count the number of times I swore I wouldn’t do something and then found myself doing it! We’ve never used a leash, but have certainly thought about it and there may come a time when we do. My daughter is fast and she has a mind of her own. I’d much rather she endure the restraint than run in front of a car! I try not to judge other parents now. It always comes back to bite me in the butt!

  9. I had to use one of those on Kee for a while, because she was a runner. And not so much of a listener. And once she got away, she wouldn’t come back.

    Case in point: We were visiting Pioneer Village. I had Kee in her harness (which she referred to as her “safety vest”, and which did not dim her soul at all, just so ya know). My sister’s mother-in-law also viewed it as “a leash” and “treating her like a dog”. So. While I was in the restroom, she unhooked it. And Kee ran right out in front of a horse that was pulling a carriage. She has also tried to run away on subway platforms and through busy parking lots.

    I figure having my child safe is more important than avoiding looks of derision from judgey people who have no experience with my kid. Also, we walked along holding hands while she was wearing it, and the strap was looped around my wrist. I wasn’t “walking her like a dog”, I was using it as a safety precaution. It’s not really different than using water wings when a child is learning to swim. As soon as she learned how to walk with me properly, and listen when she was asked to stop or come back, she didn’t have to wear it anymore.

    Isn’t using a harness better than having your child trampled by a horse?

    1. I can’t believe your sister’s MIL (not even the kids own grandmother) would DARE to do such a thing! Talk about a boundary violation. She would be on my ****-list for life. I hope your daughter wasn’t hurt, and that woman felt horrible!

  10. My 2-year-old has *loved* her backpack (same as yours but in pink) since she was able to walk without falling over if suddenly stopped by the tug. She asks for it (gak-kak, mama!) and will say “uh, oh” and hand me the leash handle if I accidentally drop it. I introduced it around the house first and made a big deal about it being special and for big girls. I use it to give her more freedom when otherwise she would have to be held or strapped into a stroller for her own safety, and I make a point of keeping slack in the leash as much as possible, which means jogging to keep up with her much of the time. Also a runner and definitely not a listener yet, but she’s getting better and may graduate from it soon. Love the pics of Noah, he’s a crack up! :-)

  11. I figure a live and safe child is worth the perceived loss of dignity. I’ve been lucky, the only time I had to use a leash was on my second son because I was trimming bushes by the road and I needed him to live thru it. He has since learned to listen better so I haven’t pulled it out again. I have never had pity or held any solidarity with the chained child, because I know that the chances are very high that the child deserves every second on the leash, and their parent swould love to let their kid run free but it’s more important that their kid live, so all of my sympathy goes to the parents.

    In other news, my new baby is named Sophia Rose. She weighed 6 lbs 10 ounces at birth (my biggest so far) and is healthy and growing well. I was going to try to send you a picture but I had a brain dribble and I can’t figure out how to do it. I swear she’s cute tho…

  12. I used to judge parents of leash losers. It looked so sad for the kids. But now that I have two kids of my own I wish I owned one each time I step out to public places. My daughter hates holding hands in crowded places. When we are at home she cuddles nonstop but you get her in front of others and I may as well have the plague. Screaming and running.

  13. I used one a few times when I was hugely pregnant and my 3-y-o hated to hold my hand. It was August, I was carrying around 30+ pounds of baby-weight and there was no way I could run after him or carry him any distance. He actually loved it because it gave him more freedom than being strapped into the stroller, which he also hated. I didn’t use it a lot, but I’ve never understood the resistance. Otherwise you have to hold their hand, and what is your hand/arm but a very, very short baby leash (that’s probably dragging an unhappy kid behind you while you beg/yell for him to PLEASE, please, for the love of mommy’s back, stand up and walk)?

  14. Only those without kids would not understand. I took my 4 kids to Yellowstone this summer by myself. Between the hot pots, sheer cliffs and crowds, being in a harness (leash) made it possible to keep my two year old safe.

