Do You Keep Your Kid on a Leash?

A yank on a strap replaces good parenting

It’s 11 a.m. on a Friday in Center City, and I’ve just spotted a leash kid. My blood boils. Typically, parents use the “safety strap” or “stay-close harness” to keep watch over their children in packed places like Disney World. However, most seem to ignore the fact that those are just fancy names for a leash.

While I am strongly against leashing children, even I respectfully acknowledge the terror of taking a three-year-old to the Philadelphia Zoo in the summertime (or, really, any time) and keeping track of him. However, we’re not at the zoo right now. We’re in the city, and it’s honestly not very crowded. There is no reason that this little boy should be straining against his mother’s firm grip on the leash attached to his frog backpack. Whatever happened to holding a child’s hand when walking down the street? When did leashes become a replacement for good parenting?

What bothers me the most is that they attach the leash to an animal-shaped backpack and give it a cute name, like the “Harness Buddy.” They’re available at Wal-Mart and Target, and I’ll admit they are pretty darn adorable … until you realize what they really are. The fuzzy backpack comes in a plethora of different animal shapes, including monkeys, lions, koalas, giraffes and even unicorns. Similar products claim to make harnessing “more friendly,” and while parents may have fooled their kids into accepting this practice, I know better. These are still children on leashes, Philly.

The parents who purchase products of this nature complain that their children can slip away when merely holding hands. When using the leash, parents feel safer because they can keep track of their kids while walking in crowded areas. But what about when the area isn’t crowded, like this morning? There weren’t many people out and about, at least not enough of a crowd to lose a child in. Worried he might dart into the street? Just hold his hand; it’s Parenting 101.

This experience had me questioning my own childhood. I kept seeing flashes of yellow and green and hearing the sound of Velcro … repressed memories, perhaps, of a leash ghost of 20 years past? I decided to ask my mother.

“Was I,” I began, fearing the worst, “Was I a leash kid?” She laughed, and I felt extreme relief as she reassured me that she tried using a strap that linked our hands together once while we were out in a crowded place. Apparently, toddler me wasn’t having it (probably because I felt like a child criminal being handcuffed), and she never tried again.

Still, I feel for the children out there who lose their dignity each day to leashes. Please, let’s end the inhumanity and unleash our kids on the world (yikes).

Really, Philadelphia moms and dads: Are our children animals?

On second thought, don’t answer that.