On a short leash - FamilyEducation

On a short leash

April 24,2008

I walk my dog every morning (usually at some kind of ungodly hour). And, when we walk, I keep him on a leash. Yes, he’s fairly well trained, but he’s still a dog. He’s still an animal. He’s still more than willing to bolt after a deer, squirrel, rabbit or mirage. So, he’s kept on the leash – walking right by my side. A dog. On a leash. Pretty much the way it’s supposed to be.

Kids on a leash, though? Not really the way it’s supposed to be. Apologies if you’re one of those parents parading around with your kid on a leash, but I really don’t get it.

I can almost understand it in a major, bustling metropolis. (I’m talking New York, downtown LA, or Chicago bustling. I’m not talking Boise bustling.) I mean, there are all kinds of things that might happen in big crowds of hurrying adults not paying attention to your kid. But, still. A leash? Really? What’s more disturbing is that most of the leashes I see are actually in the suburbs - the cozy confines of wide streets, big malls and tract housing. That I simply don’t get.

For the most part, I can make a sweeping generalization about the parents who have their kids on leashes (oh, I can almost feel the hate mail coming my way) – they’re lazy. It seems to me that every time I see a kid on a leash, he is pulling a parent who is FAR more engaged on a cell phone. The leash isn’t to make sure the kid doesn't lose the parent – it’s to make sure the parent doesn’t lose the kid! In fact, I can say with 100% accuracy that EVERY time I’ve seen a kid on a leash (there’s a Saturday Night Live sketch in this somewhere, perhaps a follow-up to the popular d*ck in a box skit), the parents are paying absolutely no attention to their kid(s).

I know we all lead busy lives. I know that with CrackBerries, email to our phones and 24/7 work weeks, it’s tough to find downtime. But, is it really necessary to put your kid on a leash? Is it really so hard to find a few minutes of time to shut it all down and, if you have to, just pretend that your kid interests you? That’s the impression I get from kids on leashes – that their parents have no interest in them.

I’ll admit it – I’m not always “there” when I’m with the K-Man. I’ll check my email when we’re at a park (though I won’t take a call). I might even send a text or two. But, when we're at the mall or walking in San Francisco, I put the phone away and *gasp* HOLD HIS HAND! It’s an amazing action that requires no equipment at all. I just reach down and say, “Give me your hand, please.” And you know what happens? Instant “human leash”!

I don’t know why this gets me so bent out of shape. I can’t stand it when people tell me how I should parent my kid, and I don’t really like to tell other people how they should parent theirs. There’s just something about the “kid as dog” visual that rubs me the wrong way. Before I had a kid, I laughed and pointed. It looked funny. Now that K-Man is around, though, it makes me sorta squeamish and I feel bad for the kid.

I once wondered if there were any studies done to connect kids who used a pacifier to future addictions. (I’m peculiar that way.) So, naturally, I wonder if kids who grow up “on a leash” (a real one, no less) will be affected in adulthood. I wonder how that kid will learn how to behave in certain situations. I wonder if that leash is something of a metaphor for his/her whole life. Do his/her parents have him/her on a short leash in all kinds of different situations? Is he/she always being yanked back from taking some chances?  Probably not. But, that’s how my brain works.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep walking the dog every morning. On a leash. The way it was meant to be used.