  15. i also hated these leashes but ended up with one from a friend in a pile of hand-me-downs. i threw it in the trunk and forgot about it until one day i was at the mall with both my kiddos and only the single stroller. so i put the baby in the stroller and put the leash on brady. i told him he had to wear it so i didn’t lose him. {it was christmas time at the mall.} we were in express and a few college aged girls were staring at me, judging me and brady looked up at them and said {in his 2 year old way} “mama no lose me”! :)

  16. Great post!! My friends and I joke that we want shirts that say, “If I ever judge you before I had kids, I’m sorry!”
    We had one for my son a monkey and he loved it would wear it around an say grab the tail mom haha

  17. I don’t have children and I look approvingly at kids in leashes – to me it shows careful parenting. I am prone to worry about young children who don’t seem well supervised i.e. a 2 yr old playing around an escalator etc.

  18. I’m an occasional leash user. It saved my butt many times when I was 8 months pregnant or carrying an infant in the ergo and the two year old tried to dart under the fence into the enclosure at the zoo – no way I would have been able to follow him into there! In my worldview, in a tradeoff between using the leash and not going interesting places with a toddler, using the leash wins. As long as you remember that he’s not really a dog and don’t stomp on the leash when he tries to run away. :) Besides, I figure the distributed force of the harness stopping him from bolting is probably less painful than the near dislocation when he tries to bolt and I barely manage to snag an arm to stop him. And it gave him a bit of extra freedom, kept me from stressing about him drowning himself in the nearest beach or fountain, and he actually really loved wearing the backpack part of it – ours was one of the little puppy dog ones, and he’s often ask to wear that around the house. But all things in moderation – we’d only make him wear it in places where it really was a safety issue, and would try to let him have the freedom to explore on his own terms whereever possible.

  19. “soul-killing communist harness”? HAHAHAHAHA! SO funny. Very good. When I was in high school and worked at Mt Rushmore, I saw many of these leases and I too judged the parents – How could they do that?! Yeah, the nay-sayers just have never had a toddler with lightning fast disappearing skills. I mean, seriously? Mt Rushmore is insane. I can totally understand it now.
    Samuel is of the same mold. Though we don’t have a leash, I did make my own in JCPenney a few weeks ago. I wrapped his blanket around his torso under his armpits and drug him around that way. I did wish for a backpack leash at that point. Cheers :)

  20. We are a leash loving family. Our little girl picked out her monkey and she loves him! Normally, even if she is wearing the monkey, we are holding hands, but the monkey is there for safety in case I cannot hold her hand or she tries to dash. We get all kinds of comments regarding the monkey on her back, but like I said she loves Mikey the Monkey. She will even ask to hold him when we are riding in the car. In fact, I think he spends more time in her arms than on her back.

  21. I too always wondered about the “leash parents” who couldn’t control their children. After all, my two boys had the ability to stay close and listen. Then we adopted our daughter who we affectionately named pink thunder. Not only could she not understand English, didn’t know her name (Chinese or English), but was also mildly deaf. Add that to her ability to disappear within seconds of taking your eyes off her and you got a bad situation that could only get worse. So, a leash came out for before and after church. She didn’t want to be held and only wanted her freedom. People asked us laughingly if that was even legal. I found myself at first explaining to everyone about her amazing magic disappearing act and eventually gave up. They just had no idea and I let myself be humbled by the dreaded leash.

  22. SO many things I never thought I would do as a momma and then I became one . . . ha! :) We have a VERY energetic and impulsive little guy and the “monkey backpack” is something that goes with us on lots of outings. My husband took him to a Mariners game the other day and he did pretty well without it until he looked away for a minute and realized that Caleb had wandered off (thankfully he didn’t go far!). So scary!
    I’m guessing you saw that awesome episode of Modern Family at Disneyland? Hilarious! :)

    1. Everyone has been talking about this since you commented it (my Mom even mentioned it today!) – No I haven’t seen that episode, but I need to! I actually haven’t seen that show, even though it sounds great.

  23. Cute family picture of all of you! I laughed as I read this because the same thing happened in my family. I silently judged those parents who put their toddlers on a leash when I just had my daughter. When my son came along, we ended up getting a cute teddy bear packpack/leash. It was necessary!

  24. I admit I have totally judged leash users, but that was before I had kids. Now I look at leash users w/longing. Longing to be one of them. But my husband would die before he would let me get one so I press onward without a leash. Thankfully I don’t have any runners. Knock on wood.

  25. I have two little girls ages 1 & 2, and we definitely use our harness. My oldest daughter is very independent, and the harness is exactly what she needs to feel independent and still feel safe. It’s a puppy backpack and we tell her she needs a “puppy hug” when we put the harness on. For me, safety and independence win out every single time. Besides, she wears out so much faster when she’s walking around rather than strapped down in a stroller, and we all know that if you’ve managed to wear out your child (and not have them wear you out) you have achieved success as a parent, at least for one day.

  26. I tried to use the monkey backpack on my 19 month old a few months ago. He is a runner, doesn’t even look back to see if we are chasing after him. We introduced it at home first, no big deal, then we put it on him in public and he had the biggest meltdown of his life. Threw himself on the ground kicking and screaming. People were looking at us and probably thinking that’s what we get for trying to put our kid on a leash. Needless to say the monkey has not been worn again.

  27. Hahahaha! That’s great! Btw, do you all go to many games? Your pictures look like you are across the street from where we tailgate. We’re right on the Quad on the University side. Come visit!

    My youngest is a runner, so when I knew I would be flying alone with both of my boys, I knew exactly what I would do. Since I’m pretty sure my oldest child made it into the No Fly list by running under the security ropes at Logan International in Boston 2 years ago, I wasn’t about to chance it with both of them. I first purchased a strap that just goes over the wrist. I told them we needed it so I wouldn’t get lost. To say that it wasn’t effective isn’t really true–I did make it to Kentucky and back without losing anybody!

    When my whole family (13 of us) went to Disney World, we bought the monkey back packs for my then 4 and 3 year old sons and my 3 year old nephew. The younger two loved their packs and walked around holding their own monkey tails! Since then, I’ve tried to get rid of the packs, but Patrick keeps finding it. He wears it around the house and to school, but I have to draw the line at him sleeping in it. I don’t think it scarred him too badly. As for the looks people gave, I challenge them to try to keep up with him in that situation ( okay, not really, but you get the point). I’m willing to bet that it wouldn’t take more than 5 minutes before they come over to the side of the Leash!

    1. We go to all of the home games, yes. My husband has had the same season tickets since he was 13! We actually tailgate on Hackberry (in front of the Episcopal Student Center), which is also not far. He just didn’t pull out the leash until we were a couple of blocks into our walk. We’ll definitely have to say hi at one of the games!

  28. Awwww. I used to have one of those leash things for my daughter Ava when she was little. And I used it all of one time because I felt like a complete loser using it and all the stares from people around us. We were at a fair and there were so many people there, it made me nervous to let her down to walk on her own. Eventually we just undid the leash part and let her wear it as a backpack. It was a little bear one which I thought would make it seem leash like, but nope….it didn’t help. Hope you guys enjoyed your game. :)

  29. We had a stuffed bear backpack leash for my daughter when she was one. She was (and still is) my “Wanderer.” Her brother was a baby, so I wore him in a front pack, making it hard to chase her down. The options for her became backpack (leash) or stroller. She almost always chose the backpack. She got to walk and run, I got to worry a little less. I expected mean looks and comments from people, but it never happened. Instead, I had parents asking me where I got it because they wanted one for their own kid. I never needed it for my son; he’s been easier to keep close. But for my daughter, it was pretty fantastic.

  30. It’s that age, I swear. I didn’t use the leash but my girl friend did and it was so useful.

    Easy on the caffeine. My daughter drank too much and was running laps around Target it was insane!

  31. Yup, I pulled out the leash when we went on a cruise and our son was just a toddler. The railings of those ships are just wires strung two feet apart . . . gave me nightmares for weeks before I thought of using a leash!

  32. I, too, have felt the airbag of hypocrisy release in my face. A long time critic and shamer of leashes, I was gifted with a highly energetic man child, followed by a snuggly baby sister 18 months later. We caved. The worst was when a child came up to me and said in my face “Leashes are for DOGS, not KIDS!”, and upon looking to the mother for help, she stared me down with a glare that had the threat of calling Child Services behind it. I have learned to “never say never.”

  33. Too funny! I’ll try not to judge too fast until I’m in the same scenario. :) Also, what gorgeous photos of your entire family!

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